Last night I couldn’t help myself at our weekly taco Thursday gathering. At the restaurant there were several tv’s but only one that I could barely see had the NCAA basketball tournament on and every once in a while, I would glance a look at the game and the scores. I may not be diligent about following divisional play during the regular season, but March Madness has always piqued my interest. At the same time another March madness has piqued my interest and that’s the March madness of finding and catching these spotted bass. So this week was the polar opposite of last week on the lake…..literally the polar opposite. Last week we had the mild temperatures, and the fish were basking in the warmth of the shallow water, eating their crawfish and having a good ole time then along comes mother nature with wintertime again.
Monday started with below freezing temperatures in the morning and a northwest wind that was brutal to any exposed skin. Luckily, I still have my winter fat lining to insulate my body, much like the down on a bird, which helps me from getting cold. The only part that’s bothersome about these cold mornings is that my hands get cold, and I don’t like wearing gloves for a few reasons. Once my hands get wet, they get cold and that is uncomfortable. Such was the case on Monday morning when I started out. I was catching fish almost immediately at my first stop and the area I was fishing was shaded from the morning sun. That made it even more cold but on the other hand the fish were biting so it was a pain vs pleasure kind of morning. On Monday I was still catching some fish shallow and with the post front conditions, and a brisk wind the best thing to do was sit on the ends of west facing points with spot lock engaged and making fan casts downwind with my back to the cold wind. Even though it was cold the fish were moving around these areas feeding so it was just a matter of dragging the worm slow. When I say slow, I mean slow. Soaking the worm became an option for me this week.
Just to give you an example, I ran into Jeff Nail and Rafael Q out on the lake Wednesday, and we were chatting on spot lock on the end of a point. I made a cast and just let the worm set on the bottom. I kept the slack out of my line as the worm sat on the bottom and about 3-5 minutes into our conversation, I felt a tiny tick on my line, and I reeled down on a running fish. That worm had sat there on the bottom for a while, lifeless, and along comes a bass and picked it up. Just a couple hours later I run into Jimmy Sanders in the creek, and we start chatting out on the end of a point. I made a cast during our conversation and once again, mid-conversation, worm soaking, another bass picked it up and I reeled down on another running fish. That’s kinda the way the whole week was, just work the bait slowly.
Tuesday and Wednesday were the same deal, windy points with a few dock runs here and there but the biggest bang for the buck was still rocky secondary points in the wind with staging fish. The biggest observation I had for the week was the fact that a lot of fish slowly moved out to deeper water as the week progressed. To give you an idea of how the fish moved, I was putting the boat on spot lock early week in 16-17 feet of water and making my cast to the shallower water but by yesterday I was spot locking in 16-17 feet of water and making my casts out to deeper water. I caught fish in 5-15 feet of water on points early this week, but they slowly pulled out as the water cooled a few degrees because of the cold snap and by yesterday they mainly came from 20-25 feet of water. This happens in March just about every year and the bass usually don’t go far. It won’t be long till the move back up shallow looking for that warmer shallow water. I only needed one rod on the deck this week and I only used one type of worm. With the exception of ambushing a very large striper on a 2.8 Keitech feeding with some loons inside the Marina, my bait of choice this week was shaky head in the wind on secondary points for the win.
This is kinda typical for March Madness and usually the back-to-back fronts can be frustrating but there’s 2 things to keep in mind; first is that the fish are going to be eating in March and the second is that the wind is your friend in March. The lake is just below full pool and the water temps are somewhere in the low to mid 50’s. The corps isn’t really generating a whole lot right now but the good part is that the fish are eating pretty regularly. Some fish may be a little deeper on those points until things warm up a bit.
On Monday evening last week I got to sit down with my friend Jack Young, who has a podcast called “The Seasoned Sportsman” and we did a 3 hour podcast for his YouTube page. Here’s the video below and a few fish pictures from my week.
Finally!! I’ve been throwing my little swimbaits for the past week just looking for something to bite it when I’m swimming it near the surface rather than dragging it on the bottom and yesterday it happened!! It’s a sign of better things to come and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Don’t get me wrong because the worm bite is running pretty hot right now, plus there’s no better feeling than that little “tap” when you’re dragging the worm and you swing into a heavy fish but yesterday we were able to witness surfacing fish, put the hammer down on the trolling motor to make a cast within 10 seconds of the fishes surfacing and pop a double on the swimbaits. That’s a pretty good feeling too. Our double pictured below:
This week my week of fishing actually started on Sunday when I was able to put a crappie trip together with my buddy who lives on a small lake out in the countryside. Every year we do a bit of pond management and remove quite a few of those tasty slabs for a transfer to my favorite lake, Lake Crisco. Removing the crappie is necessary to keep the size up and prevent overpopulation of the species and I’m a big fan of fish tacos so it’s a win-win kinda deal. It’s a lot of fun and on light crappie tackle some of the fish can really put a bend in the little crappie rods.
Years ago, my parents owned a home on Horse Creek, a large feeder creek to Grand Lake in Oklahoma, and every year the crappie would spawn in the creek. It was just a matter of taking the little jonboat up the creek and find a few good blowdowns along the water’s edge. We would drop anchor next to a blowdown and drop the little crappie jigs down around the blowdown, usually doing very well. It was pretty easy fishing in shallow water, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to catch 30-50 fish in an afternoon. We would have fish fries every so often and I’ve always loved the taste of crappie. Just the taste alone can conjure up a half a dozen memories of days gone by. Helping my buddy with the pond management often takes me back to the years on Horse Creek and all the fun we had crappie fishing 40+ years ago. Here’s some pictures from my Sunday in the country and the start of my fishing week.
