by Jimbo Mathley
While the outside elements are not always favorable, December and throughout the winter can offer some outstanding angling on Lake Lanier. Big sacks of spotted bass can be taken during these cold-weather months if you approach the lake with an open mind and are willing to try some different techniques and locations. Let’s explore one productive approach to Lanier in December – the ditches.
Ditches: A ditch can be defined as a significant depression, typically narrow in width (2-15 feet), which offers a sharp depth change of 2 feet or more from the surrounding structure. Ditches can be naturally occurring or can be man-made. An example of a naturally occurring ditch would be a creek channel that feeds a pocket, cove or creek arm. A man-made ditch could result from a trench that was dug during the construction of a housing edition near the lake. These features exist in many places on Lake Lanier, and they hold fish during the winter months. Ditches can be shallow or deep, and sometimes both depending on the length and location of the ditch. The lake will be down about 2 feet from full pool going into December, so I anticipate a normal year in terms of this bite.
Your Search: Use your Lowrance HDS electronics with 3D Structure Scan to find creek arms or pockets just off of the main creek channels that offer a deep vein extending back into the arm or cove/pocket. The farther the deep water extends into the creek arm, the better. When you enter these areas and are searching for productive water, search for the presence of baitfish in and around the timber which you will find in the deeper water portions of the ditch. If you do not find bait, you will not find fish. Leave and check other similar areas. Start your search in 40 feet of water in the mouth of the ditch and work your way back. Start fishing when you find the bait.
Technique: Once you find a creek arm that meets the above criteria, you must now determine how you are going to fish these potentially productive waters. Your approach should be determined by the location of the bait and time of day. Early in the mornings, active fish will often be positioned shallower in the ditch, towards the back and sometimes right in the middle. Your presentation speed should vary directly with the water temperature. The colder the water, the slower your presentation should be. Experiment with different lures and retrieve speed to determine the optimum strike provoking presentation on any given day. Following are some baits and techniques to try as you explore the ditches on Lake Lanier:
SuperSpin – My favorite for this time of year. Cast this bait down the center of the ditches in which you have found bait and fish. Work the bait slowly on the bottom and be alert for very light bites. Make sure to let the fish load up on the bait before you set the hook. That is the toughest part of this approach. It is easy to feel the first bite and immediately set the hook. Resist the temptation and keep reeling slowly until the fish “loads up”. Use a boot-tail type trailer as the water gets colder. The vibration of this type of trailer helps the fish zero in on the bait.
Crankbait – When the fish are shallower in the ditches, particularly in the mornings, a crankbait can be an effective search bait. Fan cast the back of pockets and ditches with a crankbait and, as with the Super Spin, work the bait slowly and deliberately. The more the bait bumps and deflects off the bottom and acts erratically, the better. Deep diving crankbaits such as the Spro Little John DD work great for this application, but don’t hesitate to experiment with other options in this arena as well, such as shallow and medium diving baits. The Spro MD or Little John Baby DD are excellent options.
Jig/Worm – When the fish are not as active, a jig or worm fished in the ditches can be effective. Work the baits SLOWLY on the bottom. Make sure to pause the bait frequently and impart some pops and hops in the presentation. This can be key to triggering strikes. Play with color selection on both the jig and worm. I like the Chattahoochee Jigs and Cross Ball options for all of my bottom bumping presentations. Use a Yamamoto Twin Tail trailer on the Chattahoochee Jig and a Zoom Trick worm as a trailer on a Cross Ball.
As the day progresses, particularly on sunny days, the bait and fish will move into the deeper portions of the ditch and will relate to the available cover, such as brush or standing timber. Presenting a Chattahoochee jig, drop-shot worm by Lanier Baits or jigging spoon to these fish can be effective as well. Make sure to experiment with different places and approaches as the lake fishes differently each day. Stay flexible and enjoy more success.
Good luck and I’ll see y’all on the water! For more information or to book your winter trip, contact Jimbo on Lanier! 770-542-7764. Jimbo’s Website: www.jimboonlanier.com.