Georgia bass fishermen have a wonderful dilemma every March. There are so many good lakes for bass fishing this month that it is hard to choose which one is best. Lake Lanier has to be at the top of any list when considering where to go right now.
Lanier is full of big spotted bass, and March is an excellent time to land your biggest spot ever. The lake has a huge variety of cover and structure, so you can fish your favorite way and catch fish. And right now the boat traffic is not as terrible as it gets in warmer months.
Lanier’s 38,000 acres make it the biggest lake totally within Georgia, and its estimated 7,500 boat docks offer lots of cover for bass. The combination of blue- back herring introduced into the lake and a 14-inch size limit on all bass in the lake has turned Lanier into an incredible fishery. The special characteristics of Lanier have made this possible and probably can’t be duplicated anywhere else, as bluebacks have the potential to harm bass populations.
Mike and Sabrina Millsaps are well known on several bass tournament trails in Georgia. They won the Georgia Outdoor News Team Power Rankings last year, accumulating more points than any other team fishing tournaments on Georgia lakes. Along with that they were the top team in the Southern Bassin’ Couples trail for 2006. They had an exceptional year on the trails they fished.
Mike comes from a fishing family. He and his brothers David and Jimmy are likely to be at the top of any tournament they fish. Their stepfather took them fishing when they were young, and they all developed skills that have put them at the top of bass tournament fishing; competition among the three brothers may be one reason.
Mike and Sabrina have been married almost 15 years and have been fishing together the past eight years. Sabrina is very competitive and loves the challenge of bass tournaments. She says she would rather anyone beat her than Mike, so she works hard to equal or better his catch, even when they are fishing as a team. Mike says there have been many tournaments where Sabrina found the key that allowed them to win or place high.
Last April Mike and Sabrina had a limit of 23 1/2 pounds at Lanier in a Southern Bassin’ Couples tournament. They also placed fifth at the HD Marine tournament on Lanier, bringing in the best catch on the second day of the tournament. They placed second in the Boating Atlanta tournament there. They know how to catch bass at Lanier.
In March it is easy to follow the bass, according to Mike. The spots will move out of the deep structure and cover like standing timber and work their way back toward the spawning areas, holding on cover as they move.
At the beginning of the month they will be near the mouths of the spawning creeks and pockets, and by the end of the month the bass should be near the last cover before the bedding areas.
Boat docks are a prime cover on Lanier, and you will be fishing docks if you are fishing for bass. Brush, stumps, blowdowns and rocks also hold the fish, but most spawning pockets are lined with boat docks, so you have to target them. Mike and Sabrina key on the lower lake, fishing for big spots, although they do catch largemouths, too.
Mike says you need only three baits to fish Lanier in March, and he and Sabrina will switch among them, trying to see what the fish want. Ready to fish they will have a Team Diawa TD Minnow jerkbait, a 1/8-oz. Money Maker jig head threaded with a worm and a Blademaster jig with a Zoom chunk. Those three baits have won many tournaments for them.
Mike likes the action of the TD Minnow and throws it on a spinning rod with PLine fluorocarbon line. He casts to docks and other cover, jerks it down, then works it back with an irregular stop-and-go action. Sabrina likes to work her bait back fast with a steady jerking action.
The Money Maker jig head teamed with a four- or five-inch worm by the same company has saved many tournaments for Mike and Sabrina. They like that jig head because it has a screw wire behind the hook eye to hold the worm. That allows them to fish faster because they do not have to constantly change worms, and it is a weedless rig. The eye is at a 60-degree angle on the head, reducing hang-ups. And the round head skips under docks very effectively.
The worms made by Money Maker are soft and have good action. Mike likes pumpkin seed, green pumpkin and a color they call “in between,” which has a little more orange in it. The jig and worm are fished on spinning rods with PLine fluorocarbon line, too.
Mike uses the Blademaster jig because of its fine legs that have excel- lent action. He likes the green jig teamed with a green pumpkin Zoom chunk. That combo is pitched and cast around cover on a custom-made Pete Durham rod and is the type of power fishing Mike prefers. Sabrina says he can get a jig under a dock out of sight, a key to catching the bass under them.
In mid-February, Mike and Sabrina agreed to share their ways of catching Lanier spotted bass while marking a map with 10 spots they fish in March. The following 10 holes will all produce good fish this month.
No. 1 on the map: N 34° 14.831 – W 83° 59.304 — Mike and Sabrina like to put in at Vann’s Tavern and fish from there. Their first stop in March will often be the back end of Two Mile Creek. Run back to where the creek opens up, and you can see the bridge in the back. The right bank is lined with docks, but the left bank is undeveloped. They will start fishing the docks on the right just where the creek opens up, and they fish to the bridge.
Mike says they fish fast when looking for fish in March. He starts on the outside dock, and they each make about three casts to it. Mike may hit it with the jerk- bait, casting down both sides and into the slip, while Sabrina casts a jig-head worm in the same places.
They are looking for a pattern of which docks to fish and which baits to key on. Work all the docks. If you catch a bass, note where it is on the dock and where the dock is located. If the dock is on a point and you don’t catch another fish until you get to the next dock on a point, that is the pattern you want to key on. If all the fish are hitting on the first two or three docks on the outside of the area but not toward the back, key on them.
Fish back to the rip-rap, then work the rocks. Bass often hold on this rip- rap since the water is warmer from the sun hitting the rocks, and it is also the last cover and structure before the bed- ding area upstream of the bridge.