I was back on the lake Monday morning with some nice weather to greet me. I was looking forward to this week because I know that the bite is getting better and better. We’re approaching the March full moon and it seems like this moon phase is kicking these Lanier bass into high gear this week. Once again, I started with throwing the little swimbait on a five-count drop and slow rolling it but still no takers, so it was back to the worm. For me it’s about location and percentages right now. I have this memory bank of locations where I’ve caught fish in the past plus I’m always adding to my locations as well as dropping some. More and more bass are prepping for the spawn and the feeding windows are opening wider and wider around the lake. The key is finding where the bass are and that could be anywhere and nowhere at times. Late last week we were having a blast with fish around docks but this week they’ve been nonexistent around the docks and loading up on the shorelines. I’ve found fish in the most inconspicuous and unusual places and found a lack of fish in the places I’ve expected to find them….if that makes sense. Nonetheless, this time of year it’s like “blind squirrel” fishing and if I search around long enough, I’m bound to find a nut or two. Targeting secondary points and rocky stuff has been the deal for me this week and right now some of the biggest girls around are putting on the feedbags for the spawn. This week I used the wind to my advantage, and I targeted larger flats and points in the wind using my Spot Lock and fan casting method. I looked for points and flats that had wind blowing into them and I targeted those points. I just feel like the fish feel more comfortable feeding around windblown points and although it may be uncomfortable fishing in the wind, it can be very rewarding. Such was the case on Monday when I upped my personal best for the year when I caught a very hefty 5.3oz on a windblown secondary point. The fish had apparently had success jumping and spitting baits in the past because it’s all the fish wanted to do and keeping her down was a task. The hook held and I gotta brag on the Cast Co. braided line. It’s the real deal when it comes to holding these fish. Here’s a pic of my biggest this week and a few others from Monday.
On Tuesday the sun was back out, and it was nice and warm. It was the same deal for me, I had the wind to work with and I tried to choose areas in the sun where the wind was blowing into the area or in some cases, across the point. I set up camp on a flat that had wind blowing into it. my boat was sitting in 17 feet of water, and I was fan casting my shaky head onto a rocky area from 5 feet in depth back to the boat. I caught 3 very nice fish off the flat in less than 10 feet of water before moving on. It was the start of a good day and I slowly found fish here and there on my milk run. I also found fish in Shoal Creek and Young Deer on Tuesday targeting windblown secondary points, fan casting the worm on Spot lock. In the evening Lisa came out for a short ride and we ran a few docks but unlike last week, the dock bite was on life support. We did manage to salvage the evening with a few off a rocky shoreline before calling it an evening. Here’s a few from Tuesday.
On Wednesday I had my neighbor David on my boat as a guest. David knows the shaky head bite pretty well, so I knew yesterday was bound to be good. We started out early and it took us a while to hit our stride, but the bite improved as the morning progressed. Yesterday I noticed a little more surface activity and while we were running some shoreline areas we saw a lot of birds and loons diving in a bay, we were close so I pulled the trolling motor and we booked it over to the bird action. I knew there was probably a bass or two around because the birds and loons were diving very near shallow water out on the end of a point. I dropped the trolling motor and we started casting with 1/4 ounce damiki’s with 2.8 Keitechs and KBD Baits 3.25 Slick Swim swimbait. Here’s a link to the swimbait I was using.
The color I was using was a green herring color shift. Here’s a picture of the swimbait.
We made a couple blind casts and then I saw a fish surface once and then surface again and again. We were close and I was able to cast to the surfacing bass within a few seconds and on my first cast on top of where the fish was surfacing the bass hammered the slick swim. I was happy to finally get a decent fish on the moving bait. David zeroed with a little underspin until we hit the next pocket and I saw another fish surface. That was when David and I got a double, mine on the slick swim and Davids on a underspin with a 2.8 Keitech. After that we hit a few more areas and David ended the day with back-to-back catches running a stretch of rock bluffs and we headed back home. It turned out to be a nice day. All of our fish were caught on the shaky head and swimbaits. Here’s a few of our better fish for the day.
Not sure when I’m getting back out but so far it’s been a good week. The water temps are somewhere between 55-60 around the lake and the fish are getting more and more aggressive in the shallow waters. With the fish starting to chase moving baits more and more, a whole host of baits should work, from crankbaits to spinnerbait, chatterbaits and even the a-rig can be a good choice right now on the windy point and around docks. The shaky head continues to be my anchor with the moving swimbaits coming in second. Water levels are just below full pool and the corps is generating off and on during the daylight hours.
This week was close, not quite there yet for me but we’re close and I can feel it in my bones. For weeks on end most of my offerings have been slow moving and I’ve been relating my baits to the bottom. Whether it’ ‘s a worm or a swimbait, it has been crawled on the bottom with the speed of a three toed sloth and I’ve grown tired of the pattern. My fish brain tells me to anticipate the cheese move and go looking for new cheese and with the water temps on the rise and the fish moving to the shallows, it’s just a matter of time before I rely heavily on the moving and swimming baits, rather than the slow, crawly ones.
