Best Fishing Spots in Tennessee

Fall colors on trees that line a lake in Tennessee.
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Tennessee, with its rich waterways ranging from the Mississippi River in the west to the mountain streams of the east, offers some of the finest fishing spots in the United States. Whether you are seeking the thrill of hooking a largemouth bass or the peace of fishing in a scenic, tranquil lake, Tennessee’s diverse aquatic landscapes cater to every angler’s dream. Notably, Fort Loudon Lake, an expansive reservoir in East Tennessee, is renowned for its record-breaking largemouth bass, exemplifying the state’s reputation for excellent freshwater fishing.

Each region of Tennessee boasts unique fishing experiences. The mighty Tennessee River is home to the vast Kentucky Lake, revered for its plentiful largemouth and smallmouth bass populations. This lake alone, with its 160,300 acres of fishable water and extensive shoreline, can be a fisherman’s paradise throughout the year. Beyond the well-known large water bodies, the Volunteer State also offers a multitude of smaller lakes, rivers, and streams, each with its own set of fishing prospects.



Chickamauga Lake

Renowned for its bass fishing, Chickamauga Lake is a prime destination for anglers like you. It ranked #2 in Bassmaster Magazine’s 2018 List of Best Bass Lakes, indicating its high standing in the bass fishing community.

Chickamauga Lake, nestled in Tennessee, is a 36,200-acre reservoir created by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the completion of the Chickamauga Dam in 1940. You’ll find this expansive body of water on the Tennessee River, featuring a staggering 810 miles of shoreline.

When you prepare for a fishing trip to Chickamauga Lake, consider these details:

  • Location: Tennessee River, TN
  • Size: 36,200 acres
  • Shoreline: 810 miles

This lake offers more than just quantity; the quality of your experience is marked by the lake’s reputation for producing impressive bass hauls. In spring 2018, it was noted for remarkable 40-plus-pound limits.

You should expect to navigate a long, meandering lake, where the waters stretch nearly 59 miles from the Watts Bar Dam to the Chickamauga Dam. Its intricate shoreline is rich with creeks and coves that present diverse fishing opportunities.

Facilities and Contact:

  • Chickamauga’s fisheries management is overseen by the Region 3 Office which can be reached at 931-484-9571 or toll-free at 1-833-402-4698.

In your visit, you’ll explore a lake that, while known for its Civil War history, has become a haven for modern anglers seeking a notable trophy bass. Whether you’re competing or seeking leisure, your skills will be rewarded in these tried-and-true waters.

Pickwick Lake

Pickwick Lake is a prime fishing destination in Tennessee, particularly noted for its diverse fish population. Located in Hardin County, the lake provides both bank and boat fishing opportunities. You’ll find embayments such as Yellow Creek, Winn Springs, Dry Creek, and the section within Pickwick Landing State Park quite fruitful.

Fish Species

You can expect to catch a variety of fish:

  • Bass:
  • Sunfish:
    • Bluegill
    • Redear sunfish
  • Catfish:

Fishing Techniques

Grass Fishing: For bass, fishing above the Natchez Trace Bridge in grassy areas can be successful.

  • A common setup involves a ChatterBait or a swim jig paired with a soft plastic trailer such as Lake Fork Live Magic Shad or Keitech Swing Impact FAT.

Other fish like crappie and sauger are also abundant, and the lake’s varied structure offers excellent opportunities. Deep feeder creeks, gravel bars, and bluff banks all contribute to an ideal fishing environment with clear water that helps in luring these species.

Local Expertise

Consider a guided service like Pickwick Premier Bass Guide to maximize your fishing trip. Expertise from seasoned fishermen, such as United States Coast Guard Certified Master Captain Jimmy Washam, can offer invaluable tips, particularly on targeting Pickwick Lake’s renowned largemouth and smallmouth bass populations.

Dale Hollow Lake

When you’re in Tennessee and looking for an exceptional fishing experience, Dale Hollow Lake should be high on your list. This lake is reputed for its smallmouth bass fishing, holding the record for the world’s largest smallmouth bass caught in 1955.

Trophy Fish Spots:

  • Main Lake Points: Target depths of 35 feet for trophy smallmouth.
  • Deep Bluff Banks: Also promising areas for large catches.

For a rewarding fishing day catching nice smallmouths, explore the lake’s coves. Here, you can usually find quality smallmouth in the 10 to 20 feet water range.

Other species you may encounter include:

Percy Priest Lake

Located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, Percy Priest Lake is a prime destination for anglers seeking a variety of fish species. This man-made reservoir covers 14,200 acres and offers over 42 miles of scenic waterscape, providing a perfect setting for both casual and serious fishing endeavors.

As you explore Percy Priest Lake, you will find that the lake is both fertile and generally shallow, harboring an ecosystem rich in fish, including the coveted striped bass. The diversity of the fish population makes it suitable for different fishing techniques and experiences.

