DAYTON, Tenn. — A prespawn bonanza is on tap for the 2023 Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series Championship at Chickamauga Lake powered by TourneyX, and while the lake can be tough, Tennessee native Jordan Marshall believes big bass will be caught.
“If we can get some nice warm weather, there will be a lot of prespawn bass,” Marshall said. “There’s a lot of moving parts to Chickamauga. It is hard to pin down a pattern. There are quality fish there, and you will run into them eventually, it is just about landing them and capitalizing.
“If we are putting numbers on big bass, I’m going to say it is going to be 24 inches or more. It can happen on any cast.”
One of the hottest big bass lakes in the country over the past several years, Chickamauga — one of the Bill Dance Signature Lakes — stretches about 60 miles through the east Tennessee hills, providing plenty of opportunities for anglers to spread out.
The Kayak Series Championship kicks off Classic week, with tournament days scheduled for March 22 and 23. The winner will be announced in Knoxville on the stage of the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota prior to the Day 1 Classic weigh-in.
Marshall, a Hobie Bass Open Series Angler of the Year, lives in Knoxville and has extensive experience on Chickamauga, including a Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation state championship victory that earned him his spot in the championship.
Consistency will be key in this event. While Chickamauga kicks out giant bass almost daily, it can be difficult to find a consistent bite from day to day.
“You are going to have to do a lot of stuff to figure out the bite,” Marshall said. “You can fish for seven hours and not get any bites and then in a 30-minute window you have everything that needs to happen to figure out something. Those fish are so strange on that lake, it is an interesting puzzle to put together.
“There will be a lot of boats. It is absurd. There is not a place on this planet that gets as much pressure as Chickamauga year in and year out.”
Nice weather could send the bass into a full prespawn pattern, and Marshall said he will likely be exploring both the main lake and the creeks and backwaters. He noted that water clarity will be much cleaner than a lot of anglers will anticipate going into the event.
While smallmouth and spotted bass both inhabit the lake, Marshall said largemouth will almost certainly be the key species.
“If you told me someone had a full-blown limit of smallmouth, I would be impressed,” Marshall said. “But I don’t think a whole limit of smallmouth is an option. I don’t think it is something consistent.”
The lake will also still be at winter pool, barring a weather system that brings heavy rains to the region — and that will mean less cover on the lake. Deep docks, select laydowns and clean rock will be key items to target.
“The vast majority of the lake will be a player,” Marshall said. “Guys can win the tournament up at the Watts Bar Dam or down at the Chickamauga Dam. If we get a little bit of rain and then some sunny days, any creek on the lake could be a winning or competitive spot.
“There is a lot of rock in that lake, it’s just finding rocks that have a hard bottom around them.”
Lures will largely be determined by the weather, Marshall said.
“If we get some solid weather, it could be plenty of moving baits. If it is cold, a jerkbait could be a big player,” Marshall said. “March on the Tennessee River, the first thing I think of is throwing a crankbait. That kind of gets everyone catching fish and it could be a really competitive tournament.
“Regardless of weather, I would imagine a Rat-L-Trap in some form (will play).”
While Marshall notes Chickamauga hasn’t fished as well lately as in years past, a mega-bag is possible at any point in time.
The event will follow a catch-measure-release format. The live leaderboard can be found on Bassmaster.com throughout the tournament.
2022 Bassmaster Kayak Series Title Sponsor: Yamaha Rightwaters
2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Partner: MotorGuide
2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year Sponsor: Dakota Lithium