It certainly looks like we’ve turned the corner on the lake temperatures and hopefully we’ve seen the last of the water temps in the 40’s for a while. I know we are in store for another artic blast or two before spring arrives, but this week has given us a glimpse as well as hope for warmer days. Another good sign that spring is just around the corner is the fact that Lisa came out of her fishing hibernation and jumped in the boat a few times this week. Each year when the air temperatures hit the 70’s Lisa knocks the winter rust off her hook setters and dominates our fishing competitions year after year. I can’t explain it but I usually take a beating on our outings no matter how badly I front end her and make the choice casts. She has learned to adapt, and she has obtained this 6th sense in fish location from the back of the boat. I’ve grown accustomed to it and just net her fish like a man.
On Monday Lisa had the day off some about mid-morning we set out in the creek to see if you could find a few shaky head fish. Lisa throws a pretty mean shaky head, and she has the touch when it comes to feeling those really light bites with the shaky head so we both enjoy throwing it. We hit rocks and docks with a small limit to show for our efforts. We ended the morning with a small limit on rocky points, and I wasn’t very impressed with the morning bite at the places we fished. It was a little chilly but a fun morning and I’m glad Lisa got to catch a few to get her week started.
I know there’s going to be a good moving swimbait bite right around the corner and I’m incorporating more and more moving baits in my arsenal now. The sure bite for me has been the shaky head for the last few months but I know that very soon the fish will come out of their slumber and start running down shad in the shallow areas and sometimes out over deeper water. For these fish I have a quarter ounce Damiki coupled with a Cast Co. Prodigy or a 2.8 Keitech. If I see anything come to the surface and I can get to it fast, I’m throwing the little swimbait. I’m also throwing it if I see suspended fish on the graph, usually on points. When these bass get on the little moving swimbait bite in early spring, the shaky head can become a distant memory and we can go right from slow rolling the swimbait to topwater. When I looked at my blog reports from the first few weeks in March and all those big fish I caught last year on the little swimbait it made my mouth water even more. I had some tanks in early March and some of my biggest fish of the year. If you have time, take a look at March of 2022 in my archives and check out some of those fish on the little swimbait. I expect that bite to take off very soon and I’m devoting more and more attention to the moving stuff now that the water temps are on the rise.
Tuesday morning Chris and Joe from C&S Marine got me fixed up with the 20-hour on the new powerhead. I was in and out of there in less than 2 hours and back on the water by lunch. A huge thanks to my friends at:
On Tuesday I was back at it with the shaky head, and I hit the rocks and docks with some success. I could tell that the dock bite was starting to turn on late in the sunny afternoon and the fish were starting to relate to the shallower docks. That bite is mainly driven by the sun so the success rate on docks goes up considerably when the sun is out in the afternoon and evenings. I finished the day with some nice fish, and I could tell more fish were moving to the shallows.
I was back at it on Wednesday afternoon and with the warm weather and sunshine Lisa jumped in the boat with me after she got off work. We started running docks about 5:30 and it just kept getting better and better. It was like every empty slip had a fish in it, every spud pole had a fish on it, and we ended up with 7 pretty nice fish in a matter of an hour and a half tops.
I was out again both yesterday and today for a while, and basically for this week it was the same deal, rocks and docks with the shaky head, but with the cloud cover moving in, the dock bite kind of fizzled at times so I focused on the rocks during the cloud cover. The shaky head rig we used this week was the TRD and Big TRD mounted on a Trokar Pro-V tungsten 1/4 ounce round head or a Trokar Shell Buster football head in 1/4 ounce. I recently talked about the TRD worms from ZMan in my last YouTube video and we used it almost exclusively this week.
As of today, the water temps were in the mid to upper 50’s and the lake is a few inches below full pool. The corps has been generating a little more than usual this week. I look for the moving bait bite to pick up for me soon, but this week was more of the usual worm bite. Here’s a few more of our fish from the week.
I can usually tell when the early staging bite gets good as there are signs. Yesterday when I was out beating rocks and docks, I had just made a cast when I got a text from Lisa. I needed to send her back a text right away so after making a cast, I cradled my rod in my arms and started texting. I think I was about 3 texts in, and 2-3 minutes had gone by. My worm had been just lying on the bottom during this time. Right in the middle of my texting, I feel the rod tip start bouncing and I fumbled with the phone and the rod to set the hook on a running fish. That worm had been down there soaking for a few minutes before a bass whacked it. I can only imagine the bass down there on the bottom staring at the worm and daring each other to grab it. Finally, one of the bass said, “I’m your Huckleberry”!! It’s staging time and the bass turn into a bunch of Huckleberrys during this period before the spawn.
This week was hit or miss with the staging bass, but the rocks and docks was all I focused on with one bait, the shaky head. I know that I’ve got the worm color blacked out this week because the worm color doesn’t really matter, and you may have better success with your own color than trying to use mine. I used two different colors this week and both worked well. When it gets to be staging time on Lanier, the bass are going to eat, and they aren’t very selective about what they eat. I caught a couple bass this week that were regurgitating chow on their way to the boat and what they were barfing up was a cornucopia of chewed up mess. There were chucks of crawfish, frog legs, dead brim, shad, bluebacks, bugs and I actually think I saw an old chartreuse Hot Wheels car as well! The point is that these fish are feeding on a lot of stuff, so color choice doesn’t really matter, and bait may not matter as well. I ran into my lake neighbor yesterday on the lake and we chatted for a while. While we were chatting about our week, I couldn’t help but notice the worm he was using. It was very bright in color, and he had shortened it a bit. His little worm stood out like a sore thumb, and I asked him how his little worm was working. He said, “Jim, I’m smoking them with this little guy”. They were on that little unique worm like a bum on a ham sandwich.
