I figured it was time to put this down on the internet before someone else steals my term for all these spotted bass on our awesome lake. A few years back, right after the release of Garmin’s forward-facing sonar, a friend of mine who fished in the Bassmaster Elite series, Jesse Tacoronte, stayed at Cast Away Cove and I got to witness forward-facing sonar on Jesse’s boat not long after the release. He showed me how it rotated in sync with the trolling motor, and I was amazed at the clarity of forward-facing, real-time sonar. I’ll never forget what Jesse said to me while showing me his Garmin, he said “if you aren’t using it on Lanier within the next year, you’re going to be behind the power curve”. He was correct, speaking from a competitive or business sense but if you’re retired and mainly fish for fun is it worth the investment? Well, I guess it depends on what you consider success and reward. On one hand, I feel like there is a lot to be said for the challenge of reading my 2D and mapping to find fish, whether in a deep ditch or around a shallow hidden rock pile. On the other hand, I’m never too old to learn new things and I’m looking forward to learning forward-facing sonar in the near future.
You’re probably wondering about the “roach” reference in the title and if you know me pretty well you’ve probably already heard me refer to our spotted bass on Lake Lanier as roaches. I first used the term a few years ago at a Jimbo seminar when I was speaking to a larger crowd. I explained that the first few times I was on a boat that had forward facing sonar and I got to see first-hand, all the bass that were crawling along the bottom in random places we would stop. A while back my partner and I had a couple hours left in a tournament and were scanning areas around bridge pilings with heavy structure using the Garmin. We couldn’t go 20 yards without marking fish glued to the bottom. If I looked close enough it was like the bottom was alive with little bumps popping up from the bottom and swimming back down. I could see that it was groups of bass just crawling and moving around the bottom like roaches. I was just amazed at the volume of fish just in one area alone, but we saw this in multiple areas throughout the afternoon. After that day I referred to the bass as roaches, especially this time of year when they are more oriented to the bottom.
This week I fished almost every day and bounced between the ditches and the rocks. My docks haven’t made much of a showing lately so it’s down to the ditches and the rocks this week. On Monday I spent the better part of the day looking for productive ditches and I had a pretty good day. On Monday just about every fish I caught was hanging out in 40+ feet of water going into a ditch or bay, and I caught them all with a Lanier Baits 1/4-ounce Damiki head with either a Cast Co. 3″ Prodigy or a 2.8 Keitech. I’d say that 90% of the fish were caught while casting and dragging my bait very slowly on the bottom. Other times I like to hop the Damiki on the bottom. I keep my rod tip up if I’m hopping the bait and rod tip down near the water if I’m dragging it. Here’s a video I made a couple years ago while fishing the Damiki in the ditches. This gives you an idea of how slow I’m working the Damiki on the bottom.
Although I didn’t use the spoon much this week, it’s always a good bet this time of year. If the fish are finicky with the Damiki, definitely give the spoon a try. I made this video a few years back and it kind of explains a little more about ditches and spooning this time of year.
The biggest thing about fishing ditches is DON’T overthink it looking for ditches. A ditch can be the center or deepest part of a bay or cove, or it can be a narrower defined drainage area, but the main ingredient for fish is the presence of bait. When I was out yesterday morning, I saw some gulls diving in the center of a cove further back in the bay I was fishing. Some of the gulls were circling and diving on the water, plus I could see some loons diving in the center of the cove. I idled over to the area and eased up on the cove with the trolling motor. The loons were diving in less than 10 feet of water and the gulls were also diving at bait on the surface. I made a cast to the center of the cove where the loons were working, and I felt a little tap on my Damiki right after it hit the bottom. I was hoping it wasn’t one of the loons, but I knew better because the loons rarely mistake my bait for the real thing. Sure enough, it was a nice spot in less than 10 feet of water to start my morning. Five minutes later I caught my second fish after following the loons out of the cove and into the deeper water. I actually think some of the bass were trailing the loons and feeding on the same bait balls the loons were chasing around and feeding from. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the birds, especially early in the morning around pockets and coves. Take your time and watch your graph closely from 50 feet all the way back to the back of a cove. Just as soon as I start marking fish under the boat, I start fan casting the Damiki or I drop the War Eagle spoon straight down.
The second pattern I’m having success with is the shaky head on the south and west facing rocky shoreline in the sunny afternoons, especially if there is wind and chop on the shoreline. If there is a sunny rocky point facing the southwest and there is wind blowing right onto the point, it’s pretty much a lock that at least one fish is going to be cruising the point for a meal. I’ve been keeping the boat out in 25-30 feet of water and making long casts towards the bank, fan casting with Spot lock on. The biggest key is working the worm slowly; the fish are there but moving the bait too fast has been counter-productive for me this week and slowing the worm down to a slow stop and go crawl has been the key. Sometimes I’ve really been soaking it to get my bites, but it seems like the fish were a little bigger on the rocks this week so maybe the staging bass are going to get with it soon. I did notice that the bite got better once the moon was up and visible this afternoon.
I’d almost bet a crankbait or jig would work under the same conditions, but I like the shaky head and I have the most confidence in it right now. Keep in mind that these fish on the rocks are feeding and not particular about what they eat so a variety of baits should work with these fish.
The lake is back up to full pool and the corps is generating 4-5 hours a day now. Water temps were around 49 in the creek and it’s dropped a degree or two this week. Fishing isn’t the best right now overall and it’s definitely cold out there, but ditches or rocks are two good options. Here’s a few of those roaches from this week.
Very nice, very nice… I caught my first “roach” last year. A few at Bull Shoals while fishing with a guide (Del Colvin). Good guy. This was also my first trip viewing forward facing sonar, and the bass would attack pods of baitfish like sharks. (That’s what Del called them actually, sharks.)
How does Lake Lanier compare to a lake like Bull Shoals? I’m asking as someone who plans to relocate his family this year… to get the heck out of Illinois…
Good to see you’re enjoying some fishing!