It was late July 1993 and I had just settled into my new home south of New Orleans, just off the banks of the Mississippi. It was the middle of the afternoon and extremely hot for my first official fishing trip out in the Bayou but I didn’t let that stop me from the opportunity to fish. I found a little bait shack just off a Bayou around the Jean Laffite area and I dropped in for some intel and bait for my first fishing trip. I’ll never forget the old man sitting on a rocking chair under the porch at the shaded entrance to the old cedar plank store. He was tall, old and slender, appearing weathered from years in the sun. He had an old box fan sitting on a milk crate in the corner blowing air across the porch and an old ragged cat was lying at his feet. I introduced myself and told him I was new to the area and looking for a good spot to fish. To this day I’ll never forget him looking at me with a puzzled look and asking “Is you crazy boy?” “The only thing we do around here this time of the afternoon is sit in the shade with a cold drink”. The fact that I was standing there asking pretty much answered his question so he probably felt sorry for me and gave me some solid advice on where to go. Turns out that my first redfish was a bull redfish from the bank and at the exact spot the old man told me to go with the bait he told me to use.
I don’t know about ya’ll but the heat this week out on the lake has been staggering. Just walking out the door early in the morning is a reminder of living down in the Big Easy and that humid gulf heat hitting me in the face going to work every summer morning. It’s like that brutal humid heat is an outside house guest that has followed me here from New Orleans and won’t take the hint to leave.
This week has been the week that I have trained for my whole life. The heat that has plagued us this week is pale in comparison to the fighter jet filled tarmac in the heart of the Nevada valley desert on a hot July afternoon where the temps can reach upwards of 150 degrees during the launch sequence for a mission. I also have a sauna and spend time in my sauna about 4-5 times a week where temps go from 135 degrees when I enter the sauna to 175 degrees some 30 minutes later when I come out. I’ve been utilizing the sauna for years and I’ve become accustom to heat so running around out on the lake in the heat doesn’t really bother me as much as I let on. I usually just stock up on water, cover my body from the sun, put the heat out of my mind and head out to see what I can figure out with the bass.
It’s typical summertime on Lanier and it’s just about like any other summer right now, the thermocline is setting up and the topwater is starting to dwindle as the oxygen levels decrease near the surface. I’m still seeing some big schools of bluebacks being pushed to the surface and this will probably continue as the fish know that the bluebacks are a slower target when the surface temps warm. The problem with that scenario is that there will be very little oxygen at the surface so the bass and stripers won’t stay up on the surface long and the bluebacks tend to go a little deeper in the water column as the summer progresses. If I was in the right place at the right time this week I could make a cast with my popper or the Ima skimmer and pick off a nice bass when they were schooling near the surface. That’s why I always recommend having your topwater handy because time is critical when these fish surface chasing bluebacks. I pretty much made a morning out of running and gunning with the popper this week but I am mixing in more and more spybait and drop shot on every trip. If the topwater bite continues to slow I’ll just focus more on making good casts with the spybait and spending more time with the drop shot. I’m mainly concentrating on the main lake early in the morning and coming back into the creek midday to fish the brush piles in the creek on the way home. It seems like the fish in the creek are on a different feeding schedule from the fish out on the main lake this week. The big fish on the main lake points and humps are up early and chasing bluebacks on or near the surface and the big fish in the creek don’t get going till mid to late morning. If I was lucky this week I could find areas on the main lake where there was a little chop on the surface which was just enough distortion to fool a bass or a group of bass. If there wasn’t any wind and the surface was flat I would generally pick up the spybait and start fan casting areas around brush and over the crown of humps on the main lake. Bringing the spybait over the top of a brush pile accounted for a few of my nice fish this week but also I would bring the spybait across the crown of humps both out on the main lake and in the creek for a few good fish. Sometime while I was fishing an area the surface would go from flat to a little chop and I’ll pull out the popper and work the popper down wind and bring it back up wind and against the grain. If I’m using the popper at least 75% of the time I’m bringing it back up wind to create more surface disruption and attention. If an area goes flat while I’m using topwater, generally I’ll switch to the spybait and start fan casting. Spybaits come in all shapes and sizes now so you just need to pick out one that catches your eye and give it a shot.
