There is a lot more to Tennessee than the stunning sites, soulful music, and vibrant cities. Take Tennessee bass fishing for example.
When you think of picking the hardest freshwater fighters, the smallmouth bass is definitely the true champion.
There are multiple lakes in Tennessee with a superb smallmouth population that makes it a must-visit destination for bass anglers. In fact, many anglers will go as far as to mark it as the smallmouth bass capital of the world.
In this article, we will list the top 13 spots for bass fishing in Tennessee to help you out.
Going fishing in Tennessee? Then give a read to our Tennessee Fishing License guide.
- 1. Chickamauga Lake
- 2. Douglas Lake
- 3. Kentucky Lake
- 4. Gibson County Lake
- 5. Marrowbone Lake
- 6. Cherokee Lake
- 7. Holston River
- 8. Dale Hollow Lake
- 9. Pickwick Lake
- 10. Center Hill Reservoir
- 11. French Broad River
- 12. South Holston Lake
- 13. Percy Priest Lake
- When is the best time of year for bass fishing in Tennessee?
- Where can I catch big bass in Tennessee?
- What is the legal size for bass in Tennessee?
Tennessee Bass Fishing at its Finest: The Top 13 Lakes
Over the last few weeks, we undertook this tough task of picking the best spots. After comparing fishing data from the past years and speaking with the local experts, this is the list that we compiled.
1. Chickamauga Lake
We’ve all heard it- Chickamauga Lake is considered one of the top bass fisheries in the US. The lake holds the state record for largemouth, which stands at 15.20-pounds.
One reason for the monstrous size of the bass in the lake is due to the stocking of Florida-strained bass for several years. Besides, the lake also has a strong population of gizzard shad. and threadfin.
Other species like smallmouth bass, striped bass, bluegill, and catfish are also available. No wonder it’s a top spot for tournament fishing.
With a surface area of over 36,000-acre and 810 miles of shorelines, the lake offers numerous spots for bank fishing. During the early morning hours, topwater lures work great in the shallows.
As the sun rises higher, head for the deeper bays and ledges. Lures like crankbaits, plastic worms, and jigs will work well in these areas.
2. Douglas Lake
Due to the excellent growth rates of the largemouth bass in this lake, it’s considered one of the best bass lakes in east Tennessee.
Located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this 44.41 sq. mile water body is a stunning destination.
There are plenty of shallow spots along the jagged shoreline of the lake that offer excellent opportunities for anglers. The period between March through June is best for bass fishing.
Note, the lake runs deep and thermal stratification occurs during summer. So, while fishing in the main body of the lake, it’s best to use a depth finder.
While baits of all types can be tried, locals mention that live baits tend to work best in the lake
3. Kentucky Lake
Kentucky lake has the reputation of being an excellent Black Bass fishery with largemouth leading the pack. The average weight of the largemouth found here is above 2 pounds.
However, I have heard plenty of anglers catching 10-pounders in this lake.
Located near the Kentucky and Tennessee border, this lake has a surface area of 160,309 acres and is one of the largest artificial lakes in the US.
Kentucky lake is often termed as the best ledge-fishing lake for Tennessee bass. This is due to the fact that the largemouth tends to thrive along the ledges around the overbank.
During the early morning hours, the fish can be found around the shallow structures. In the late morning, use deep-diving crankbaits and swim jigs in the drop-offs and creek channels
4. Gibson County Lake
If you’re looking for the best spot for year-round bass fishing in Tennessee, try Gibson County Lake. At 500 acres, it’s not a big lake, but the bass is large in size and the fishing pressure is low.
Since it was originally stocked with Florida bass, trophy-size fish are not uncommon in the lake.
As for the best fishing spots…
Honestly, you can head in any direction on this lake and still find the fish.
In general, late spring and summer are the best seasons. Anglers locate the schools of shad by using electronics and use a Carolina rig just beyond the forage.
In summer, top water baits work well on grassy flats. Besides, there are tree-covered coves where soft plastics and crankbaits can work well.
5. Marrowbone Lake
Located in Davidson County, Marrowbone Lake is around 15 miles from Nashville. It’s a small lake of 60 acres and has a high density of largemouth bass.
Beyond that, crappie, walleye, and bluegill are also present.
Interestingly, the lake has multiple springs that help in keeping the water cool even in the peak of summer. The bass tends to hang around these spots.
The areas covered with aquatic vegetation along the shoreline are also great spots for bank anglers.
As per veterans, jigs are one of the best baits in this lake. If that doesn’t work, try crankbaits and spinnerbaits
6. Cherokee Lake
Spread across multiple counties, this vast reservoir has a surface area of 28,780 acres and a shore length of 400 miles.
What makes it one of the best destinations for bass fishing in Tennessee is the high population of both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
In summer, you can also find striped bass and crappie in the lake.
In spring, the bass moves into the shallow water for spawning. This is the ideal time for using a Carolina rig with a crankbait or soft plastic lure.
Note, the water is clearer at the lower end of the lake. This is a great spot for locating baitfish and using a jerkbait, or a small swimbait.
