Fly Fishing Lake Lanier for Striped and Spotted Bass

Red shorelines of Lake Lanier.  This cove held a few nice sunfish but no bass.

At the beginning of April, I was able to spend a few days on Lake Lanier fly fishing for striped bass and spotted bass.  The lake is famous for its fresh water striped bass fishery, popularized by guide Henry Cowen.  While Cowen is usually booked for most of the spring each year, he was kind enough to pass me along to a friend, Steve Dean, who took me and a buddy out on the lake for 5 hours.

Steve’s Scout flats boat was perfect for the lake.  The trolling motor was constantly used to slow troll along structure, or motor silently in areas where fish were blitzing.

The weather in Georgia had been cold (water temperatures were in the low to mid-50’s), but we managed to find a few pods of striped bass blitzing threadfin shad on the surface of the water, catching one 6 lb fish, losing another, and mixing in one micro-sized spotted bass from a shallow bay.  Not exactly what we’d been hoping for.

Fuzzy picture of a typical Lanier striper fly, with blitzing fish in the background.

The fishery is unique for a few reasons.  First, everyone uses intermediate lines.  Most of the stripers and spotted bass in the spring are shallow, and like the fly to suspend, not sink like a rock.  Second, the fish are focused entirely on threadfin shad in the 2″-3″ size.  Big flies do not equal big fish.  Third, the pods of blitzing fish are small, and move fast, making it more like fishing for a small pod of pelagics than the typical striper blitzes I’m used to.  You have to make accurate casts of 50-60 feet to visible splashes to connect.

The day’s only spotted bass.

After having a slow day with Steve (who did his damn best to make things happen), I struck out on my own, renting a kayak and working my way around the north side of the Lake Lanier islands.  As the day before, I only found fish in sun-baked shallows, and caught a few nice bream and a spotted bass on poppers and woolly buggers.

A 2 lb spottie I took by kayak.

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