Talking to my neighbor and seeing that worm color took me back to at least 10 years ago when Lisa and I fished up around Longhollow a lot. At the time about all we knew how to do was beat the banks and we found that a little pack of twin tailed grubs in that same color was all we needed to have a good time. Lisa and I would just go down the bank throwing our little grubs and every once in a while, we would pop a bass or get into a little flurry of bass. We had a blast with our little bright grubs. To me, catching the occasional bass is like getting the occasional birdie in golf, it gives you a good feeling, and it keeps you coming back for more.
I fished every day this week and pretty much ran the same milk run. Basically, my milk run is the best way to monitor the progress of the fish. Inevitably, they will show up in certain places and by me checking these places every day, it tells me what to look for and where to look. I don’t need forward facing sonar to find the fish and at this point, as my contour mapping is my biggest help. I didn’t really fish any ditches this week and my main focus was rocks and docks. For me the dock bite is steadily getting better, and more fish are starting to relate to the warmth of the docks on sunny days. Yesterday evening I picked up Lisa at 5pm and we went out and ran docks for an hour. In that hour we caught 3 very nice bass just throwing worms around a little stretch of dock. This was Lisa’s first bass of the year and my last bass of the evening.
Earlier in the day yesterday I was running stuff in the creek and racking my brain to try and think of places I haven’t fished in a few days or places I haven’t checked in weeks that might hold a bigger fish. Right now, the fish could be in a lot of different places so I’m doing a lot of moving around. I might run a stretch of docks and then run a stretch of bank with rocky secondary points that are visible from the shore, and my favorite, those hidden underwater outcroppings that are also secondary points, only submerged. Those submerged secondary points are often overlooked and that’s where my Humminbird mapping comes in. I want to find and target those areas, especially if the bank leads to a spawning area. Some of these submerged points have rock and muscles on them and they are a favorite hunting ground for the staging and feeding bass.
I’m not fishing the BFL, but it looks like the weather is going to be post front and sunny. If I were fishing the BFL, I would definitely utilize the sun to my advantage and find those sunny rocky points that Lanier is full of, and I’d throw my bait all day on those sun-drenched points. I don’t think the bass are going to be too choosy in the afternoons when they put on the feed bags. I caught just about all my fish this week in less that 20 feet of water and the fish that I was catching had good color with some being fat as mud. Most had been feeding heavily and spitting up chow boatside. Every once in a while, I’d see half-digested crawfish in the fish’s gullet which tells me that the crawfish are active right now and which has driven my focus to the meat-eaters this week.
The lake level is a few inches below full pool and the corps is generating a little more than normal this week. The water temps are starting to rise into the low 50’s. Last year we turned the corner in water temps in the last week or so of February and the days of water temps in the 40’s may be over till next winter. Here is a few of my memorable fish for the week.
A few years back my lake neighbor Glen introduced me to his Langostino lobster cheese dip at a Christmas party he hosted, and I got the original dip recipe from him. Glen’s recipe inspired me to make a Cajun rendition because of my time in Louisiana and my love for cooking Cajun food. Although it’s a seafood recipe in title, I thought that the Andouille sausage really gave it some pop and a Cajun flair. I get the Louisiana Crawfish at the Walmart at 369 and 400 and I’m pretty sure you can find the sausage there also. They make three different kinds of sausage, mild, medium and hot. Your call on that but I prefer the mild or medium. The picture above is just about everything I used for the dip, and it makes enough for 10+.I reduce the ingredients to half for a smaller group of 4-6 guests.
1lb of cooked and peeled shrimp
2- 12ounce packages of cleaned Louisiana crawfish tails (sautéed for 10 minutes)
1 package of Ragin Cajun Andouille sausage
1/2 chopped sweet onion.
2 8-ounce packages of Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
1/2 tbsp of Old Bay (optional)
2 cans of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis (drained).
12 ounce bag of grated parmesan
12 ounce bag of grated mild cheddar cheese
1 cup of grated Mexican blend
Lemon pepper, salt and coarse ground pepper to taste.
First, I preheat the Oven to 375 and sauté the crawfish in the juice from the package for 10 minutes. That gives the crawfish a great flavor. I mix the thawed shrimp in a bowl with the crawfish and that gives the shrimp a good flavor also.
Next comes the sausage cut into quarters and the the rest of the ingredients listed above, stirring as I go. Once everything is mixed, the mixture goes in my deep 9×13 baking dish.
I cover the top with foil and bake the mixture for 45 minutes and transfer it to the crockpot. At that point I stir and serve with scoops.
I’m up at 4am every morning to get my day started. From 4am to 6am when Lisa gets up, among other things, I usually spend a bit of time in prayer and reading scripture from the Bible. I also like to watch a little of the many videos from Billy Graham. This week I watched one of his sermons and he told the story of a young self-proclaimed atheist who walked to the front of the huge stadium in which Mr. Graham was speaking to a large crowd. The young man was holding up a watch, and he shouted out to Graham, “if your God is real, let him strike me dead in the next minute”. At that statement the whole stadium went silent, but then an elderly man standing near the atheist turned to him and said, “son, God has a lot more patience than just one minute“. Probably the best video I watched all week and I thank God for his patience.
