9 Fishing and Fishing Guides on Lake Lanier

Fishing on Lake Lanier, photograph by Robert Sutherland

Lake Lanier is one of America’s favorite fishing spots.  Finding a spot to launch is never a problem.  There is an abundant supply of boat ramps.  They’re scattered all around the 38,000 acres of our freshwater lake that is filled with hungry fish.

If casting your line from a park or taking a boat out on your own doesn’t suit you, Lake Lanier has some awesome Fishing Guides who have made successful careers sharing their passion and knowledge for fishing Lake Lanier.  Offering everything from fun family outings to corporate charter trips to trophy trips, there’s memorable fishing on Lake Lanier.

We’ll begin the chapter with an overview of the services of Lanier’s go-to fishing guide, “BIG FISH ON.”  We also include information about what you might need to know to have a successful day fishing Lake Lanier.

If you are serious about wanting to reel in one of Lake Lanier’s Striped Bass, we’ve got a must read article at the end of the chapter.  In this article, Mike of “BIG FISH ON” details everything you need to know about “Down Rod Fishing for Lake Lanier Striped Bass.”

“Big Fish On” Lake Lanier Fishing Charters and Guide, photograph from “Big Fish On”

Fishing Guides

“BIG FISH ON” Lake Lanier Fishing Guides & Charters is your go-to fishing guide for Lake Lanier fishing.

They are full-time, family oriented, licensed and professional fishing guides, with over 50 years of combined Lake Lanier fishing experience.

They have enjoyed taking people on adventures since 2006.  Their family “Fun Striper Guide” trips are perfect for creating wonderful memories! To support family fishing, they do not charge for kids under the age of 16, when accompanied by a parent or grandparent.

Please give BIG FISH ON a chance to “scratch” your family’s Lake Lanier fishing itch!

To find out more information, contact “BIG FISH ON”:

Fishing License Information

If you are older than 16 and younger than 65, you need a fishing license to cast a line into Lake Lanier.  You can get a license one of three ways:

  • In person, at a license dealer, such as sporting goods outlets, major discount retailers, marinas, bait and tackle shops and hardware stores.  Don’t forget your proof of residence!
  • By telephone: (800) 366-2661
  • Online at http://www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes

Visit the http://georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes for a detailed listing of the various licenses and fees.  You can also contact the DNR Wildlife Resources Division office in Gainesville at (770) 535-5498 or visit their website.

Fish and Tips

The most common fish in Lake Lanier include:

  • Spotted Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Walleye
  • Catfish
  • Longnose Gar

Visit http://georgiawildlife.org/Fishing/Lanier for Georgia Department of Natural Resources “Prospects and Fishing Tips” chart.

Many of the fishing guides on Lake Lanier provide weekly fishing reports.  Be sure to check your latest Lake Lanier fishing reports for the most up-to-date tips. Visit Visit http://bigfishonguide.com/category/lake-lanier-fishing-reports/ to view Lanier Fishing Reports by “BIG FISH ON.”

Launching Your Boat on Lake Lanier

You can launch from one of the many marinas on the lake (for a complete listing, see Chapter 5:  Lake Lanier Marinas).  All of the marinas have gas available, and some of the marinas have restaurants with lakeside dining.

Lake Lanier is also surrounded by parks with day-use areas (for a complete listing, see Chapter 4:  Lake Lanier Parks) with more than 100 free boat ramps.

When lake levels are low, you’ll want to check to see which boat ramps are open, because some close when lake levels dip below a certain level.

Big Fish On” Lake Lanier Fishing Guides & Charters, photograph from “Big Fish On”

Down Rod Fishing for Lake Lanier Striped Bass

by Capt. Mike Maddalena with “BIG FISH ON”

The down rod is one of the most effective and consistent methods of catching freshwater stripers.  Day in and day out, throughout the entire year, it is hard to beat catching stripers on a down rod.

A down rod is basically a Carolina rig with a heavy weight and relatively long leader.  A standard down rod (if there were such a thing) consists of a line counter reel, a fairly limber 6′ to 9′ rod, the main line, some type of sinker placed  between the main line and the leader.  At the end of the leader will be your hook and most importantly — a lively, frisky bait!

Let’s cover each component of a down rod rig in more detail.

Your decision of what rod and reel combination to use is primarily based on the size of striper that you are targeting.   All reels should have a good drag and a line counter, so that you can get your baits to the strike zone as quickly as possible.  For “average” size fish between 5-20 pounds, use a “normal” striper sized line counter reel, spooled with 15 pound mono and a 7′ light/medium action rod.  You want a softer tip to allow the smaller baits that are used to target this class of fish to have some freedom of movement.

Some entry level equipment would be the  Daiwa Accudepth Plus 27LC or Okuma Convector CV-20D reels mounted on fishing rods, such as the Shakespeare UGLY Stick Striper rod model #USCA70 or an Okuma Classic Pro GLT  Striper Live Bait rod model # CST-LB-701ML.  Again, this is entry level equipment.

As you progress in your angling skills, you might want to upgrade the quality of your gear.  A longer rod, such as 8′ or 9′ is sometime used to cover more water.  The additional 2′ spread on each side of the boat sometimes makes the difference in getting bit or not.

Another important part of the down rod equation is your rod holders.  You need a quality rod holder that is very strong, holds the rod firmly and allows for easy removal of the rod under the heavy pressure that a hooked striper generates when making a “run.”  My favorite rod holders are made by DriftMaster.  I prefer the heavy duty “Pro” series models.

