How I will fish the Tennessee River

Let’s talk about Fort Loudoun and Tellico, Tennessee lakes. I’m from Fayetteville, Tenn., which is in southern middle Tennessee. My home is three-plus hours away from downtown Knoxville, home of this week’s event. Contrary to the thought that I have a lot of experience here, I’ve only fished one tournament on these waters — the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. That was a good experience, a learning experience, and I finished sixth.

However, this is the Tennessee River, and I do have a lot of experience on this waterway. Honestly, the fishing here feels a lot like the rest of the Tennessee, like Pickwick, Wilson and Wheeler. There are a lot of similarities, and I definitely like it. 

It is going to be a tough tournament though. At the Classic, the weights were pretty good. My friend Ott DeFoe won with 49-3 over three days. We were here three weeks later that year. I don’t think we will quite see weights on par with that. We will see some good weights, but I don’t think it will get to that level.

Water temperature effect 

I’ve been doing this article every year of my Elite career. This year I am adding in some water temperature notes at each event. Water temp is such a critical factor, especially early in the year. Hopefully, this will be insightful for you, the reader.

The water temperatures this week are 45-46 degrees. That is cold. When the water gets below 48 degrees in Tennessee and Alabama, you can tell a big difference in the activity level of bass. Our fish here are not like fish up north. Northern fish are used to extremely cold water. People catch fish in 37-38 degree water regularly. Down here, when the water gets into the mid-40s, the fish just don’t feed very much. Their feed windows are very short. It will be tough fishing.

The strategy 

I think the angler who wins this event has no idea he’s about to win as we take off Thursday. This event is going to be all about strategy, making good decisions. 

I had a few bites in practice, so I feel like I have a solid area. I know there are some fish and just need to figure out how to make them bite. Being in places at the right time will be critical because of those short feeding windows.

We have some rain coming in, and honestly, I know that this time of year, those rainy, sloppy, messy days are some of the best days to catch fish. It does tend to help the bite.

I will start with 10 rods on the deck Thursday and will probably throw all of them. I can’t live and die with one bait here. I'll have a flipping jig tied on, three crankbaits, a spinnerbait, two different bladed jigs and a lipless. It's meat and potatoes, shallow-water bass fishing.

I’ll fish the main river, some in the creeks and some in pockets. Stop no. 2 of the Elite Series season is changing every day, and when the rain moves in, it will change by the hour. 

Keeping an open mind is critical and fishing what is in front of me. I will try to “fish in the moment,” and we will see how it goes. Y’all stay tuned and see how it goes down on Rocky Top.