Hot Spots: Watts Bar Lake

On the chain of Tennessee River lakes spanning east Tennessee, Watts Bar Lake gets less fishing pressure, even though it supports a vibrant largemouth and smallmouth fishery. Watts Bar is between Fort Loudoun and Chickamauga lakes, and the fishing is superb in spring and fall, less the pressure from tournaments that favor both its neighbors, Fort Loudoun and Chickamauga. 

Anglers can enjoy a bonus catch of smallmouth and largemouth during spring. What makes the trip worthwhile is you can target one or both when they are most active during prespawn. 

Focus on secondary points inside big creeks and channel swings extending back toward the spawning areas. Those are two textbook staging areas where the bass spend time to feed or remain stationary following cold fronts. Shelter and ambush points are essential for prespawners, and both provide those needs. 

Secondary points, and points in general, are overly abundant on Watts Bar. The textbook approach to eliminating unproductive areas is made easy by focusing on points where pea-sized gravel and softball-size rock converge. Finding the best creek channel bends is equally as easy. Look for sheer bluff walls with the presence of football-sized rock.

The transition between the sizes of rock is key, because the larger rocks and bluffs signal the presence of deep water, while the smaller rocks offer crawfish habitat. As the bass near the spawning areas look for visual signs of stumps and scattered rock on the tops of the shallow flats. Largemouth stage on the deeper sides of the flats and feed on the tops of them.  

What could be better than spending the summer catching bass from the grass? Having a special place where you can extend your seasonal fixation on luring fish from aquatic vegetation. Watts Bar is the place to go in the fall when the vegetation reaches maturity. 

Less is better in this case, because isolated vegetation will concentrate the bass population in those areas. What is more, the key fall pattern on Watts Bar is focused on isolated areas of vegetation spanning the lake. 

Search for isolated areas of milfoil and hydrilla in three key areas. Those are grassy areas on the main river channel, coves and pockets off the channel, and on the outside bends of the creek channels. In that scenario, the bass stage on the edges of the grasslines to ambush migrating shad. 

September and October are prime times for visiting Watts Bar. And as an added bonus, you get to go fishing amid the backdrop of the magnificent fall colors with the changing foliage. So, pack your bags, hitch up the boat, and plan a trip. 

Lay of the lake: Watts Bar is located on the Tennessee River between Knoxville and Chattanooga. The lake begins at Fort Loudon Dam and stretches 72 miles to Watts Bar Dam. The Clinch River connects to the main channel of the lake. Watts Bar covers 39,000 acres of surface water. 

Trivia: B.A.S.S. first visited Watts Bar for the 1974 Tennessee Invitational, won by Al Lindner with 42 pounds, 14 ounces. Lindner, from Minnesota, was a media pioneer who founded the In Fisherman entertainment and education network. 

Marinas and ramps: Caney Creek RV Resort & Marina, Harriman, Tenn.; Long Island Marina, Kingston; Spring City Resort & Marina, Spring City.