Fishing Lakes in Tennessee

Autumn scene at a Tennessee lake. The image shows a serene body of water with calm ripples reflecting the surrounding landscape.
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Tennessee boasts an abundance of fishing lakes that offer breathtaking scenery and excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers can find a variety of fish species, including bass, catfish, crappie, and trout, among others. Whether you prefer freshwater or reservoir fishing, Tennessee has a lake to suit your preferences. Let’s dive into some of the most popular fishing lakes in the state.

Dale Hollow Lake

Dale Hollow Lake, located on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and trophy smallmouth bass fishing. Anglers from far and wide flock to this lake, where they can also catch walleye, largemouth bass, and muskie. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse fish population, Dale Hollow Lake is a true angler’s paradise. The lake covers approximately 27,000 acres, providing ample room for anglers to explore its expansive waters. Whether you’re fishing from a boat or the shoreline, Dale Hollow Lake offers exciting angling opportunities year-round.

Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake, one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, spans across Tennessee and Kentucky, offering exceptional fishing opportunities. Anglers can target various fish species, including crappie, bass, sauger, and bluegill, while enjoying the vast expanse of this magnificent lake. Whether you’re fishing from a boat or the shoreline, Kentucky Lake promises an unforgettable angling experience. With over 160,000 acres of water to explore and numerous secluded coves and inlets, anglers can find their perfect fishing spot and enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding natural beauty. From sunrise to sunset, Kentucky Lake is a haven for anglers seeking adventure and relaxation.

Chickamauga Lake

Chickamauga Lake, located near Chattanooga, is a popular destination for both recreational boating and fishing. This fertile lake is known for its outstanding bass fishing, with anglers frequently landing trophy-sized largemouth bass. Additionally, crappie, catfish, and bluegill thrive in the waters of Chickamauga Lake, providing a diverse and exciting fishing experience for anglers of all ages. Spanning over 36,000 acres, the lake offers plenty of room for anglers to explore its various fishing spots. With its picturesque shoreline and abundant aquatic life, Chickamauga Lake attracts anglers from far and wide who seek to test their skills and reel in some impressive catches.

Percy Priest Lake

Percy Priest Lake, situated just outside of Nashville, offers a peaceful fishing experience within close proximity to the city. Anglers can target bass, crappie, and catfish in this reservoir, which spans over 14,000 acres. Whether you’re casting your line from a boat or the shoreline, Percy Priest Lake provides ample opportunities to reel in some impressive catches while enjoying the picturesque surroundings. The lake’s well-maintained fishing piers and easy access points make it an ideal choice for both novice and experienced anglers. Additionally, Percy Priest Lake offers recreational activities such as swimming and boating, allowing visitors to enjoy a full day of outdoor fun.

Hybrid Striped Bass Fishing

Norris Lake

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Norris Lake is a haven for fishing enthusiasts. This deep, clear lake spans over 34,000 acres and is home to various fish species, including striped bass, walleye, and largemouth bass. Anglers can explore the lake’s secluded coves, rocky shorelines, and submerged structures in search of their next big catch, surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of Norris Lake. Whether you prefer trolling, casting, or fly fishing, Norris Lake offers diverse fishing opportunities throughout the year, attracting anglers with its serene atmosphere and abundant fish population.

Watts Bar Lake

Watts Bar Lake, located in East Tennessee, is a sprawling reservoir that covers approximately 39,000 acres. Anglers flock to this lake in pursuit of catfish, crappie, bass, and sauger, among other species. With its numerous creeks, coves, and deep channels, Watts Bar Lake provides a variety of fishing environments to explore. Whether you’re an avid angler or a beginner, this lake offers something for everyone. The calm waters and stunning sunsets add to the allure of Watts Bar Lake, creating a memorable fishing experience for visitors.

Center Hill Lake

Center Hill Lake, nestled in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau, is known for its clear waters and scenic beauty. Spanning over 18,000 acres, this reservoir offers excellent fishing opportunities for bass, walleye, crappie, and catfish. Anglers can navigate the lake’s many islands, points, and submerged structures, testing their skills and tactics to land their prized catch. Whether you prefer fishing from a boat or the shoreline, Center Hill Lake presents a serene environment where you can immerse yourself in nature while enjoying a day of fishing.

Memorial Day Fishing Center Lake, TN

Reelfoot Lake

Reelfoot Lake, located in the northwest corner of Tennessee, is a unique and picturesque fishing destination. Known as the “Earthquake Lake,” Reelfoot Lake was formed by a series of powerful earthquakes in the early 19th century. Today, it is a renowned fishing spot, particularly for crappie, bluegill, and catfish. Anglers can explore the lake’s submerged cypress trees and shallow waters, where fish thrive in abundance. Reelfoot Lake’s tranquil ambiance and beautiful sunsets create an enchanting backdrop for anglers seeking a one-of-a-kind fishing experience.

Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake, situated in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, is a popular destination for fishing and outdoor recreation. Anglers can catch bass, crappie, and catfish in this reservoir. The lake’s scenic beauty and abundance of wildlife make it a must-visit location for nature enthusiasts.

Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake, situated near Nashville, is a favorite among local anglers and visitors alike. This reservoir covers over 22,000 acres and offers a variety of fish species, including bass, catfish, crappie, and sauger. Anglers can choose from a range of fishing techniques, such as trolling, jigging, or casting, to lure their desired catch. Old Hickory Lake’s proximity to the city makes it a convenient option for anglers looking to escape the urban hustle and immerse themselves in a day of fishing relaxation.

Old Hickory Lake Fishing Tennessee

Pickwick Lake

Pickwick Lake, located in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, is a renowned fishing destination that spans across three states: Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. Known for its excellent smallmouth bass fishing, Pickwick Lake also offers opportunities to catch largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and sauger. Anglers can explore the lake’s vast expanses, rocky points, and deep channels in pursuit of their preferred fish species. With its scenic beauty and abundant fishing opportunities, Pickwick Lake continues to attract anglers who seek a memorable and rewarding fishing experience.

Tims Ford Lake

Tims Ford Lake, nestled in the rolling hills of southern Tennessee, offers a tranquil setting for fishing enthusiasts. Spanning over 10,000 acres, this lake is known for its pristine waters and diverse fish population, including bass, crappie, and trout. Anglers can enjoy a day of fishing from the shoreline or venture out onto the lake in their boats. Tims Ford Lake’s picturesque surroundings, coupled with its excellent fishing prospects, make it a hidden gem for anglers seeking a peaceful and productive fishing excursion.

Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake, located in the Cherokee National Forest, is a scenic mountain reservoir that spans over 6,400 acres. This deep and clear lake is home to various fish species, including trout, bass, walleye, and catfish. Anglers can fish from the shoreline or explore the lake’s depths in their boats, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding mountains. Watauga Lake’s pristine waters and abundant fish population make it a popular destination for anglers looking to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy a day of fishing solitude.

Watauga Lake Fishing

Fishing Gear for Lakes in Tennessee

Choosing the Right Fishing Rod

When it comes to choosing the right fishing rod for Tennessee lakes, several factors come into play. Consider the type of fish you’ll be targeting and the fishing techniques you’ll be using. For larger species like bass, a medium to medium-heavy rod with a length of 6 to 7 feet is recommended. This provides the necessary strength and control for casting accurately and handling the fight of a strong fish. Lighter rods may be suitable for smaller fish or finesse fishing techniques.

Selecting the Ideal Fishing Reel

Selecting the right fishing reel is equally important. baitcasting reels are a popular choice for Tennessee lakes due to their versatility and ease of use. Look for a reel that offers a smooth drag system, as you’ll need to control the tension when reeling in fish. Consider the reel’s gear ratio, which determines the speed of line retrieval. Higher gear ratios are advantageous for techniques like fast-paced lure presentations, while lower gear ratios provide more power for slow retrieves or fighting big fish.

Picking the Proper Fishing Line

Choosing the proper fishing line is crucial for successful fishing. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines are commonly used in Tennessee lakes. Monofilament lines are affordable, have good strength, and are more forgiving when it comes to knots. Fluorocarbon lines, on the other hand, are virtually invisible underwater and have low visibility, making them ideal for clear-water conditions. Consider the pound test strength of the line based on the target species and the expected fighting power of the fish.

Essential Terminal Tackle

Terminal tackle refers to the hooks, sinkers, swivels, and other accessories at the end of your fishing line. It’s important to have a well-stocked tackle box with a variety of sizes and types of terminal tackle. Hooks come in different styles, such as worm hooks, treble hooks, and circle hooks, each suitable for specific bait presentations. Sinkers are essential for adjusting the depth and casting distance, while swivels help prevent line twisting. Carry a range of weights and sizes to accommodate different fishing conditions and target species.

Must-Have Fishing Lures

Having a selection of fishing lures is crucial for enticing fish in Tennessee lakes. The specific lures you choose will depend on the species you’re targeting and the prevailing fishing conditions. Some popular options include crankbaits, spinnerbaits, soft plastic worms, jigs, and topwater lures like poppers and buzzbaits. Experiment with different colors, sizes, and retrieval techniques to determine what works best in each lake. It’s always a good idea to carry a variety of lures to adapt to changing conditions and fish preferences.

Fishing Accessories for Convenience

To enhance your fishing experience and ensure convenience on the water, consider investing in fishing accessories. A tackle box or backpack will help you organize and carry your gear effectively. Fishing pliers are handy for removing hooks, cutting line, or bending wires. A landing net can be essential for safely landing larger fish. Other accessories to consider include a fishing hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a comfortable fishing chair. Choose accessories that suit your fishing style and preferences to make your time on the water more enjoyable.

Proper Clothing and Sun Protection

Proper clothing and sun protection are essential for a comfortable and safe fishing experience. Opt for lightweight and breathable clothing that offers protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. A long-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with polarized lenses are must-have items. Apply sunscreen with a high SPF to exposed skin and reapply as needed. Consider wearing fishing gloves to protect your hands from cuts, abrasions, and harsh weather conditions.

