How’s this for a win-win? Lanier is world famous for its spotted bass fishery, and we got Georgia’s top pro angler to mark a map with 10 February locations to catch big spots.
Lanier has always been a good spot lake; then blueback herring were introduced into the reservoir. Conditions were perfect for the spots to take advantage of this new food source. Five-pound spots are weighed at most tournaments year-round, and five-fish limits of spots weighing more than 20 pounds are common. February is one of the best months to get on the lake and catch big spotted bass while avoiding the terrible boat traffic that comes during warmer months.
Patrick Bone lives in Cleveland and grew up in the area. His dad and granddad love to fish and took him to local ponds when he was very young. Patrick got hooked on bass fishing. After a few years in the Yona Bass Club, with his first ever tournament on Lanier, he started fishing bigger tournaments. Two years ago he won a Southern Open and qualified for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, the only Georgian. On the FLW side, Patrick fished the BFLs and made the All American in his first year. He now fishes the Southern Opens and FLW Tour as well as other local tournaments like the HD Marine Trail.
“I fish Lanier often and love it,” Patrick said.
He does well in tournaments on the lake, but he fishes there a little differently than most anglers. Patrick does not build brushpiles, saying there are already plenty of brushpiles, and he does not concentrate on them anyway.
“Bass will fool you,” Patrick said. “They move up earlier than most folks realize.”
In February some bass—especially big ones—are already moving toward the spawning areas and can be caught on predictable patterns. A warming trend over a few days will speed up this movement.
“In February, the fish will still be close to deep water but near the spawning areas,” Patrick said.
He catches bass this month on two basic patterns—rocks on points or humps near the spawning areas, and ditches near where they bed.
Patrick keeps his tackle selection simple. His go-to bait is a brown-craw colored 1/2- to 3/4-oz. Booyah Pigskin football jig. He uses a Yum green-pumpkin/purple Craw Chunk on the jig and will sometimes dip the tails in orange dye. It is rigged on a Dobyns rod, Lews reel and 15-lb. test Segar Invisx line. A mid-range Bomber BD7 crankbait in a craw pattern also works well. He fishes it on a low-ratio Lews reel spooled with 12-lb. InvisX line. A third option is a Rogue Elite 8 jerkbait in a shad pattern, translucent in very clear water or more color if the water is a little stained, fished on 12-lb. line. For the ditches, a 1/2-oz. Fish Head Spin with a Yum Money Minnow is his favorite bait. It is fished on 12-lb. InvisX line. He matches his Dobyns Rod and Lews reel to the bait he is fishing.
“It will scare you how many 3- and 4-lb. spots are in Lanier,” Patrick said.
You can catch a big largemouth, too. A 10-pounder was boated at Lanier last month.
Patrick took me to Lanier in early January, just before he left to fish the Southern Open in Florida. While marking our map, he caught some good spots, including a 5-pounder.
No. 1: N 34º 18.361 – W 83º 55.818 — Put in at Duckett Mill, and there’s a great hole right there. The ditch the ramp is on is a good one in February, and it is typical of the kinds of ditches Patrick fishes. He will start idling out in 50 feet of water and go down the ditch on one side, watching his Lowrance depthfinder. Then he will turn and idle up the other side. Stay in about 20 feet of water, and if you have a side scan, you can watch for fish holding on the sides or in the middle. Without a side scan you may need to make more than one pass to find the bass.
Mark where you see the bass. The “magic depth” seems to be about 20 feet, so examine that part of the ditch carefully. Bass will usually be suspended, so you want to work your Fish Head Spin at the depth they are holding. Stop a good cast from them, cast past where they are holding, and count your bait down to their level.
Slowly reel your Fish Head Spin back through the fish. When you feel weight, when your rod loads up, keep reeling until the fish is hooked. You can often sit in one place and catch multiple fish when they are holding over a ditch.
No. 2: N 34º 16.940 – W 83º 55.419 — Go out to the river to the island with red channel marker 34 on it. If you cut through the gap upstream of the big island across from the Duckett Mill ramp, this island is on the other side of the lake and a little downstream. Downstream of marker 34 is a rip-rap point on the main bank.
Stop on the river side of the rip-rap point, and fish around it. This is typical of the type of point Patrick likes to fish in February. He caught the 5-lb. spot here the day we fished. The river channel is nearby with very deep water just off the point, and this is one of the first places spots move up to feed.
Keep your boat out in about 30 feet of water, and start with a jerkbait, casting it right to the rocks. Fish all the way around the point. Make sure you don’t get in too close on the end of the point. Then work a crankbait across the point. Follow up with your jig.
No. 3: N 34º 17.192 – W 83º 55.108 — Go upstream around the island. On the upstream side toward the bank, you will see a shoal marker sitting off the bank. It has good rock cover and some brushpiles, but Patrick concentrates on rocks.
Fish all the way around the hump with all three of your baits. Patrick says weather and time of day will position bass differently on these holes, so fish all the way around the hump. Keep your boat in 30 feet of water so you don’t spook more shallow fish. Depending on wind and sunlight, the bass may be up on top feeding or on one side or the other. This hump is right off the channel, so bass move up on it and feed before moving on back into the spawning areas.