Right now the drop shot is taking more of a roll in my boat and I’m spending more and more time sitting over brush and dropping after the topwater and spybait have run their course. The drop shot is working best for me the slower I work it. The Lanier Baits Blue Lily is all I used this week and if you really want to spice up the action dip the tail in JJ’s clear garlic dip. That’s been the key to dead sticking blue lily for big fish in the brush is a little garlic dip on the tail. It seems like these bigger spotted bass hold the worm longer and are more aggressive when I use the garlic scent.
All in all the topwater is slowing as the temps rise but hopefully the cooldown next week will get things rolling on the surface for me again. Water temps yesterday were 88 and on the rise and the lake is at full pool. The corps has been generating for a few hours in the afternoon and evening. Here’s some of my more memorable fish this week.
*All of these ingredients and the amounts are subject to your own taste so by all means make adjustments, additions or subtractions to make it to your own liking. This is just a basic potato salad recipe that I created while I lived in New Orleans. I needed a good side dish for fried fish.
2-3 pounds of medium red potatoes, boiled soft and peeled, cut into 1” cubes
4 large hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup of chopped Vidalia onion
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
2TBS Dijon mustard
1/3 cup of dill pickle salad cubes with 3 TBS of dill juice
salt to taste
course black pepper to taste
lemon pepper to taste
paprika for garnish
Directions: 1. Place potato pieces in a large pot of hot water andBring to a boil. Then simmer until potatoes are just tender. Drain in a colander and give them a quick rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. I included my 4 eggs for the last 15 minutes of boiling time on the potatoes. I let the eggs and potato’s cool for 10-15 minutes before peeling the potatoes and shelling the eggs.
2. I like to hand cut my potato’s into pieces and chop the egg as well while they are still warm. Some folks like to use a potato masher but I like my potato salad with chunks. After chopping the potato’s and eggs I add the chopped onion and I place them in a big glass mixing bowl and place them in the refrigerator for at least an hour to cool and solidify the potato pieces. *This helps hold the potato’s together when you fold in the rest of the ingredients.
3. Next I start adding the remaining ingredients starting with the Mayo and working my way down the list of remaining ingredients stirring after each addition. Season with salt, pepper and lemon pepper to taste. Garnish the top with paprika.
4. I like to cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. As the mixture cools the ingredients tend to blend together and give it more taste.
It’s summertime and there’s 3 baits that I prefer every summer so this week I’ve been making the transition to less topwater with more spybait and more drop shot. Lately I’ve noticed that the topwater percentages are dropping but the spybait percentages are going up so by this weeks end I’ve shifted some of my focus from topwater to spybait with some drop shot sprinkled in. I’ve been able to figure out a bit of a pattern and it’s pretty much the typical summer stuff and that probably won’t change much for a while. This week the topwater was good, especially early in the morning and especially if there was wind. The problem was that there wasn’t always wind so I had to switch to other tactics besides the topwater to get them bites.
Basically I spent the bulk of my time out on the main lake checking humps and points. The way I approached an area was with the Ima Skimmer Grande or the Emerald popper to test the topwater bite, especially if there is brush on the point or hump. Typically, if a fish is going to hit the topwater they do it rather quickly and then the topwater shuts down if I catch a fish. Sometimes I can milk out the topwater bite if the wind is blowing and if there is a chop on the surface I utilize my spot lock on the Minn Kota to hold the boat up wind of the target area so I can fan cast the topwater.
My second plan of attack is the Duo Realis G-fix 80 spybait, especially during the afternoon, evening, or when the surface was flat. It’s a slower process but during the summer on Lanier it’s necessary so I make a dozen or so casts around the brush on the point or hump. With the spybait, I make a very long cast, I real in all the slack so the bait won’t run over itself and I count it down to 10 seconds followed by a slow steady retrieve. Once you get the retrieve right you’ll know it because the fish really react to it with the right retrieve. Once I’ve made a lot of casts with the spybait, I move into the brush and start dropping the drop shot stuff. Dropping right into the brush pile with Lanier Baits Blue Lily worm is about all I’ve been dropping with this week and I’ve been getting some very nice fish. I have the drop shot at the ready and I’ll utilize it from now till fall. That’s the pattern I’ve been on this week and probably more of it for the next few weeks to come. Here’s a couple of useful videos for the spybait and drop shot tactics.
