UPCOMING EVENT: HIGH SCHOOL FISHING - 2019 - Pickwick Lake

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Big Bags on Horizon at Chickamauga

Big Bags on Horizon at Chickamauga

If there’s a Disneyland for bass anglers, it’s Lake Chickamauga in mid-March. With untold numbers of huge fish moving shallow in preparation of the spawn, there might not be a lake in the country as on fire as Chick is right now.

Day one of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event presented by T-H Marine is underway, and by all indications, the fishery is set up to churn out some mega-bags throughout the event. Even during practice, with the water falling well below normal levels, 7-, 8- and 9-pounders weren’t uncommon. Now, with the best anglers in the southeast hard at it, you can expect fireworks.

 

ABOUT THE FISHERY

With the introduction of Florida-strain bass less than 10 years ago, Chickamauga has gotten a reputation for churning out some monstrous largemouths, including the Tennessee State record of 15.2 pounds caught by Gabe Keen in 2015.

Compared to lakes like Kentucky and Pickwick, Chickamauga is a bit smaller, but the consistent abundance of grass really sets it apart. Paired with ledges and sometimes-ripping current (as it has been this week), there’s more than enough variety to allow anglers to employ a multitude of approaches.

 

CURRENT CONDITIONS

Earlier this week, anglers were reporting water levels up to 8 feet below summer pool. But as FLW Tour pro and Chickamauga local Buddy Gross indicated, water levels might be on the rise as early as today.

“I keep hearing [the water] is going to come up a foot and a half before tomorrow, and if it does, the bite will get better,” he explains. “The water coming down is kind of repositioning them a bit. All the good grass everybody is looking for to fish is in less than a foot of water, so it’s made it kind of hard to fish, but they’ve slowed the water down. I think the water’s coming up.”

Per the TVA, the water level did rise a little, but it’s projected to fall a bit more during the tournament. Barring anything too extreme, the look of the lake shouldn’t change too much between takeoff on day one and weigh-in on day three.

Water level aside, this time of year is prime time on any Tennessee River reservoir. The water temperature has been in the mid-to-high 50s all week, which is exactly the trigger the bass want to keep pushing shallow.  

“I think it’s anybody’s game at this point,” Gross adds. “I don’t think anybody’s going to have a cast where they’re just going to sit there and catch them. It just depends on who gets on the right place at the right time. It’s going to be a timing deal tomorrow.

“I have not figured out the timing. I just know I’ve caught good fish all week, but I’m not catching multiples in one place. It’s going to happen. Somebody is going to find that place, and it’s going to happen fast, and it’s probably going to happen before 10 o’clock.”

There’s a small chance of rain today and tomorrow, but it’s probably nothing to worry about. In fact, with some cloudy skies and the possibility of a steady wind today (10 to 15 miles per hour), the conditions might be setting up perfectly for an incredible day of fishing.

 

TACTICS IN PLAY

Because it isn’t a summertime ledge fishing event, anglers aren’t expected to camp on spots quite as much as you would normally see on the Tennessee River. Instead, anglers might be able to fish around a bit more and sit on Spot-Lock a bit less.

Gross agrees that getting on the trolling motor and fishing areas (as opposed to specific spots) is going to be key this week. He anticipates a handful of tactics to play best, though.

“Grass is going to play, hard spots are going to play, and current is going to play,” he says. “But, a lot of it has been random. Just put the trolling motor down and go.”

As for baits, you can expect the usual stable of power-fishing baits to play. With the size of the fish involved and the time of the year, there’s not likely to be a need for finesse.

 

CRITICAL FACTORS

  • Water levels – With the reservoir well below summer pool during practice, fishing was great. If the water continues to rise throughout the tournament, fishing could be truly exceptional. The trick will be figuring out how fish are repositioning as the water levels change.
  • Wind – A little wind goes a long way on Chick, especially this time of year. Slick calm is bad news, but it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a ton of that this week.
  • Fish management – Any spot holding multiple big fish is going to be worth its weight in gold in this event. But with a full field of nearly 200 boats, it’s going to be hard to protect those spots, especially day to day. Having multiple spots and a quality pattern to run anywhere on the lake is likely to be essential to stringing together multiple big bags.

 

DOCK TALK

“It’s one of those deals that if it hits on all cylinders, we’ll wreck them,” says Gross. “Three weeks ago, these boys were catching 100 in a couple hours and they were all big.”

Gross would know. He’s caught some big fish in practice this week, including a near-12-pounder. All things considered, it’s hard to discount anything he says about his home lake.

As for weights, he expects the winning three-day weight to be in the mid-60-pound range with 17 or 18 pounds a day making the top-10 cut.

Thrift has even loftier expectations. He says he’s had a couple decent days and a couple “not so good days” of practice, but he’s seen enough to expect absolutely crazy weights this week.

“To fish the final day, I’m going to say it’s got to be in the 21 to 22 a day range at a minimum,” he estimates. “To win it, I’m going to say 81 [pounds].”

Any way you slice it, even a happy medium between Gross’ and Thrift’s estimates means monster bags across the tournament field. The dock talk, at least this time around, is overwhelmingly positive.