This week was one of those weeks in February that I look forward to every year. You can’t stop the bass from doing what they do and in February some of the largest bass prepare for their spawn by running rock for a high protein meal this month. Some stay out over timber or on a deep bottom ditch feeding on shad but there’s some that prefer that warmer rock water and the little orange mudbugs that are spawning and molting in those rocks. Our Chattahoochee crawfish population likes to spawn when the water temps are in the 50’s and they can spawn several times a year. A few weeks after they spawn, they will molt and turn shades of orange, copper and red. When they turn these vibrant colors, they are highly visible moving around on the darker chunk rock and very easy picking for the bass. Knowing which rocks they occupy is both beneficial to the angler as well as beneficial for the bass. Here’s a few key factors I look for in rocks when looking for big fish in February can really help with your rock game. Probably, the first and most important is that there has to be deep water very near the rock early in the staging game. This week there needed to be 40 feet of water very near the rock. I believe that the fish are still oriented to the deeper water and run up and down the ledges and steep drop-offs when they are ready to feed. Secondly, I believe that the green slime that covers some of the rock I fish is a deterrent to the bass as well as the crawfish. From what I have researched and understand, the crawfish make noises on the rock with their hard tails when they spawn to attract other crawfish. They click their tails on the rock as some sort of mating call. That clicking sound is like a dinner bell to the bass and the reason some of our choices for lures work well. If a crankbait is banging and clicking as it contacts the rock, I believe that sound is an attractant to the bass, and they are drawn to the sound. The rock that gets covered in slim is counterproductive to this ritual. For this reason, and the lack of fish catches in the areas my lure of choice comes back with green slime on it, I try and avoid the green rock in favor of the clean hard, dark chunk rock. Thirdly, I look for rock with sun on it on the sunny days as I believe the bass are just like us, in that they love the warmer rocky areas to boost their metabolism.
On Monday I fished with my good friend Jeff Nail, who is a retired Army veteran (Airborne Ranger) and the owner of Jeff Nail Guide Service. Jeff and I decided to look at some areas north of Browns Bridge and one of the things we keyed on was rock that faced the sun early in the morning. One of the first places we stopped was a huge bluff that faced the sun and had deep water within a few feet of the bluff. It was the perfect area for what I look for in February and it paid off right away for Jeff. We hadn’t been on the stretch long and Jeff busted this 5.4lb toad on a shaky head, on the sunny rocks. It was a great way to start the week and a good sign of what’s to come.
After that rock run, we focused on two things, the first was steep chunk rock and the second was locating deeper fish in the ditches using a small swimbait. I will say this about this week, for us the bite seemed to follow that big ole moon up in the sky. For the most part, when the moon set, so did the bite. After the moon went down, it was a grind and finding fish got a lot harder. We ended our day with over a dozen fish with some being caught on the shaky head and some on the little swimbaits in and around the ditches.
If you’re looking to up your staging game on Lanier this month, Jeff is your guide. Give him a call as he’s fishing every day now and he has an array of tactics for catching fish in February. Here’s a few pics of our biggest for the day.
On Tuesday I was out by myself scouting rock and found a few on rocks and docks with the shaky head. I ran up lake and worked some rock from Bald Ridge to Vanns and located a few here and there but it was slow. Probably my most productive areas on Tuesday was sunny rock bluffs and some deeper shady docks with rocks nearby. Not sure why but the size was off just a bit on Tuesday, but numbers were good, and I finished the day with some decent fish.
On Wednesday I met up with my good friend Joe McVickers and we looked at a few things up lake. It was a bit of a miserable day with the weather and the cooperating fish but it was mainly about getting out with Joe for the fellowship. I first met Joe years ago while fishing up lake. Joe was sitting in his Ranger boat and we were fishing near each other. I went over and struck up a conversation with Joe and he showed me a few of his hair jigs he ties. We chatted for a while before I headed out, but I didn’t forget about Joe and his hair jigs. Fast forward to Jimbo’s gathering a few weeks back and I ran into Joe again at the expo. We chatted for a bit and we wound up swapping some lures. Joe showed me pictures of his new Ranger boat, a 50-year edition Ranger that was just beautiful. Joe had won the boat in a picture contest with Cabela’s, and I really wanted to check it out so we planned our trip for Wednesday. Joe and I weren’t really blessed with fish, but we were blessed with fellowship and that’s much more important than the tangible fish. I enjoyed every second of our trip and looking forward to the next one.
