Rebirth and Farewell at Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier, GA

Lake Lanier, GA

Spring has finally come to Lake Lanier, and the shorelines are ablaze with colors from the dogwoods, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and wild azaleas. Sediments deposited from rains mix with the constantly falling pollen to give the lake water a greener color. Surface temperatures are rising above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time, and the spotted bass population has turned its interest to food and making love!

The only sad part of the spring season is that the beautiful loons that have been here throughout the winter months will soon disappear until next fall. With the possible exception of bird watchers, it wasn’t until the movie, "On Golden Pond", that most people ever noticed loons, and up until a few years ago, none were seen in our area. For some unknown reason, however, these mysterious visitors from the North start showing up around mid November and remain until late April. For those unfamiliar with this magnificent waterfowl, some facts are in order. The common loon can fly nearly sixty miles per hour, swim faster than most fish, can remain under water easily for five to ten minutes, and their haunting song penetrates the morning fog on Lake Lanier like the beam of a powerful searchlight!

As always, it will be a sad morning when I go out on Lake Lanier one day soon and don’t hear that high-pitched, lonely song that has warmed my heart throughout this past winter and early spring. Nevertheless, I know that summer’s madness of boats and mass humanity will pass, and that when the lake again welcomes the cool breezes of late fall, the loons and sanity will again return to Lake Lanier.

Spotted bass, however, have already begun their spawning cycle, and are becoming more aggressive every day. One "sure-fire" method to catch big numbers of these one to five pound bass during this period requires the use of a tiny lure that closely resembles smaller shad minnows.

This is accomplished by employing a small, inline spinner known as the "Swirleybird". The perfect Swirleybird size for spotted bass is 1/8th ounce, but quite a few anglers have downsized to the new Fly rod-sized Swirleybird for increased strikes and to be more sporting. These diminutive lures can only cast with a fly rod or ultralight spinning reel.

Though one may catch bass just by casting and reeling with the Swirleybird, learning the proper method will guarantee success throughout the next two months. However, one must learn to go against conventional bass wisdom, especially in respect to the hook set. In fact, if the reaction to a strike is treated with a hard, upward jerk to set the hook, most spotted bass will be missed.

Success will come when one learns to tease the spotted bass by winding the reel handle one quick revolution, followed by a continued slow retrieve. This action pulls the bait away just enough to incite the fish into taking in more of the tiny lure on its next pass. This sequence could reoccur five or six times before the angry "spot" finally tires of the game and inhales the tiny lure.

Regardless of one’s age, gender, or experience, these lures make it easy for anyone to catch plenty of spotted bass during the spawn at Lake Lanier. In fact, women and children with little or no fishing background are often far more successful than seasoned bass anglers. These neophytes generally listen to the instructions better, are not set in their ways, and don’t react violently to every strike. Also, they often use spincast reels that possess a much slower retrieve, which keeps the lures in the strike zone longer.

Also, the next couple of months is the best opportunity for those who don’t have boats to be successful fishing from the shoreline. The experience can be greatly enhanced by purchasing a copy of the new book, The New Guide to Bank Fishing on Lake Lanier, which is available at

Though the loons are leaving, Lake Lanier would have to be considered one of the hottest prospects in the South for spotted bass during the spawning period. So, use these keys and a few Swirleybirds to open the door to some of the most exciting spring bassin’ anywhere!


Swirleybirds and excellent fishing guide service is available by visiting  or by calling 678-367-0012.

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, or at his web site:

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