This is one heck of a good lake. At one time anglers referred to her as Sickamauga Lake because the catches were so poor. Back in those days, a bag of 10 pounds looked good. That’s not true anymore, and after the fishing public sees what we do here this week, I’m predicting they’ll all know that this body of water is one of the best bass lakes in the country. What a turnaround!
There are several reasons for this, in my opinion. First is the Tennessee River itself. Nearly everything in her path is good. Part of that is improved water quality, part of it is better management and a part of it is weather. The second reason is that the bass we’re catching are Florida strain bass. They grow faster and they grow bigger than other strains.
The water quality factor is obvious. Cleaner water makes for better survival rates, better growth and ultimately better fishing.
Most of the better management is the result of developing scientific information about how to manage fisheries. It’s certainly not because the biologist working many years ago didn’t care. They did. They just didn’t know as much about how to manage a fishery as this new generation does. The good old days weren’t always so good.
The third factor is weather. For reasons beyond what most of us can understand, we’re seeing a lot more grass in our waters, and it’s growing a lot earlier in the year. That’s pretty much everywhere. Chickamauga is no exception.
Grass makes for baitfish cover, fry cover and oxygen. It also gives us reliable places to target when we want to go fishing. That makes the fishing better. We have places to go where we know there’ll be fish and we can catch them. (Good fishing isn’t about how many fish are in the water. It’s about how many of those fish we catch.)
Now that I’ve said all these good things about Chickamauga Lake I want to say that I don’t think anyone should look for giant bags this week. I know some of the writers are predicting otherwise but I just don’t think it’ll happen.
We aren’t seeing those size bass in practice. If we were going to catch them, there’d be a few showing up by now. And another thing — most of the existing records were set in lakes during perfect fishing times and under good weather patterns. We don’t have either one here.
These bass are postspawn. Giant bass become big bass after they drop their eggs. The weather will be marginal, at least for the start of the tournament. That’ll also hold down the catches.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. There will be a bunch of bass caught Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. That will probably make this tournament one of the most exciting ever. Weights will change every few minutes, and it could be that 1 or 2 ounces will make a world of difference.
The Open anglers will have a big impact, too. These are not weekend guys. The Open anglers fishing this one are some very good, highly seasoned professionals. This isn’t their first rodeo.