The setup I’m using on all 3 rods are 7′ and 7′ 3″ MH rods with Penn Fierce reels loaded with 8lb Tatsu line.
The lake is a little above full pool and the lake temps are in the mid to upper 80’s. Here’s a video of the baits I used this week and some pictures of my memorable fish this week.
That’s pretty much the size of it this week. I’ve become addicted to topwater again and right now there’s no hope for recovery. If bass blow-ups could be defined as the fisherman’s high, right now I’m all jacked up on the chronic.
It’s just been blow-up after blow-up this week and I’ve given up on the drop shot and spybait. With the topwater right now I’m just running and gunning 20-30 places a day and only spending maybe 10-15 minutes per spot. I’ve been focusing on the main lake humps and points but I usually spend a little time in the creek on the way back home around lunchtime. Basically I’m looking for areas with a little wind and a little chop. If I can find some brush on a hump or a point in 20-25 feet of water I’m just placing the boat up wind and making fan casts down wind and bring the popper or skimmer back over the top of the brush or around the brush pile area. I like to work my baits back against the grain if the surface chop because that will cause the most surface disruption. That’s what it’s all about right now, it’s the surface disruption followed by a wake that the fish can zero in on. It’s a blueback thing and right now the bass are focusing on pushing bluebacks to the surface and chasing them down so my popper has been a good imitation for a bass slamming a blueback on the surface and the skimmer, used correctly, imitates a skittering blueback trying to evade a predator. In both cases the result is usually a giant blow-up followed by an adrenaline rush of excitement. Using my technique of running and gunning I’ve cut down on the number of fish I’m catching but the tradeoff is bigger fish and less smaller fish to fool with. Another benefit of the summer topwater running and gunning technique is avoiding overheating in this July sun. If I’m moving frequently and drinking plenty of cool water in this heat it really isn’t so bad. I get the occasional big topwater bass as a reward so it’s a fun way to spend a morning. Right now the water temps are mid 80’s and the lake is about a foot below full pool. The corps is generating during the afternoon for just a few hours during peak power usage. Here’s a video of the baits I was using this week and a nice 4lb 6 oz bass I caught this morning on the popper. I also posted a few pictures from my week.
This week was rather short for me but it was definitely one to remember. I got back out on the lake after a long 4th of July weekend, only to find that the recreational folks never left after the holiday. The lake looked like it was a weekend all week and I think the boat traffic affects the bite at times. I haven’t been spending a whole bunch of time in the creek this week and I’ve been focusing on the vast main lake humps and points. Topwater has been my preferred pattern this week but I’ve also been mixing in the spoon, spybait and drop shot, all with a degree of success. It’s pretty much typical summer patterns and not a whole lot will change over the next 2 months.
I did get to see an old friend of our family that came for a fishing visit. Michael and his son flew out from Texas to spend a few days site seeing and a day fishing with me. When Michael told me he was coming in for a fishing visit with his son I got the dates and then pinged my old buddy and striper guide Alex Vasquez for a little striper fishing in the morning followed by a bass fishing afternoon in my boat. Alex and I go way back to my years as a striper guide. Alex and I fished together a few times probably 8-10 years ago and with Alex being a veteran also, we kinda have this unwritten brotherhood of respect. Back then Alex was just learning the ropes of striper fishing and he and I put a lot of fish in the boat during our trips. Alex was the perfect striper guide for Michael and his sons visit.
When our striper day finally got here Michael, Brent and I met Alex at Tidwell and we headed out for a morning of chasing stripers. Electronically, a lot has changed since I was chasing stripers. Alex had a cool Simrad system in the console and Livescope up in the front. Sidescan on the Simrad was used to search left to right and the Livescope was always moving and searching areas in front and below as well as side to side searching. I was amazing for me to see how far technology has come in 10 years. The fish are definitely loosing the advantage on their home waters. Alex didn’t disappoint and we we catching fish on downlined/freelined herring almost immediately. Within minutes of putting baits out on a few fish scattered in a deep cut Brent was bringing in his first striper and shortly after that Michael was fighting his first striper also. after that it was just moving around and scanning till we found groups of scattered fish to drop on. This went on for the next 4 hours and we all had a blast. Alex has turned into an awesome striper guide and he’s running a great little smile factory out of that center console. l posted Alex’s business card below and I’ll tell you guys that if you or your friends are looking for a memorable striper trip make sure you give Alex or Jeff Blair a call. Both are very knowledgeable striper guides and the best of the best on the lake. They don’t dissappoint…ever.