When planning your trip, take advantage of the weekday Fishing Information Line at (615) 883-2351, which provides updates on fishing conditions and lake levels. Here is a snapshot of what you can expect:

Fish SpeciesNotable Characteristics
Striped BassKnown for their strength and size, they are a popular target at Percy Priest Lake.
Various other speciesThe lake supports a diversity, perfect for anglers looking to catch different types of fish.

To optimize your fishing experience at Percy Priest Lake, focus on areas with abundant underwater structures, as they often serve as habitats for fish. With its ease of access and proximity to a major urban center, the lake serves as a convenient yet effective fishing getaway.

Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake, positioned on the western edge of Tennessee, is a prime location for anglers seeking a variety of freshwater fish. You will find Kentucky Lake along the boundary of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, offering expansive opportunities for fishing in its vast waters.

What You Can Catch

Your chances of landing a sizable catch are high due to the lake’s abundant fish populations. Here’s a brief list of the species you might reel in:

  • Largemouth Bass: Notable for anglers, with catches in the 8-pound range.
  • Crappie: Kentucky Lake is known for its crappie fishing.
  • Catfish: Ample catfish make their home in these waters.
  • Bluegill and Redear: Perfect for casual and family fishing trips.
  • Yellow and White Bass: Offering variety and challenge.

Fishing Hotspots

To maximize your fishing success, access the lake at strategic points, often found around the numerous resorts and lodges dotting the shoreline. These spots provide convenience and accessibility in close proximity to abundant fishing areas.

Seasonal Considerations

With a warmer climate in this region, Kentucky Lake has a longer fishing season compared to other areas. This allows for extended opportunities to fish across the changing seasons, with each one bringing its unique conditions and fish behaviors.

Tips for Your Trip

  • Seek local advice or hire a guide to find the best fishing spots.
  • Make sure to check the local fishing regulations.
  • Early morning or late evening hours might yield the best results.
  • Bring versatile gear to switch techniques if necessary.

Center Hill Lake

Center Hill Lake offers a remarkable fishing experience nestled in Middle Tennessee near Smithville. You’ll find this 18,220-acre reservoir boasting a sprawling 415 miles of shoreline, where anglers can revel in the pursuit of various gamefish.

Size & Depth:

  • Area: 18,220 acres
  • Shoreline: 415 miles
  • Maximum Depth: 190 feet
  • Elevation: 648 feet

When fishing at Center Hill Lake, you’ll encounter:

  • Black bass with a variety of related species abundantly present
  • Crappie stalking the submerged structures and shallower waters
  • Walleye notably targeted for their challenging catch and excellent table fare
  • Bluegill providing consistent action near docks and weed beds
  • Catfish lurking in deeper channels that offer a thrilling catch

For your convenience, Center Hill Lake is encircled by nine marinas, each providing essential amenities ranging from boats to fishing supplies.

Fishing Tips:

  • Seek out rocky shorelines for bass and crappie.
  • During summer, nighttime fishing can yield excellent bass on soft plastic lures or spinnerbaits in shallows.
  • For walleye, trolling with nightcrawlers on flats can be effective.

Keep in mind that fishing at Center Hill Lake requires adherence to local regulations set forth by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, ensuring sustainable angling practices are observed. Whether you prefer casting from the shore or venturing out on the water with canoes and kayaks, Center Hill Lake’s diverse habitat caters to both amateur and seasoned anglers alike.

Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake, nestled in the scenic foothills of East Tennessee, is a premier fishing destination renowned for its abundant fish variety and scenic beauty. This Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reservoir spans approximately 30,600 acres with an intricate 555 miles of shoreline that provides ample fishing opportunities.

Top Species & Best Seasons:

  • Largemouth Bass: Most popular among anglers, best caught during spring and fall.
  • Crappie and Bluegill: Provide quality fishing, especially in the spring.
  • Catfish: A target for both sport and commercial fishing, with strong populations throughout the lake.

Boating Access & Amenities:

  • Marinas: With 12 marinas dotting the shore, you’ll have convenient access to boat rentals and services.
  • Boat Ramps: Approximately 16 public boat ramps are available for easy launching.

Fishing Conditions:

  • Be aware of water level fluctuations, especially the winter draw-down which can be substantial.
  • Average depths sit around 22 feet, with certain areas reaching up to 140 feet.

The lake is not only a haven for anglers but also supports regional water management and power supply. When fishing in Douglas Lake, you’ll enjoy the undulating hills with a backdrop of agriculture and residential areas, presenting both a peaceful ambiance and a promising fishing pursuit.

Old Hickory Lake

Your exploration of Tennessee’s fishing locales wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Old Hickory Lake. Spanning over 22,500 acres, this reservoir is an angler’s haven, carved by the Cumberland River’s flow. The US Army Corps of Engineers proudly manages this fishing destination, ensuring a blend of great catches and serene nature.

