Things Are Looking Up

…and so are the fish. Once again, we’re approaching my favorite time of year. Crisp cool mornings and the smell of campfires drifting across the water from the parks and campgrounds along the shores of the Lake Lanier. On a cool fall morning when I leave the confines of the marina in the back of the creek I can look up towards the mouth of the creek and if the surface is flat, I can usually see surfacing fish presenting me with an idea of where to start. We’re just about there and this week was a good indicator that the topwater bite is about to break loose.

This week was a stellar week for me in terms of larger fish firing up my adrenaline glands. It all started the first thing Monday morning when I hit the water fairly early. A front had just come through the day before and the temps were finally in the mid to lower 60’s again with lower humidity. I actually had to break out my orange fleece shirt early in the morning which always indicates the beginning of Autumn. Don’t get me wrong, I know that we are in store for some hot days before it actually starts cooling down for good, but this little stint of cooler weather is just an early reminder that fall is on the horizon. One little piece of tackle that’s been working for me early in the morning before the topwater action starts is the little War Eagle spoon. A few weeks back I talked about the fish feeding on small baits early in the morning when the threadfin pods are on the surface. Every once in a while, a bass would surface chasing a little one-to-two-inch bait, but the fish would return to the depths very quickly with no interest in a topwater offering. For that reason, I’ve been using a small spoon early to get a few bites. I’ve been a fan of the little War Eagle spoons for a few years, and I had one at the ready. More specifically the place I like to throw the spoon is out on the ends of clean points where the bass are cruising and feeding on the threadfin pods that are drifting over their territory. With the spoon I’ve been making long casts and letting it flutter down to the bottom with an occasional pull up to give the bait some action. If there are feeding fish present, usually one will slam it on the first cast and then it’s a “one and done” effort. One Monday at my first stop and on my first cast with the spoon my week started with a bang. This big joker below hammered my spoon right before it landed on the bottom, and I was feeling pretty good.

After that fish I moved a few times, and I may have caught another smaller fish or two on the spoon before breaking out my little chrome Z-dog to test the topwater bite. Last week I had pretty good luck with the little chrome walking bait, so I broke it out again. I’m using a little different technique with the walking bait to get my bites, and it seems to work a little better than the old classic back and forth of walking the dog. I’m using a more aggressive approach with the bait, making a lot of surface disruption and trying to convince the fish to come up. If I just walked the dog slowly the fish had very little interest in the bait but if it looked very erratic, it was enough to fool the occasional fish in the mid-morning hours. It’s usually been starting out with some blow-ups, swirls and missed fish and as the day progresses the fish get much more aggressive. My first topwater fish on Monday wasn’t a real good one but it was a start.

Location has been the key this week and I’ve gotten my bites through the process of illimitation. For weeks I’ve been running out to the main lake first thing in the morning and fishing humps and points for my bites, but that’s changing rapidly. The bait is starting to make the fall migration to the creeks which means the fish aren’t for behind. The offshore bite has been slowly dwindling for me and during the course of the week I’ve given up on it as it has not been very productive for bigger fish at all. After ruling out the offshore bite, I started concentrating on the creeks more and more. Once in the creek it was a matter of the location of active and bigger fish and a matter of how I was going to get the bigger fish to bite. The little chrome z-dog had been doing the trick last week and I was down to my last one, so I was making extra sure I checked my line every so often to avoid breakoffs. The first topwater fish of the week was this one and it was on the little z-dog.

The thing about the topwater is that it gets better as the day progresses. Reason being is that the bluebacks get closer to the surface as the sun gets higher. The fish know this, and they usually don’t start focusing on the surface and cruising for bluebacks till the sun gets high in the sky and the warmest part of the day. Around noon I was over in another creek and a striper tore off with my little z-dog and when I tightened my drag a bit to keep him out of the trees the line broke and my z-dog was gone. I waited a few minutes in the area but the fish never shook the z-dog out. Now I was bummed but I remember a buddy telling me that he had caught a few good ones on a little chug bug the week before and so I looked down at my gut pile and found a little chugger, one of my favorites for this time of year. By the way, here’s a picture of my gut pile right now and the brunt of my friends jokes about the cleanliness of my boat. You can see a little chug bug in the pile, and I tied it on.

It wasn’t long before I found what I was looking for with the little chugger and I figured out the way to work it with success after a few blowups and near misses. My next fish….

Not long after I caught this one, I went back to my creek and ran into my buddy Jimmy S, and I chatted with him a while. I had loaned Jimmy one of my little chrome z-dogs last week and he told me I could have it back because he made a trip to Hammonds a stocked up on topwater. I was elated that I was reunited with another chrome z-dog, and I removed the little chugger and went back to work with the little z-dog. This was my next fish….

After that I caught a couple smaller fish, but I just couldn’t finish off that nice sack and ended the day feeling a little incomplete.