When we ended out trip with Alex, I had kept 7 nice sized stripers for a friends table fare for his family and friends and we dropped those off for my friend who was very appreciative. Myself, Michael and Brent grabbed a quick bite to eat and jumped in my bass boat for a few hours of creek fishing. Brent is 15 years old and very interested in bass fishing so I showed him how to walk the dog, the spybait technique and the drop shot, all of which was pretty new to him. Brent did well with the spybait and got the hang of that pretty well after missing a few topwater blow-ups and he brought a few bass to the boat including his first spotted bass ever.
We capped the day off with a nice dinner and Michael and Brent headed back down to Atlanta where they were staying. It was great to see Michael again and riminess about past times. I met Michael and his family through my dad who had worked with Michael and his dad in the oil business for years. My dad and Michael lived very near each other and they got to be very close friends. Michael’s dad and my dad have since past and I know they were both in heaven looking down on our fishing trip this week. It was very special for both of us. Here’s a few pictures from our day and I also included a link to my “What’s on the Cast Away Deck” video for this week after the pictures. Lake temps are hoovering around the mid eighties and the lake is only down about a foot.
“You really have to stay ahead of these fish and their eating habits if you want to successfully catch these spotted bass on Lake Lanier. The way these fish feed can be predictable at times and tricking them into eating my bait is a trick that is always evolving. If you’re a regular to the lake you’ve more than likely already accepted the fact that fishing changes daily and what worked today may not work tomorrow so sometimes their can be failure. You also have to accept the fact that sometimes the fish will win the battle and you have to swallow that bitter pill”.
It doesn’t happen often for me but it bit me again yesterday and I am still trying to put it behind me. Yesterday I was out on the main lake and I was in an area where I knew there was a good chance I was going to catch a big bass. I was so sure, I turned on the video camera and explained in the video that “out here on the main lake it’s a good idea to make sure your drag is set and you check your line frequently for nicks“. I then turned around and made a couple of casts. Just a few casts later a big bass just hammered my popper and the fight was on. I knew the fish was going to be close to 5lbs and that notion was affirmed when the fish jumped right in front of the boat but when I went to grab the net the fish made one of those bulldog runs and broke off. I was heart broken and I got it all on video.
Early this week I was still riding my high on the Ima Skimmer bait and the fish were practically jumping in the boat, chasing the Ima but as the week progressed the Ima Skimmer lost it’s luster and the bass decided that the popper was a better choice. The Ima Skimmer is the bait I pulled off the Wall of Shame two weeks ago and it provided me with some top notch fish and entertainment. I made a video last week with the Ima and I finally got it downloaded so here’s a little video of the Ima in action.
Thursday I was back in the shop and making a few more poppers so I could have some for yesterday morning out on the main lake. I got a late start because I had to fill up with gas and the marinas don’t open till 9am so I messed around the creek for a while. When I finally gassed up and got to the main lake I could see that I was in plenty of company on points and humps. Pretty much all week has been running and gunning a milk run I made up for my summer stop, pop and drop pattern. I’m basically hitting humps and points from the southwest end up to Browns Bridge and over to the east side and back down lake. I have a lot of options and the wind is always a factor on how I fish the milk run. Right now I’m approaching the hump or point up wind if there’s wind and hitting Stop Lock once I’m in position to fan cast the area. After I’ve pounded it pretty good with the topwater, I’m moving in with the drop shot and spending a few minutes dropping with Lanier Baits Blue Lily. Always have Blue Lily ready to drop this time of year. After 5-10 minutes of dropping I’m off to the next spot on the milk run. As it gets hotter the time sitting still in one area may be shorted to just a few minutes.
My baits of choice this week has been the Ima Skimmer in chrome, the Cane Walker 125 in chrome, the Emerald Popper, a Duo Realis G-fix 80 Spybait in American Shad and Lanier Baits Blue Lily drop shot worm.
The lake is a foot below full pool and water temps are in te mid *0’s. Here’s a few pictures from memorable fish this week.