John's Journal...

How to Fish the Toughest Lake in America with Adam McClellan

How to Fish the Jig

Click to enlargeEditor's Note: Adam McClellan of Cumming, Georgia, fishes the toughest lake in America just outside Atlanta - Lake Lanier. "The water clarity on Lake Lanier during the summer months sometimes exceeds 7 feet," McClellan says. Lanier is a major recreational lake with plenty of water skiers, jet skiers, boaters and other outdoor water recreation activities that can and does interfere with fishing. This week, we'll see how McClellan not only fishes this lake, but also successfully catches fish. Adam and his father, Stokes McClellan, fish the Southern Crappie Association tournaments, as well as the Crappie USA tournaments.

Question: Once you get the jig under the dock, how do you fish it to catch crappie in that clear water? McClellan: Since I'm shooting so far underneath the dock, and I'm fishing the jig on the fall, I don't have a good feel for what the bait is doing on the line. If I were fishing in a brush pile, I could feel all the brush and the strike. However, I'm Click to enlargefishing horizontally. I don't want to pull my line tight because I want the jig to fall naturally. I want the jig to fall as vertically as possible. When your jig is that far away from the boat falling on a slack line, the only way to tell when you're getting a bite is to watch the line. During the hot summer months, the bite's going to be extremely light. The only way to tell if you have a strike is when the line stops sinking before it gets to the bottom. For instance, if I'm fishing in 20 feet of water, the jig should sink for more than 5 or 6 seconds. Therefore, if the line stops early, I know I have a bite, and I set the hook. In addition, if the line moves to the left or right, I know I also have a bite, and I'll set the hook.

Question: Don't you feel that the Hi-Vis line spooks crappie?
McClellan: Remember that I'm fishing 4-pound-test line. I believe that line is so small that even though it's visible to me, I don't know that it's visible to the crappie. I don't feel that it spooks the fish. Click to enlarge

Question: How deep are you catching crappie at this time of year?
McClellan: The docks I'm fishing will have 20 to 25 feet or more of depth at the front of the pier. When I shoot the jig, I'll let it fall all the way to the bottom before I start my slow jig retrieve, close to the bottom. Most of the time, I catch crappie at 15- to 20-feet deep, as the fish comes from the shallow backside of the dock to the front of the dock.

Question: When the jig reaches the bottom, how are you working it back to the boat? McClellan: Most of the time, I catch crappie as the jig falls. If I don't get a bite as the jig falls, I retrieve the jig not by reeling, but rather by lifting my rod tip and letting the jig swing as if it's on a pendulum. Besides trying to catch crappie, I'm also trying to feel with my jig and line for any brush that may be under the dock. Most lakeside owners will plant brush or Christmas trees under their docks. Often, this brush holds crappie.Click to enlarge

Question: How many crappie will you usually catch during the summer months using this tactic? McClellan: My best day on Lake Lanier was earlier this spring. I pulled up to a pier that had two boat slips. I fished back and forth between those two slips and caught 32 crappie under that same dock in about one hour.

Question: What size crappie were you catching?
McClellan: Lake Lanier is an unusual lake compared to others. On most lakes, when you shoot docks, the larger crappie usually bite first, and the more you continue to fish that dock, the smaller the crappie will be that you catch. However, if you fish Lake Lanier, the opposite is true. Most of the time, the first crappie I catch while shooting docks are hand-sized, but if I continue to fish that same dock, I usually catch several that weigh more than 1 pound. The biggest crappie I've caught on Lake Lanier hasn't weighed more than 1-1/2-pounds.

Tomorrow: How to Pick a Dock to Shoot, and What Time to Shoot Docks

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Fish the Toughest Lake in America with Adam McClellan "

Day 1: How to Shoot a Dock
Day 2: How to Fish the Jig
Day 3: How to Pick a Dock to Shoot and What Time to Shoot Docks
Day 4: Where Does Shooting Docks Pay Off Besides Lake Lanier?
Day 5: Stripers on Deep Clear Lakes


Entry 364, Day 2