No. 2: N 34° 14.668 – W 83° 57.924 — Come out of the creek, and run up to the Dry Stacks for Lan Mar Marina. The cove downstream of it has huge boulders lining the right bank, and there are two docks in the back. You will have to idle in a long way to get to the best area here.
Go to the point in the back on the left that runs out to the left of the big point. There is a ditch coming out between the big point and the dock on the left, and the point you want to fish is to the left of the ditch. There is deep water in the ditch, and there are lots of stumps on the point.
Mike says work all around this point, and if you like throwing a Carolina rig, this is a good spot to do that. He will stick with his jerkbait, jig and jig-head worm here as well. Fish the point probing for stumps. You can also fish the boulders on the opposite bank if the water is covering them.
No. 3: N 34° 13.680 – W 83° 56.064 — Run across to the mouth of Mud Creek. There is a day-use ramp on your right with a pocket that runs back behind it. As you idle into this cove, you will see standing timber down deep in the middle. Mike says bass live in this timber all year, moving to the back to spawn in March. He likes to start on the docks in the mouth of this pocket and fish back, hitting them all until the fish show him where they are holding
After fishing this creek, go into the mouth of Mud Creek itself and fish it the same way. There are many deep docks near the mouth, and fish hold on them and move back as the water warms. This is an excellent place for prespawn fish since it is a creek. Mike says creeks are better than coves for some reason, maybe because of the channels in them or the inflow of water.
Just upstream of Mud Creek is another small creek you can fish the same way. You should find fish in these three pockets, and they should be in similar areas. If they are halfway back in one, they should be halfway back in the others. Look for a pattern.
No. 4: N 34° 14.227 – W 83° 55.933 — Across the big cove and upstream, Sunrise Marina sits just inside the main-lake point. Go into the cove past the marina to the point just inside the upstream no-wake buoys on your left. There is a roadbed that runs off this point in front of the last boat dock at the marina. It has rocks and brush on it, and bass hold on the roadbed as they move into the spawning pockets on both sides of it.
Throw a jerkbait across the point. Mike says it is important to throw the jerkbait into the wind and fish it with the wind, just like the baitfish would move. That is one reason he throws it on a spinning rod. Mike and Sabrina will also work the roadbed with a jig ’n pig and a jig-head worm.
No. 5: N 34° 12.572 – W 83° 56.934 — Go into Chattahoochee Bay to where it narrows down, and you will see two danger markers on your left. A roadbed comes out on the back side of the front marker, and there are two humps covered in chunk rock. Bass school up on these humps at the beginning of the month then work back into the pockets behind them on both sides.
Fish your baits across the humps, and probe for the chunk rock. Work them with the wind. Fish all around these humps before leaving. Then start working docks, moving farther back into the spawning coves and creeks. The middle arm is a creek, so it is better, but bass will move in and spawn on all three arms. Remember your pattern if you have started establishing one and see if it holds here, too.
No. 6: N 34° 11.012 – W 83° 57.796 — Go into Flowery Branch past Chestnut Ridge Park to the coves to the right past the park. Start on the point on the right, and work back into the pocket. You will see a powerline crossing this creek toward the back. Mike says there is lots of sand in this creek, so it is an excellent spawning creek.
If you start catching fish on the rocks between docks or on a point, Mike says to note how deep they are. If the fish tend to hit 10 feet off the bank, he will move his boat in close to the bank and make parallel casts to it, keeping his bait in the strike zone longer.
No. 7: N 34° 09.953 – W 83° 59.060 — Go to the back of Big Creek, past the University Yacht Club on your left. Channel marker 8BC is on a huge rock pile right in the mouth of the creek. Fish all around it with all your baits. Schools of bass hold here and then move back into the creek to spawn. A little wind blowing into the rocks — producing a chop but not big waves — helps the fishing on places like this.
After working the rockpile, fish into the creek and hit the docks. If you have established a pattern, you can concentrate on the best areas. If you are practicing for a tournament, hit them all and see if the pattern holds. Remember that the fish may move in or out some overnight, so if you hit the best docks you found yesterday and the bass are not there, try the docks near them in or outside of them to see if the fish moved.
No. 8: N 34° 12.335 – W 83° 05.848 — Mike likes the back of Bald Ridge Creek, where many fishermen don’t seem to want to make the run to. He says he has won tournaments never leaving the back of this creek. Go to the no-wake buoy for Bald Ridge Marina and idle in to the right of the marina. The creek splits, and Mike says they have had their best luck in the creek that splits off to the right. Fish it and the left fork that goes back to the bridge to see where the fish are holding.
No. 9: N 34° 11.626 – W 83° 06.130 — Come out of the back of the creek and go to your right to Little Ridge Creek. Start fishing just past Habersham Marina, fishing the back of this creek just like the others. The bass should be on the same pattern here as they are on other areas of the lake.
No. 10: N 34° 13.544 – W 83° 59.331 — Head back up to the cove with a boat ramp in it just downstream of Vann’s Tavern. It is behind the islands and is well protected from the wind from most directions. There are no docks in it, but there are lots of blowdowns along the bank to fish if the water is up. Mike will hit them with his jig ’n pig.
When you get to the boat ramp, fish it and the rip-rap around it. Mike says the water temperature will often be a degree or two warmer on the rocks, and bass will move to them to feed and hold. Fish both arms of the small creek to your right past the triple boat ramp.
If Mike and Sabrina are fishing a tournament on Lanier this month, you will see them in these spots. Mike is fishing the HD Marine tournament there the middle of this month and expects to fish these patterns and places. Give them a try, then find similar places to fish. You will catch fish and may be rewarded with a wall hanger spotted bass.