Yesterday I was skeptical because of the weather coming through but as luck would have it, the rain was minimal as the front approached. I think the front stalled out over our area for a brief period and the wind calmed down a bit. I checked the barometric pressure about 10am and it had dropped considerably. It was right at 30.01 and still dropping when I first checked. I went to a rock bluff where I had picked up a decent limit on Tuesday and it didn’t take long till I put my first keeper in the boat, a really nice 4.2-ounce fish. I was casting to the bluff from a depth of 40 feet and picked up the fish in about 30 feet of water. My next cast hit the bottom and I started slowly dragging my worm on the bottom when I felt that old familiar tick and I reeled down on another fighting fish, another solid keeper, a bit smaller than the last but still a good 3.3-ounce fish. From there I started moving around a bit but usually after a few releases the bite starts to slow, and I was satisfied with the two keepers. My next stop was at the mouth of the creek and another rock bluff. I set up the boat out in deeper water again and made long casts to the bluff. The first 5-6 cast came up empty, but I made a cast to a little rock pile at the end of the bluff, and I found what I was looking for when another bass thumped the worm. It was such a great fight all the way to the boat, and it was another solid fish off the rocks, and she weighed 3.14 ounce. From there I hit a little dry spell and the wind started to pick up again. I’ve been catching a few fish on this unsuspecting underwater point in a large bay with the wind blowing right into the bay. The underwater point had some brush out on the end in 25 feet of water and it had gravel rock back in the shallow area near shore. The fish had been migrating between the shallow gravel and the brush, so I started making casts in between the brush and the rock in about 20 feet of water. On my first cast I reeled down on a running fish that had picked up the bait as soon as it hit bottom. I knew this was a better fish and I grabbed the net. I thought that if I could land this one, I’d be working on a nice sack. when I boated the fish, I knew right away it was bigger than the 4.2 and when she dropped on the scale it read 4.9lbs.
At that point I started going over places in my mind where I thought I might get one more good fish and I thought of another rocky bluff in an area I call Kenny Bunkport because of the fancy long cruiser boat in a very nice dock. The fancy long boat was a Chriscraft and had a American flag on the back. I could just imagine the Kennedy clan riding around Martha’s Vinyard in this boat. It’s a place where I had been picking up a good one from time to time but recently it had produced nothing. Nonetheless it had dark chunk rock and that was what I was looking for yesterday. The wind was dying but there was a little bit of chop on the rock when I pulled up and made my first cast up onto the rocks in 15-20 of water. I could feel the worm falling down the chunk rocks and before I could get my first cast back to the boat, I felt a very faint tap on the worm. Hooksets are free in my boat, so I took a chance and set the hook on the tap. I was correct in my suspicions, and I had my fifth keeper on. I said a quick prayer and low and behold, I boated another nice fish to complete my sack, a feisty 3.11-ounce spot. At that point I was satisfied with my day, and I headed back to the house.
One change that I had made since fish with Jeff on Monday was changing to a lighter rod with a softer tip. Jeff was using a medium-fast rod while I had been using a medium heavy and occasionally breaking off fish. I had switched out my rig and loaded some 12lb Cast Co. braid Jeff had provided me on my Shimano Stradic Ci4 3000. I mounted the Stradic on a new 7.5 Mega Bass Levante spinning rod. I put a 6 foot leader of 8lb Tatsu fluorocarbon and married the two with my modified Alberto knot, appropriately called the “Jimberto” knot. I was really excited about the new rig and I gotta tell you guys, It felt great to bring in a 19-20lb sack on the first outing with the new rig. Here’s the pics of the fish and rig I was using yesterday, with 4 of the 5 fish coming from rocky bluffs.
Here’s a picture of the rig I was using for my shaky head this week.
Today I made a short trip through the creek and around a few other creeks to look at some stuff I hadn’t been fishing lately. I took some pictures of the type of stuff I fished this week. This is the stuff my larger fish have been coming from. It’s hit or miss on the rocks but when your timing is right, there are some big girls up on the rocks.
Things seem to be looking better and I feel like were just about to turn the corner with the water temps. I saw a 51–52-degree average in the creek and lake level is a few inches below full pool. The corps did a few big generations early this week, but they are only generating for a few hours a day now. The shaky head did almost all the damage this week and it’s probably something I’ll be using more and more on the rocks as we approach spring.
It’s never been my favorite time to fish but I just can’t bring myself to find another interest to bide my time until warmer weather shows up again. The bottom line is that I don’t like the cold and I don’t like fishing in it, but I guess it could be worse and I could be drilling holes in thick ice to drop a line right now.
This week I’ve struggled to find something to write about. It’s amazing how much one year can change things. Every morning I get up at 4am and at some point, shortly thereafter I usually look at my memories on Facebook to see what fishing was like a year ago. All week this week I’ve looked at pictures that brought back memories of my fishing this time last year. I can’t believe how much of a void there is in the same locations as last year. Last year the numbers were more than twice what they are this year and I have to ask myself why? I can’t see pressure being the issue here because there is just so many bass in the lake. Several years ago, when I was fishing in the striper community there was a big concern over the number of stripers being caught and most assuredly killed during the summer months by me dragging leadcore. I used to troll leadcore a good bit in the summer and a small group of striper fisherman decided to start crying about the possibility of fish being killed. There were even fishermen from other lakes commenting about the carnage of trolling leadcore and they were clueless as to what leadcore even was at the time. It was all unwarranted and the “Karens” of the striper community were put at bay when the DNR release a study that showed that the effects of fishermen during the summer months and the mortality rate was around 2-3% of the total population. That was 15 years ago and now leadcore is commonly used, and probably by some of the people who used to whine about it. I’ve never forgotten the minority of folks involved and harassment I took just to show folks a different successful way of fishing.