No. 4: N 34º 17.094 – W 83º 54.528 — Go to the mouth of the creek downstream of River Forks Park, and go in behind the island at the mouth of this creek. Straight behind the island is a shoal marker off the main bank. This hump is closer to the spawning pockets, and it holds a lot of bass in February.
The hump is flat on top but drops off fast into deeper water. Stay well off the hump, and fish around it first with a jerkbait and crankbait, and then fish a jig around it. Patrick casts his jig into about 10 feet of water and keeps it on the bottom back to at least 25 feet deep. He drags his jig along, feeling for the rocks, and pauses when he hits one. Keep your jig in contact with the bottom.
No. 5: N 34º 17.104 – W 83º 54.431 — Across the cove to the upstream side of the hump, the River Forks Park fishing pier is on the left bank of a good ditch. Check it like the ditch at Duckett Mill, idling in from 50 feet deep toward the back on one side then out the other side. The bass usually hold about 20 feet deep no matter how deep the bottom.
Watch for fish and baitfish. If the baitfish are near the bottom, you may not see the bass under them if they are tight on the bottom. Baitfish usually means bass, so cast your Fish Head Spin past the school of bait and let it fall to the bottom. Then reel it just above the bottom back under the shad.
Patrick keeps his Fish Head moving very slowly, trying to imitate a shad that is stunned and barely swimming, making it an easy meal. He does not pause it or drop it; he just keeps it moving slowly.
No. 6: N 34º 17.801 – W 83º 54.521 — Across the lake at green channel marker 37, a deep rock point is between two good spawning pockets. It is on the main lake, so it holds bass year-round. Patrick got a 4 1/2-lb. spot here on his jig in a BFL tournament.
Keep your boat on the river side, and start fishing the downstream side of this point. Fish up it to the upstream side. It drops off very fast, so you need to work your jig very slowly to keep it on the bottom.
Cast near the bank, and let your jig hit bottom. Raise your rod tip a few inches to move the jig, and keep it in contact with the rocks. Fish it out to 30 feet deep, a tiny move at a time. You will hit rocks on every cast from one end of this point to the other. This is mainly a jig hole, but you can catch bass on a jerkbait or crankbait, too.
No. 7: N 34º 17.667 – W 83º 54.312 — Back across the lake and a little upstream, red channel marker 38 is on a small island off the upstream side of River Forks Park. This island is on the outside bend of the river, and deep water is right off it.
This island is flatter, and there is a little ledge that runs off it before the bottom drops off into the river. Bass hold on the flatter area between where the bank and the ledge drop into the river. Right on the drop is a key spot.
Fish all your baits here on the river side of the island. The downstream point of it drops off faster, and it is flatter on the upstream point. Patrick says some wind blowing in on these holes makes them better, especially for the jerkbait and crankbait, but wind helps with the jig, too. The wind was blowing in strong on hole 2 when he got the 5-pounder.
No. 8: N 34º 18.057 – W 83º 53.908 — Across the lake and upstream, a small island sits off the Robinson Access ramp. It has a shoal marker on the upstream side. Ditches come out on both sides of it, and the river runs near it, giving bass good access to deep water and also paths leading to spawning areas.
Fish the river side of this island from one end to the other. Patrick usually throws his jig first to cover the drop into deep water, and then he moves in closer to cast his jerkbait and crankbait to more shallow water.
When fishing the jerkbait, Patrick says he fishes it fairly fast since he does not have the patience to let it sit for a long time. The best cadence changes, so he tries different jerk-jerk-pause retrieves, but the two jerks and a pause is the most common cadence.
No. 9: N 34º 18.075 – W 83º 52.980 — Upstream and on the right, two long coves or creeks enter on that side where the river makes a sharp turn to the left. There is an island sitting in the mouth of the two creeks that has a short gap between the upstream point of the upstream creek. Start fishing on the downstream point of the small island. The channel swings in tight on this island, so it is almost a bluff bank, but it has a little flatter slope near the bank. Bass will suspend off this bank and move in to feed. Patrick likes to fish his jerkbait and jig along this bank as well as a crankbait. Fish from the downstream point along the outside of the island to the upstream point where the gap is between the island and bank.
Patrick fishes his crankbait on a low-ratio reel and uses a steady retrieve. He wants it moving fairly slowly but does not pause it or twitch it. If the bass are suspended 8 to 10 feet deep, the crankbait will run through them.
No. 10: N 34º 18.149 – W 83º 52.871 – Go across the gap to the main bank point with red channel marker 44 on it. Start downstream of the channel marker where the point runs toward the island. There is a big brushpile on this point. Fish from the point all the way up the bluff bank.
The point slopes off toward the island, but there is a sharp drop on the river side. Fish the point with all your baits, working your jig down the slope until it drops off the ledge. Along the bluff bank upstream of the point, fish all your baits. Work your jig very slowly to keep it on the bottom on this steep drop.
All of these locations are good right now, and they will stay productive all month. Lanier’s spotted bass are moving toward spawning areas, and they will be fat, hungry and ready to bite. Keep your bait choices simple like Patrick does, or fish a variety of your favorite baits for some of Lanier’s big February spots.