7. Holston River
The Holston River offers some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in Tennessee. Even though the river has limited public access, the Cherokee Dam tailwater stretch is one of the best spots for fly fishing.
It can be accessed from Jefferson City
During spring, the fishing conditions are excellent for both prespawn bass and trout. When it comes to lures, minnows between 3-4 inches in length can produce a high bite rate.
Other than that, crankbaits of baitfish colors also give good results.
Be warned: the Cherokee dam releases water at fixed intervals which affect the fish downstream. So, make sure that you are aware of the schedules before you visit.
8. Dale Hollow Lake
Dale Hollow Lake is a scenic reservoir located on the Tennessee-Kentucky border and an exceptional smallmouth fishery.
In 1955, the world record for the biggest smallmouth bass caught was set here. It stands at 11 pounds, 15 ounces.
The Bassmaster records also show that the lake holds the top three spots for the largest smallmouth caught.
Actually, the smallies love the irregular geographical features and high forage base in the reservoir.
The coves around the lake produce plenty of medium-sized smallmouths. However, to pursue the biggies, you’ll need to head into deeper waters.
Usually, jerkbaits and plastic worms work well in main lake points.
In my experience, these trophy-size smallies are smart creatures that aren’t easily lured. So, if you’re a newbie, taking the help of a guide is a good idea.
9. Pickwick Lake
Pickwick Lake is a part of the Pickwick Landing State Park and is well known as a smallmouth haven. Moreover, largemouth is also available in high numbers.
It has a surface area of 43,100 acres and holds a number of angling tournaments every year.
The tailwater areas are ideal for luring the smallmouth in spring and fall. Lures that mimic crayfish are the best choice in this period.
Night fishing along the grass beds with jigs and spinnerbaits is also popular during summer.
Smallmouth around 5 pounds isn’t uncommon in this lake. Between March and May, trophy-size largemouth are also found.
10. Center Hill Reservoir
Spread over an area of 18,220 acres, Center Hill Lake is another paradise for bass anglers. With a high population of smallmouth, largemouth, and even spotted bass, it’s easily one of the best bass lakes in middle Tennessee.
Crankbaits and slow-rolling spinnerbaits that look like forage are a good choice for the smallmouth during spring.
Largemouth bass can be fished all year round by using a wide range of artificial lures as well as live baits like shad and bluegill.
Apart from fishing, the lake also offers recreational facilities and has multiple campgrounds. Overall, a top destination for a family fishing trip.
11. French Broad River
The French Broad River meanders 218 miles before joining the Tennessee river system. Almost the entire stretch is a hotspot for smallmouth bass action.
Locals mention that the area downstream from Douglas Dam is a top spot for bass fishing.
Because the crayfish population is high in the river, bass of both small and big sizes are found here. However, even the half-pounders in the river put up a solid fight.
Smallmouth prefers to ambush their prey from the deeper holes in the river bed.
The lures you choose will depend on the water level and conditions. Buzzbaits, crankbaits, and plastic lures are some of the top options.
For the big fish, spring and fall are the best seasons.
12. South Holston Lake
This 7580-acre lake comes under the Tennessee Valley Authority and is one of the best bass lakes in Tennessee for smallmouth. Largemouth and striped bass are also found in the waters.
Since there’s plenty of public land along the banks, the lake is a great destination for shore fishing.
While the fish density isn’t as high as some of the other top TN bass fishing lakes, the larger size of the black bass makes up for it.
The waters of the lake remain mostly clear all year round, so choose your baits accordingly. For largemouth, head to the coves at the upper end of the lake.
During spring, the smallmouth is found near the secondary points.
13. Percy Priest Lake
This lake is a popular destination for the urban anglers of Nashville and holds a wide variety of fish species including a large number of bass.
No matter the season you choose, the 14,000-acre lake has something to offer.
The spawning season in April is a great time to fish for largemouth. Another ideal period is during September when the shad starts migrating to the shallows.
Pockets in the main river channel are some of the best spots for luring the largemouth.
In summer, finesse jigs and whopper poppers work well for bass lurking in shaded areas. For smallmouth, use crankbaits that resemble shad or crawfish.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time of year for bass fishing in Tennessee?
Generally, spring is the best time for bass fishing as the bass move towards the shallow spanning zones.
Where can I catch big bass in Tennessee?
There are plenty of options when you want to catch Tennessee’s big bass. If you want to pick one spot, Lake Chickamauga is the best bass lake in Tennessee for giant bass.
What is the legal size for bass in Tennessee?
The minimum length limit is usually between 14 to 15 inches. Check the region-wise regulations for more details
There you have it. The top 13 Tennessee bass fishing destinations in our book.
Truth is when it comes to bass fishing Tennessee can easily go head-to-head with states like Michigan, Texas, and California.
Before you visit, make sure to check the latest guidelines by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) before you plan a trip.
Do you have any other spots to add to this list of the best bass lakes in Tennessee?
Let us know in the comments.