Fast forward to now and I’m primarily a bass fisherman. During the winter months fish can be grouped up in a small area and catching these fish in the ditches is fun because of the numbers. Most fishermen know that sometimes releasing caught fish over the same area can kill the bite after a few fish releases. It’s a fact and it’s something I’ve seen for years. It’s because of that that I would put my fish in the livewell to continue the bite. I would put 5-10 fish in my livewells at the most and then move away from the area and release the fish. The whole process sometimes would be an hour or two at the most and the caught fish would be released. They would swim away with their lips and feelings hurt but unharmed. The biggest mistake I made was posting pictures of the fish in the livewell and that’s all it took for the bass “Karens” to move in and start making comments about putting fish in the livewell if you’re not tournament fishing. One of these goofballs even went as far as calling me a liar twice on a certain local Facebook fishing forum that went unchecked and I’m no longer a member of that group. This was even after explaining twice in the public comments that the fish were caught in one area and released unharmed within an hour. This harassment was ok because it was all in the name of conservation. I don’t think Ranger made those live wells just for the arrogant tournament anglers and their ill-informed ilk. Sometimes it’s necessary to use my livewell to put my fish in to enjoy my afternoon of fishing and I have every right to do so. Now, I see picture after picture of fishermen holding up 5-10 bass at one time and you know those fish came from a livewell but I’ll bet the ole bass Karens of Lake Lanier aren’t saying a word now because some are their buddies. Be sure and use your livewell in the ditches to continue the bite and release your fish when you’re done, just don’t take livewell pictures. That’s the obvious bass Karen trigger.
My livewell was damaged during the polar freeze last month and I can’t use it right now. Now every time I get into a big school of fish, the bite dies after the 2nd or third release so that’s one reason my numbers are down this year. Another reason is because of the stain in areas I frequently fish in the winter but the stain has been bad in these places which changes the bite. All in all my ditch bite has been lacking so I’ve been doing a lot more beating the bank this week. I know that the fish will be moving to the shallows in bigger numbers soon so I’m just biding my time and testing the staging areas for the impending process of pre-spawn staging. I can tell from the lack of big females in these places that it’s still a bit early. A lot of the fish I’m catching are less than 3lbs right now in these staging areas and most are just there foraging fish in the shallow rocks for a change of pace. I think the rocks and dock bite is going to continually get better over the next month and we should see some of these big females on the move.
This week I’ve also been able to catch a few stripers that came close to me while I was bass fishing. One of which was my biggest this year, a 16lber on a 2.8 Keitech. It was a lot of fun and that striper really gave me a workout. One of the things the bigger stripers like to do is dive to the bottom after being hooked and with light line it’s hard to force them to the boat. What you can do is keep a little distance between you and the fish and keep your rod tip high in the air to keep the fishes head up. Take your time and if the fish starts diving put a little extra pressure on him to turn him back up. Usually this works well, and stripers will stay on top most of the time if you keep their head up.
I had another 2023 personal best this week when I thought I was stalking a surfacing striper and it turned out to be a 4.11lb spot for my best this year. It was a nice surprise to see that it was a surfacing bass. I got the fish catch on video, but we’ll probably wait a while to release the video because the location is still active for me. It was a fun catch and it felt good to bring in something big for a change.
I made an “On the Cast Away Deck” video yesterday of what I’ve been using this week to catch my fish. Here’s the video and a few pictures from my week.
Water temps are hovering around 50 degrees right now and the lake level is dropping because of the constant generation from the corps yesterday. Lake level is just below full pool, and the corps is doing another big generation today.
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.
Patience! Maybe it was something that was taught to me on our little farm on the outskirts of my hometown when I was very young. Maybe patience was born during an evening of fishing on a pond dam back in 66-67 or was it the rocky shore of Grand Lake camping in the 60’s. Maybe it was out at our little river cabin in 70-72 where I learned to set trotlines and limblines. Maybe it was with our Britney dogs on point, waiting for that covey of quail to burst from the ground in a thunderous explosion and just maybe it was staring out across the deep blue pacific from the open doors of the aircraft carrier’s hangar bay, just waiting to come back home.
This week was all about patience and it wasn’t much different than last week in terms of what I did for my bites. I started out on Monday swearing that I was going to spend some time in the ditches but after a couple of hours of driving and looking, followed by casting and dropping I had two pale 2lbers and one 3lber, all on a Cast Co. Prodigy swimbait. Don’t get me wrong here I enjoy a good ditch bite, but I just couldn’t hang with it, and I have decided to let Jeff Nail give me a refresher in ditch fishing because my confidence is lacking. Hopefully next week Jeff and I can get it straightened out.
I’m like a dog rolling on a deer carcass right now when it comes to the shaky head on the rocks. I really can’t help myself and if it wasn’t for my gift of patience, I’d probably be doing something else; but because of that patience I sit with my back to the cold wind with my spot lock on, fan casting and dragging the worm down the hill. If you have been diagnosed with ADD or some other disorder that makes it hard for you to watch paint dry, this isn’t a pattern for you, but if you like the occasional dull thump of a fish sucking in that worm, I think it’s worth it.
