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Live Bait and Knowledge Equal Great Fall Catches

Live Bait and Knowledge Equal Great Fall Catches Live Bait and Knowledge Equal Great Fall Catches
By Bill Vanderford

With plenty of predatory fish on the prowl, huge schools of terrified baitfish have begun to move into the feeder creeks at Lake Lanier, and great fishing is beginning. The key to success is to locate a place that has plenty of baitfish in sizable schools, and catch enough of these natural minnows 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 myself. 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 spinning reel with 8 pound/test line attached to a 6 to 8 foot, medium action, soft-tipped rod is the perfect combination. The definition of a medium action rod may vary from one manufacturer to another, but basically what is needed is a rod with a soft tip and enough backbone to fight a big bass properly. The soft tip will result in a higher percentage of hooked fish with live bait, especially if the drag is "backed-off" allowing an easy pull when the bass takes the bait. The advantage of the spinning outfit is its capacity for using 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 shad 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.

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 plastic bead with a barrel swivel tied to the end of the line. About three feet of practically invisible Stren fluorocarbon leader material is attached to the other side of the barrel swivel, and a stout #1 circle hook is tied to the end of that leader.

Hook shad 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 Lowrance graph recorder shows huge concentrations of fish at a particular depth, I pull the line off of my spool in 1 foot increments until it reaches the exact depth of the fish 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 shad 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 defined creek channels.

A cold front without a lot of rain only tends to bunch the bass into a smaller area and usually at a certain depth. Though this may slow down their aggressive nature, when these bass are located, it often makes them easier to catch using this slow method with live shad.

Though these methods don’t include new gimmicks or name brand items for fishermen to rush out and buy, the results are usually bigger 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 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 [email protected], or at his web site:

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