Since you are fishing straight down, the reel does NOT need to be “locked” into the holder, simply having the rod in the holder is enough.  If your reel is “locked” into the holder, there is a very good chance you will NOT be able to remove it once a fish is on.

The terminal tackle used for down rods can vary.   It is basically personal preference.

Regarding swivels, a simple barrel swivel matched to the line class you are using is sufficient.  Less expense barrel swivels work as well as the more expensive crane swivels.

The weight used can run from 1/2 to 4 ounces.  If you’re fishing with dissimilar sized weights, the heaviest weights should always go in the front of the boat and the lightest in back.  This way, as you move around on the trolling motor, the lines won’t tangle as much.

When you place your lighter weight rigs in the front, they will kick back into the more vertical hanging, heavier rigs in the back.  Using the light weights in the back allows you to cover a wider variety of depths.  As you speed up and slow down on the trolling motor, they will rise and fall vertically in the water column.

My standard down rod weight is a 2 oz. egg sinker.  There are some variations available in the weights you use, for example: egg sinkers with built swivels at both ends; long slender pencil weights with swivels on both ends; egg sinkers that are painted red or black (to reduce their visibility); or, “invisible” eggs sinkers made of glass.

I personally like a normal egg sinker, that has been “aged” in the boat for a while.  Having the sinkers banging and rolling around in your tackle container will get the shine off of them.  I don’t like a brand new shiny sinker.  Other very successful Lake Lanier Striper Guides like the brightest, shiniest sinkers they can find and actually “buff” them to make them as bright as possible.

This difference in sinkers helps to point out a very important part of successfully fishing for stripers: confidence.  When you have confidence in your equipment and methods of how you are fishing, you WILL be more successful.

Your leader size should be the same size or larger than your main line.  Some people recommend a lighter leader, so that you lose less terminal tackle when you get your rig hung up in something.  I would rather lose my terminal tackle than a good fish.

Since the leader is so much shorter than the main line, it has much less stretch and, therefore, will break before your main line.  The leader material should be fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is typically available as both leader material and main line.  For most brands you want the specific “leader” formulation.  Leader length is typically 5 to 7 feet.

Your leader is one area where experimentation is very important.  If you are marking fish and not getting bit, down-size your leader to a smaller size.  Changing to a longer or shorter leader will often trigger a bite.

Hook size is determined solely on the size of bait you are using.  Match the hook to your bait and do NOT overpower your bait with a hook that’s too large.

If you are a “set it and forget” type of angler, circle hooks are great.  The fish will hook themselves when they take the bait and make their run.  If you are more of a hands-on angler who likes to hold the rod in your hands and set the hook, I recommend an octopus hook.   As always, you want a sharp hook that is strong.  Always remember to wet your knots when tightening them down, this is very important.  I personally like a palomar knot.

Obtaining and caring for live bait is a whole subject of its own.  I am just going to say you HAVE to have the LIVELIEST bait possible.  Your bait is THE most important part of the puzzle when striper fishing.  A bait that is alive is NOT the same as a lively bait.  The better your bait, the better you will do.  For smaller baits, check them fairly often.  They will get bit and killed or taken while you’re not looking.  Larger baits will be making the rod tip bounce, so you should easily be able to tell if they’re okay or not.

Your sonar and chart plotters are integral parts of being successful.  Do NOT skimp on this part of your fishing gear.  Always get the best unit that you can afford.  With a modern unit, you can “watch” your down rod, see fish coming up off the bottom or out of the trees, etc.

Time of the year can help determine the depth to start searching for fishing.  During the hot summer months, fish will be in the lower third of the lake and be 30′ down or deeper. Between the end of November and mid-May, fish can be anywhere in the water column.

Here are some various down rod fishing tips:

  • When fishing in the cooler months and in deeper water, when fish can spread throughout the water, column stagger your baits to determine what depth the fish are most active.  For example, on Lake Lanier in the summer time the thermocline might be at 30′ and you are marking fish from 40′ to 80′.
  • Place your rods at 35, 45, 55, 65 and 75 feet.  Having the large spread along with longer 8′ leaders allows you to cover as much water vertically as possible.
  • The deeper you are fishing, the more you can tighten down your drag because you have plenty of stretch available in your main line.  Tightening down your drag is especially helpful when fishing near timber.  Just remember to back it off a bit when a hooked fish gets close to the boat.
  • When fishing baits 12′ to 25′ below the boat, you want a looser drag, as you don’t have as much stretch available.
  • Always place your baits above the fish you are marking, stripers suspended in the water column look and feed upward.
  • If you are marking fish and you’re not getting bit, drop down the bait 15-20′ below the fish and quickly reel your baits up through the fish.  This will often trigger a bite. This technique is called power reeling.
  • Sometimes banging on the bottom of the boat with 2×4 or broom handle will “call” the fish to the boat.  Stripers are curious by nature and will come to investigate.  I prefer to play loud ROCK & ROLL to draw them in.  Other variations on this technique are jumping in the water for a quick dip during the summer and leaving your outboard running.
  • When fishing in shallower water, I keep the rod closest to me on the bottom, bouncing along, pulling it up quickly if I see a tree or other obstruction.   Often, only the bait that is right on the bottom is the one getting bit.
  • If the fish are hitting softly, it helps to have everyone hold a rod and set the hook on them manually, rather than letting them set the hook themselves using the rod holder.  Just hold on tightly in case a big fish makes a strong hit.
  • It never hurts to try different things when you are marking fish and NOT getting bit.

 

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