The screen shot below explains my position on the secondary points in the creek pockets. If you can imagine that underwater rocky area where I’m sitting with the point facing the west in full sun and the wind blowing right into it; that’s my target area right now. I took this picture because that’s exactly where the fish pictured above came from. I was making casts with the shaky head worm up onto the shallow rocks and the fish was in less than 10 feet of water. Basically, I’m just shopping rocky areas in the sun and looking for rocky outcroppings, ideally, with sun and wind on them. There are places like this all over the creeks on our lake and the options are endless using this pattern alone. The bites aren’t usually fast and furious but moving around and finding the little areas that produce fish are probably going to produce fish again and maybe again day after day. This, meaning that most of the places I caught fish this week provided me fish just about every day I fished it. One of the biggest problems with this pattern, this week was the size. I usually expect the fish to be over 3lbs when I catch them using this pattern but this week, I had a lot of frustration due to the lack of larger fish. The 4’s and 5’s just didn’t turn out this week like I expected. Sometimes it’s like that during the winter running this pattern but soon mother nature takes over and the larger females will find their way to the rocks. Fan casting is the deal on the rocky points for me right now. Whether there is wind or no wind, sun or clouds, just spend a few minutes fan casting the point and move on, win or lose. The fish that are on the rocky points aren’t there for sightseeing or to visit the local sunken lounge chair, they are there to eat and they aren’t really picky eaters. Definitely a crankbait, swimbait, underspin, a-rig or chatterbait could work on these fish but I like dragging the worm down the hill or ledge.
If you look at the background in some of the pictures below, some were cloudy and some were sunny backgrounds. I think there was more activity on the rocks during the sunny/windy post front days at the latter part of this week but there were fish cruising the points in the afternoons whether the sun was out or not. Some of the points I checked in the mornings were barren of fish but a return in the afternoon produced fish. If you’re looking for an addition to the ditch bite right now this pattern is a definite option.
Right now, the lake level is falling again after a heavy generation from the corps yesterday and the level is about a foot below full pool. Water temps are around 50 in the creek and there is still a good stain in the back of our creek. Here’s a few pictures from my week. I will say that there were quite a few smaller fish up on the rocks that didn’t make the picture cut this week.
I woke up at 4am listening to the subtle whining sounds of a cat wanting my attention at the side of the bed. No doubt she wanted to be the first to tell me that during the night 3 local cats, 2 deer and a scary looking possum had tripped the outdoor light sensor and she had also barfed up a juicy hairball because I didn’t empty the litter pan before bed. With all the commotion going on the dog woke up and wanted out for his morning leak. When I stepped outside at 4:15 to let the dog out the north wind hit me right in the face and I was instantly reminded that it was the back side of a front, and it was blowing cold air right through my pajamas. I watched the big pines across the street swaying back and forth in the howling wind and I was happy to go back inside, thinking I just may stay at the dock today.
This week I stayed away from the deeper stuff and ran my early stager milk run, focusing mainly on the creek. I’m still staying close to the house until I get a few more hours on the new motor but it’s hard because a lot of the water is stained around the back of the creek, and this is the time of year I like to fish the backs of the creeks in cleaner water circumstances. It’s not like there is an official staging effort going on with the fish right now and at best, it’s totally random, but there are some fish cruising the usual staging areas for the spawn. Secondary points of the underwater variety have been my target of interest this week and my thoughts are that there should be some big girls showing up around these areas very soon. When I go through my history from previous years, January has always produced some giants pre-staging on the rocky areas close to spawning areas. The fish pictured above was caught on some deeper rocks alongside of a sunny point and the fish had harked up a small dead bream as well as pieces of crawfish around its gullet. It wasn’t the usual 1–2-inch shad so many fish are feeding on right now, but these fish are the meat-eaters, and they are up on the rocks finding the bigger ticket items to chow down on. The good thing about these fish that are feeding up on the rocks is that they aren’t really particular about what they eat. For years we used a crankbait to catch these rock dwelling fish, but more recently I’ve switched to using a worm fished slowly to target these fish. I think that either bait can get the job done right now but I like the slower presentation rather than power fishing the crankbait. I found that the fish are starting to slow a bit and soaking a worm may have the same effect as running a crankbait over a point but it’s less wear and tear on my shoulder if I’m dragging a worm at the speed of a three toed sloth. The way I look at these staging fish is that I can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to the fish. The fish are going to be staging soon, especially on the sunny/windy days and when the bigger fish decide to stage, I want to be there to greet them, rather than find that I’m late for the party.
Right now, I have the mapping coloration on my graphs set up for red-0-5 feet, white is 6-20 feet and green is 21-35 feet. I’m keeping the boat out at 30 feet and casting around and up onto the shallow secondary points. Sometime the fish will be very shallow along the side of a point and sometimes the fish will be cruising out in 25 feet of water on the end of a point. By keeping the boat out deeper I’m covering more of the deeper areas where the fish may be cruising around as I’ve caught fish this week in 5 feet of water and out in 25 feet of water on secondary points. It’s as simple as dragging your worm down the ledge very slowly, and if there is wind on the point, I like to Spot Lock in 30 feet of water up wind and fan cast sunny points, dragging the worms very slowly on the bottom and stopping the worm from time to time. I’m using a 1/4-ounce ball head and a 5-inch Senko in a Junebug or Green pumpkin color and occasionally dipping the tails in a little chartreuse garlic. I gotta say that it’s pretty rewarding as well as addicting when these bass pop the worm on the bottom and you load up on a nice fish.
That’s about all I have to report this week. It’s been a pretty simple week for me just throwing the worm around the rocks and a few docks here and there. The docks did account for a few fish this week but nothing real significant around the docks and nothing worth focusing on yet. The lake is continuing to rise and is now less than a foot below full pool with the corps moving water a couple hours a day. The water temps are right around 50 on my graphs and the further you go back in the creek, the worse the water clarity gets. Here’s a few pics from this week. Size was down from what I expected but better days are coming.