Safety Equipment for Fishing

Safety should always be a top priority when fishing in Tennessee lakes. Ensure you have the necessary safety equipment, including a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD). Carry a first aid kit and a fully charged cell phone in case of emergencies. It’s also a good idea to inform someone about your fishing plans, including the location and estimated time of return.

Best Bait for Tennessee Lakes

The best bait for Tennessee lakes depends on the target species and the prevailing conditions. Live bait options like nightcrawlers, minnows, and crickets are popular choices for a variety of fish. They provide a natural scent and movement that can attract fish. Artificial baits such as soft plastic worms, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits are also effective in enticing fish. Consider matching the bait color and size to the natural prey available in the lake. Experimentation and local knowledge can help determine the most successful bait choices.

Understanding Fishing Regulations in Tennessee

Before heading out to fish in Tennessee lakes, it’s essential to understand and adhere to the fishing regulations. Fishing regulations vary from lake to lake and can include restrictions on bag limits, size limits, fishing methods, and seasons. Consult the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) website, local fishing guides, or contact the local authorities to obtain the most up-to-date information. Respecting fishing regulations helps conserve fish populations and ensures the sustainability of the lakes’ ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.


1. Do I need a fishing license to fish in Tennessee?

Yes, anyone aged 16 and above needs a fishing license to fish in Tennessee. Licenses can be obtained online or from authorized retailers. For more information, consult the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.

2. What is the best time of year to fish in Tennessee?

The fishing season in Tennessee is year-round, but the best time to fish varies depending on the species. Spring and fall are generally excellent for bass fishing, while winter is ideal for crappie fishing.

3. Are there fishing guides available for hire?

Yes, many fishing guides operate in Tennessee and can provide valuable insights and assistance to enhance your fishing experience. They can be hired for a fee and offer expert knowledge of the local fishing spots. Some recommendations include:

  1. Tennessee Anglers Guide Service: With experienced guides and a wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s lakes and rivers, Tennessee Anglers Guide Service offers guided fishing trips tailored to individual preferences and skill levels. 
  2. MidSouth Bass Guide: Known for their expertise in bass fishing, Mid-South Bass Guide offers guided trips to various Tennessee lakes. Their experienced guides provide valuable insights and techniques to help anglers catch trophy-sized bass.
  3. Tennessee Trout Guides: If you’re interested in trout fishing, Tennessee Trout Guides is a popular choice. They specialize in fly fishing and offer guided trips on some of the state’s renowned trout streams and rivers. Their knowledgeable guides provide instruction and assistance to ensure an enjoyable experience.

4. Are there camping facilities near these fishing lakes?

Yes, many of the fishing lakes in Tennessee have camping facilities nearby. Whether you prefer RV camping or tent camping, you can find campgrounds that offer a range of amenities, including restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. Some great places include:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park Campgrounds: Located within the park, these campgrounds offer scenic surroundings and amenities such as tent and RV sites, restrooms, and fire pits, providing a memorable camping experience.
  2. Fall Creek Falls State Park Campgrounds: Situated in Pikeville, Tennessee, these campgrounds provide spacious sites, modern restrooms, and access to hiking trails and the stunning Fall Creek Falls, allowing campers to immerse themselves in nature’s beauty.
  3. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Campgrounds: Located in Oneida, Tennessee, these campgrounds offer campsites with amenities like water and electric hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings, providing a convenient base for outdoor activities along the Big South Fork River, including hiking, horseback riding, and water sports.

5. Are there any specific fishing tournaments held on these lakes?

Yes, several fishing tournaments and competitions take place on Tennessee’s fishing lakes. These events attract anglers from far and wide who compete for prizes and recognition. Some great tournaments include:

  1. Bassmaster Classic: Known as the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing,” this prestigious tournament held in Tennessee attracts anglers from around the world, providing an opportunity to compete for the coveted title on some of the state’s finest bass fishing waters.
  2. FLW Tennessee River Open: Organized by FLW, this popular tournament takes place on various sections of the Tennessee River, attracting anglers of all skill levels who compete for substantial prize money and the chance to showcase their fishing prowess against top regional anglers.
  3. Crappie USA Tennessee State Championship: The premier crappie fishing tournament in Tennessee, the Crappie USA Tennessee State Championship brings together passionate crappie anglers to compete for cash prizes and a shot at qualifying for the Crappie USA Classic Championship, showcasing their skills in the state’s lakes and rivers.


In conclusion, fishing in the breathtaking lakes of Tennessee provides anglers with a plethora of opportunities to reel in unforgettable catches. By carefully selecting the ideal fishing gear, including rods, reels, and lines tailored to the target species and fishing techniques, anglers can greatly enhance their chances of success. Equipping oneself with essential terminal tackle, a variety of fishing lures, and convenient fishing accessories adds versatility to their angling arsenal. Moreover, prioritizing safety by adhering to fishing regulations, wearing appropriate clothing, and carrying necessary safety equipment ensures a secure and enjoyable fishing experience. With the right knowledge, equipment, and a touch of patience, anglers can embark on remarkable fishing adventures and create lasting memories in the beautiful lakes of Tennessee.

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