When you cast your line here, expect a diverse set of fish. You can target species such as:

  • Largemouth Bass: Highest numbers in spring and fall.
  • Striped Bass: Known to reach the 40-pound class.
  • Crappie: Ideal during cooler months.
  • Catfish: Abundant throughout the lake.

Fishing Structures: The lake’s Tennessee Towers, large timber-like structures 10 feet in both height and width, provide an artificial habitat for fish and an excellent fishing opportunity for you.

Seasonal Movements: Be ready to switch spots as the seasons change. Fish tend to gather in shallows during spring and fall, while summer and winter drive them deeper.

Access Points and Boat Launches: Easily accessible, the lake offers numerous points for boat launching, ensuring that you can reach your preferred fishing spot with convenience.

By being aware of these guidelines and the habits of your targeted fish, you craft a tailored approach to your day on Old Hickory Lake, potentially landing the fish of your dreams amidst the Tennessee waters.

Watts Bar Lake

Watts Bar Lake offers you a premier fishing destination situated in eastern Tennessee. As an extensive 39,000-acre reservoir formed by the Tennessee River, you’ll find this lake positioned between the areas of Meigs County, Rhea County, Roane County, and Loudon County. When you’re targeting striped bass, know that this lake has become something of a hot spot, thanks to two major river arms each with significant tailwaters.

Your pursuit of a successful fishing trip may lead you to explore various sections of the lake. The area includes a mix of deep river channels and shallower bank structures, providing diverse habitats for different fish species.

Key Fishing Spots:

  • Tailwaters: Ideal for striped bass, especially at the upper ends of the reservoir’s two major river arms.
  • Confluence Areas: Nutrient-rich waters where the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers meet, attracting baitfish and predators.

Fish Species:

  • Striped Bass
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie

When planning your fishing expedition to Watts Bar Lake, remember that the lake begins at Fort Loudon Dam and stretches 72 miles to Watts Bar Dam. Use local fishing reports and maps to pinpoint top fishing spots, and be sure to check for any seasonal patterns or water level changes that may affect fish behavior.

For real-time advice or assistance, you’re encouraged to reach out to the Region 3 Office or utilize toll-free lines for state-run services, which may provide additional guidance on fishing regulations and licenses needed.

Reelfoot Lake

Reelfoot Lake is a prime destination for anglers in Tennessee, especially known for its bluegill fishing. You’ll find that the lily pads in the area provide an excellent habitat for this species, making it a hotspot for catching them.

When choosing a fishing package, Cypress Point Resort stands out for its offers, including stays with different duration options suited to your needs. Their packages vary with peak seasons and offer structured time frames for both short and long visits.

Current water conditions are generally favorable, with temperatures ranging from 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit and a clarity allowing for 2-3 feet visibility. These conditions contribute to a productive fishing experience.

Fishing Opportunities:

  • Bluegill: High abundance around lily pads, with catch rates averaging around 2 fish per hour.
  • Crappie: Also present in good numbers.
  • Yellow Bass & Channel Catfish: Other sport fishes to consider.

Here’s what you need to know about the regulations:

  • Minimum Size: 15 inches
  • Creel Limit: 5 fish per day

For assistance and more information on fishing conditions and regulations, the following contacts are invaluable:

  • TWRA Region I Office: 731-423-5725
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: 731-538-2481
  • Reelfoot Lake State Park: 731-253-9652

Access and Amenities for Anglers

A serene lake surrounded by lush greenery, with a wooden fishing pier extending into the clear water.

As you plan your fishing trip in Tennessee, you’ll find a wealth of facilities designed to enhance your angling experience. From easy water access via well-maintained boat ramps to the convenience of local bait and tackle shops, these amenities ensure you have everything you need for a successful day on the water.

Boat Ramps and Access Sites

Tennessee is endowed with a vast shoreline, providing ample opportunities for you to launch your boat and begin fishing without delay. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) offers numerous public boat ramps across the state, many with additional features like docks and ample parking. For example:

  • Knoxville area: Access the Tennessee River and its productive fishing spots via multiple ramps.
  • Parks and Recreation Sites: Often include boat ramps with the added benefit of picnic areas and restrooms.

To find a boat ramp near your desired fishing location, check with local marinas or the TWRA website for a comprehensive list and the amenities available at each site.

Local Bait and Tackle Shops

Ensuring you have the right bait and gear can make all the difference. Tennessee’s local bait and tackle shops are staffed by knowledgeable anglers familiar with the latest fishing reports and what’s biting. In these shops, you can find:

  • Live bait such as minnows, worms, and crickets
  • A wide selection of lures, and terminal tackle
  • Local fishing licenses and information about regulations

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