UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Nickajack Lake heats up for Federation Championship

TBF National Championship contenders patiently await the start of competition in a slight fog over Nickajack Lake.

As you might expect, most of the anglers participating in The Bass Federation championship in 2011 in Kimball, Tenn., were tight-lipped prior to Thursday's 6 a.m. takeoff. Those who did reveal a few tidbits, however, agreed on one thing: Nickajack Lake is on fire.

Bites were plentiful on Wednesday, the official practice day, although many anglers did not set the hook and don't know exactly what they had on the end of their lines. Tennessee Bass Federation angler Charlie Davis, who had a dozen bites, has no doubt limits will be plentiful, but there will be a deep divide between anglers who catch five and those who catch five big ones.

"It could take 50 pounds (over three days to win), but 45 will be more likely," says Davis, who had a decent practice day yesterday. "The lake is fishing very well, but there are a lot of small bass. Whoever finds the bigger bass could run away with it."

Although some bass have moved onto beds, the majority are still away from the banks, awaiting the signal to move up. That could come today or tomorrow. The water temperature on Wednesday started in the low 60s, but climbed to 66 at the end the day. Davis expects a similar trend today and Friday, meaning there could be a mass migration to the shallows. Sight-fishing, however, won't likely play into the equation. Central Tennessee was slammed by a series of storms over the past several weeks, the last one just days before the start of the event. Although Nickajack is the sixth lake in the Tennessee River chain and doesn't fluctuate much, it is somewhat dirty, with visibility in the 1- to 3-foot range.

Vermont angler Tim Austin and his partner Bill Petersen of Arizona search for their first bass of the morning on Nickajack Lake. To complicate matters, a cold front is expected to blow through sometime on Friday, and temperatures will drop from the mid- to high 70s on Friday to the low 60s on Saturday. That could mean the angler who leads on Friday will have an honest shot at taking home the top prize, the Living The Dream package valued at more than $100,000.

Davis plans to fish fast this morning with either a spinnerbait or a lipless crankbait, but may switch to a jig as the sun climbs. Wind, or the lack of it, will factor into his decision. However, there is no consensus among the pool of anglers on the winning bait or pattern. A quick glimpse of the various baits rigged for the first day revealed everything from soft plastics and jerkbaits to crankbaits and jigs. A local Federation member said a recent club tournament revealed a similar hodgepodge of lures and patterns.

"It was won with 18 pounds on a crankbait," he recalled. "A spinnerbait took second with 17 1/2, third place came on a Rat-L-Trap, fourth was on a jig, fifth was on a craw, and sixth place came on a jerkbait."

Few of the 94 anglers have much experience on Nickajack. Most arrived just a day or two prior to the Wednesday practice period and spent their one day getting a feel for the lake. However, history has proven that the top club-level anglers in the country have no problem finding bass, even on a new lake. With near-ideal conditions and a lake loaded with bass, this will certainly be a tournament to watch.

Essentials

Competitors will launch from Shellmound Public Use Area near Jasper, Tenn., at 6 a.m. each morning. All 94 anglers, who represent 46 states, Canada and the Association of Collegiate Anglers, will fish Thursday and Friday. The top angler and co-angler from each of the TBF's seven divisions will advance to the final day. Weights will be a cumulative total of all three days.
Anglers prepare for the opening takeoff in the 2011 TBF National Championship on NickaJack Lake in Tennessee.
Weigh-ins will be held at Kimball Park on Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. The 2011 TBF champion angler and co-angler will be crowned on Saturday prior to the FLW Tour weigh-in at the Chattanooga Convention Center in conjunction with the Walmart FLW Tour Major event. The FLW pros are fishing Chickamauga Lake, the next reservoir upriver from Nickajack. The convention center will also host the FLW Outdoor Expo Saturday and Sunday.

The winning angler from the Boater Division isn't just fishing for the right to be called the best among tens of thousands of Federation members. He will also represent the TBF under the Living The Dream banner, a prize package that includes paid entry into the Walmart FLW Tour, use of a wrapped Chevy tow vehicle and Ranger boat, sponsor prizes and money for expenses. The winning boater and co-angler will also fish against the best anglers in the world at the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup.

TBF fishing fans take note

Want to watch the weigh in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 3 p.m. Central Time to watch live streaming video and audio of the TBF weigh-in Thursday and Friday. Saturday's final TBF National Championship weigh-in will also be broadcast on FLW Live beginning at 4 p.m. Central Time.

Thursday's conditions

Morning: 46 degrees, clear
Midday: 76 degrees, sunny, southeast winds at 4-7 mph
Water: stable, mid-60s, stained, 1 to 3 feet of visibility

Tags: david-hart  morning-story  2011-04-14-national-championship-nickajack 

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