On Tuesday it was a bit cooler early in the morning and I was back out. It was pretty much the same thing as the day before, the spoon early and then I went to work on the topwater. The little chrome z-dog walking bait was getting it done again but I could tell that the fish were getting used to it as I cycled through the places in the creek where I had been getting bit. Later in the day I got a text from a friend who said they had done pretty good with the little chugger, so I tied it back on and caught a few more before ending the day. Here’s my bag on Tuesday.

On Wednesday I was back at it and starting to put it all together. I found that if I moved the little chugger to fast the fish didn’t want it, best case scenario, they would blow up on it or swirl on it, but the hookup rate was low. I found that if I just barely popped it and moved it slowly, that’s how they wanted it and I put another better sack in the boat using nothing but the little chugger on Wednesday. Here’s a picture of the bigger fish on Wednesday. I was really dialing it in, and I knew I was locked into bigger fish. Here’s Wednesday’s sack.

Yesterday I had to pack up and ship a big load of plow blades, but I really wasn’t interested in getting out on the lake early as the bigger fish bite wasn’t getting going till around noon. When I finally hit the lake around lunchtime, I was back at it with the chugger and feeling like I was going to have a good trip. Shortly after starting my fishing, I saw a large fish surface near me, so I threw the little chugger in the area and the fish immediately exploded on the bait. I felt the fish grab the bait and I rotated my body to put pressure on the fish when the rod loaded up. About halfway through my rotation I felt the line give and my little chugger as well as the fish was gone. I figured that there was a possibility the fish would shake it out, so I stayed in the area watching the surface for the little chugger pop back up to surface. I had the little z-dog lying in the gut pile, so I started tying it back on. As I was tying it on, I heard a large fish thrashing on the surface in the same area I just lost my last little chugger, so I finished tying very quickly, turned around and made a cast right into the area the big fish was thrashing and immediately the fish slammed my z-dog. I put pressure on the fish and realized right away that it was large. I was hoping it had a little chug bug dangling from its lip, but it wasn’t the case, but it was still an upper 3lber and my first keeper of the day. I thanked the Lord for the successful catch and went back to throwing the z-dog without another sniff in the area and without my little chugger popping back up to the surface. The chugger was gone but I still had the little chrome z-dog to work with.

I went over to Shoal and hit a little area where I had found a nice fish the day before. Soon after arriving in the area, I saw a large fish chasing a bait very shallow in the rocks and I quickly got close enough to make a good cast. I threw the little z-dog into about 3 feet of water, and it was immediately smashed by a big fish. I got it to the boat without incident and I had another nice fish within an hour of leaving the house. I thanked the Lord again for the nice fish and then moved on without another sniff on the z-dog.

I hit another creek and found Jimmy, Jeff and Tom in the creek, so we all had a little pow wow while Jeff looked for a bandage for an injury I sustained from a fall. Jeff had one of the biggest first aid kits I’ve ever seen, and he got me fixed up. He also had a brand spanking new chugger he gave me after I told him I broke my old one off. I was stoked because I really wanted to get back to chugging, so I tied the new chugger on and went back to BR where I saw Jimmy fishing a point very near where I was fishing. On one of my first casts with the shiny new chugger another very large fish hammered it, and I was praying that I could get the fish to the boat without incident. My prayers were answered, and I boated my 3rd big fish, a nice 4lber. I started thinking that if I could get 2 more like that, I might have one of my best sacks on Lanier. I went over to the point Jimmy was fishing and chatted with him a few minutes. I could see that all he was throwing was the jerk shad and he really wasn’t focusing on the topwater so as soon as he left, I started working the point. I popped the chugger over one brush pile without any takers, so I tied the little z-dog back on and just as I got it tied, the fish started schooling. I threw the z-dog into the fray of schooler and a big one jumped the z-dog. My heart was racing as the fish came boatside and into the net and at that point I realized that it was going to happen. The fish was a little over 4 and I just chuckled because I knew it was over and I was about to catch my biggest sack. I settled in and started fan casting the point. I was totally calm, and I said, “just one more Jesus”. No sooner that the words left my mouth a big fish exploded on the z-dog with some fantastic acrobatics. The fish jumped a good 2-3 feet in the air and came back down to the surface with a thud. The fish jumped again and again coming to the boat, but the z-dog held firm and I slid the net under the fish. I was done. I let out a big exhaled and laughed out loud as I knew my prayers had been answered for a good day. At that point I just drove around the creek for a little while and spent very little time fishing before going home for the day. I was totally satisfied for the week. Here’s my only 5 fish yesterday in just a few hours and more than likely my biggest sack of spots on Lanier to date.

I might get out in a while today, but I seriously doubt I’ll get very serious about fishing today because yesterday pretty much made my week. I only used 3 baits this week, the small War Eagle spoon, the little chrome Azuma Z-dog and the little chug bug. It’s all I needed for a great week.

The lake temps are in the low eighties and the lake level is around 2.5 feet below full pool. The corps is moving water in the heat of the afternoon and evenings right now. Looks like summer and warmer temps are returning for an encore visit next week but we’re getting close to fall and cooler temps.

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