Though the heat of summer sends most fish looking for the depth and comfort of open water structures, plenty of predatory fish like striped bass and spotted bass are still on the prowl, and excellent fishing is still available at Lake Lanier. In fact, most of my guide trips produce 20 to 40 fish during an eight hour outing.
The key to such success is to locate a place that has plenty of spottail minnows, and catch enough of these natural baitfish for a day of fishing. This requires accurate throwing of a cast net, which is just part of the day’s work for fishing guides like me. One also needs proper tanks and aeration to keep these fish alive until they can be used as bait.
The equipment used to catch greedy largemouth, spotted bass, white bass, or stripers is fairly simple. A medium Shimano spinning reel with 8 pound/test line attached to a 6 to 8 foot, light to medium action, soft-tipped G. Loomis rod is the perfect combination. The soft tip will result in a higher percentage of hooked fish with live bait, especially using smaller circle hooks. The advantage of the spinning outfit is its capacity for handling smaller diameter line, which allows the use of lighter sinkers to hold the bait at the proper depth.
Rod holders are a necessary item when fishing live bait for any of the bass species. Easily detachable rod holders with tiny flat bases can be mounted permanently to locker lids or into the fiberglass. Each holder is incorporated into a threaded shaft that screws in or out of the base plate and is held tight with a wing-nut. One can also use a Fold-N-Troll to eliminate drilling holes.
The actual rig used when fishing a live minnow on a down-line is about the same as a standard Carolina rig. A 3/16th ounce egg or bullet sinker is the first item to be placed on the line; this is followed by a barrel swivel tied to the end of the line. About two feet of leader material is usually attached to the other side of the barrel swivel, and a #1 circle hook is tied to the end of that leader.
Hook spottails by pushing the point of the hook between one of the small creases on the underside of the jaw and up through their nostril. This seems to hold them on the hook very well, and they tend to stay alive for a longer period of time.
When my graph recorder shows concentrations of fish or an underwater structure at a particular depth, I pull the line off of my spool in one foot increments until it reaches the exact depth seen on my sonar screen. If feeding fish are seen periodically driving shad to the surface, I usually bring one of the down-lines up, cut the rig off, tie a hook directly to the end of the unweighted line, and free-line the minnow approximately 50 feet behind the boat.
While these rigs are down at their respective depths, the electric trolling motor is used to ease the boat along a path where fish have been seen visually or on sonar. Most of these areas are adjacent to underwater ridges or brush piles.
Though this method doesn’t include new gimmicks for fishermen to rush out and buy, the results are plenty of scrappy fish. Successful fishing is never quite as complicated or exact as some would lead you to believe, so keep it simple and make the most out of each summer fishing trip!
Bill Vanderford has won numerous awards for his writing and photography, and has been inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide. He can be reached at 770-289-1543, at JFish51@aol.com, or at his web site: www.fishinglanier.com