 

Tournament details

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7:30 a.m. ET

Takeoff Location: Dayton Boat Dock, 175 Lakeshore Street, Dayton, TN 37321

Weigh-In Time: Days one and two: 3:30 p.m. ET; day three: 4:30 p.m. ET

Weigh-In Location: Dayton Boat Dock on days one and two; Bass Pro Shops at 1000 Bass Pro Drive, Chattanooga, TN 37412 on day three

Complete details

Tags: justin-onslow  morning-story  2019-03-21-lake-chickamauga 

By the Numbers: Lake Champlain

By the Numbers: Lake Champlain

The 2019 FLW Tour season comes to a close later this month on Lake Champlain, a lake that just about guarantees a fun finish and lots of smallmouths. READ MORE »

Let the Rayburn Catchfest Begin

Let the Rayburn Catchfest Begin

We’re five months later into the year now, and while the water level at Rayburn has fluctuated in the months since the Tour event, it’s still about 4 1/2 feet above full pool as anglers take to Big Sam for the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury. READ MORE »

National Championship Gets Going

National Championship Gets Going

Bright and early this morning, 148 teams of the best college bass anglers in the country rolled out for day one of the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance on the Potomac River. The 10th annual National Championship is the culmination of the 2018 season, and the winning duo qualifies for the 2019 FLW Cup and earns a new Ranger boat for its club.  READ MORE »

All-American Underway on the Potomac

All-American Underway on the Potomac

Winning the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American is a lifetime accomplishment, and this week, 49 boaters and co-anglers will have the chance to do it on the Potomac River. Presented by General Tire, the crowning event of the BFL season runs May 30 through June 1, and the winner on the boater side will walk away with $120,000 and a trip to the FLW Cup. READ MORE »

Previewing the Potomac

Previewing the Potomac

Just two days separate the final day of the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American and the start of the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship, both on the Potomac River. Given the time of year the pair of tournaments land on the fishing calendar, it’s fair to expect some big things from both events. READ MORE »

Big Bags Coming on Rainy Clear Lake

Big Bags Coming on Rainy Clear Lake

One of the gems of California bass fishing might have its luster muted by the week’s weather, but Clear Lake will likely still provide plenty of opportunity for anglers competing in this week’s Costa FLW Series Western Division event, which is presented by Ranger Boats and hosted by Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina.  READ MORE »

Everything on the Table at Table Rock

Everything on the Table at Table Rock

Stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Central Division, which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Explore Branson, is primed to be an all-out show. It seems like the lake’s entire population of bass is rushing to the bank to spawn, with all three species willing to eat a vast array of offerings. The only question: Will Mother Nature play nice? READ MORE »

Young Wins Marshal Contest, Saves a Life

Young Wins Marshal Contest, Saves a Life

John Young of Canal Winchester, Ohio, walked away from his first-ever visit to Lake Chickamauga with $2,500. Perhaps more importantly, he left with a story he and his day-two angler, J Todd Tucker, will never forget. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Chickamauga

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Chickamauga

The timing of the FLW Tour event at Lake Chickamauga was both a curse and a blessing for the top 10 finishers. There were plenty of fish to be had – and on a multitude of patterns – but the big double-digit females Chick is known for were hard to track down. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Chickamauga

Top 10 Baits from Lake Chickamauga

Most people probably don’t equate Lake Chickamauga to spinning rods and finesse techniques, but both were prevalent during the FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Chick. Plenty of pros threw swimbaits, jigs and crankbaits, but the common thread among most of the top 10 is the use of a stick bait (usually wacky- or Texas-rigged) to target bedding or postspawn fish still hanging in the shallows.  READ MORE »

Cox Comes from Behind on Chickamauga

Cox Comes from Behind on Chickamauga

Weighing the biggest bag of the final day, John Cox moved from third to first to take the win in the FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Lake Chickamauga. Buoyed by two very late kickers, Cox put 21 pounds even on the scale on day four for an 83-9 total. Behind him, Buddy Gross nearly pulled off the comeback win on his home lake, tallying 81-14 on the week. With the win, Cox takes home $100,000 plus contingencies, and also moves into the Angler of the Year lead with just one event left. READ MORE »

Nelson Blitzes 25-15 on Day 3  

Nelson Blitzes 25-15 on Day 3  

Ron Nelson nearly led day one of the FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Lake Chickamauga until John Cox edged ahead at the end of weigh-in. On day three, the Michigan rookie was the last pro to weigh-in and he finally took the lead, plopping 25 pounds, 15 ounces on the scale for an even total of 65 pounds. READ MORE »

Greenblatt Takes Over at Chickamauga

Greenblatt Takes Over at Chickamauga

Weights tightened up a little on day two of the FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Lake Chickamauga and Matt Greenblatt caught ‘em again to slide into the lead. Weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces on day two, the Port St. Lucie, Fla., pro totaled up 43-2 to edge ahead of fellow Florida pro John Cox. READ MORE »

Cox Leads with 24-11 on Chick

Cox Leads with 24-11 on Chick

Day one of the FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Lake Chickamauga featured a lot of really big bass, but it was consistent quality that won the day. In the lead, John Cox plopped 24 pounds, 11 ounces down at the very end of weigh-in to take over. In second, rookie pro Ron Nelson wrangled 24-6, and four other pros managed 23 pounds or better. READ MORE »

By the Numbers: Lake Chickamauga

By the Numbers: Lake Chickamauga

The FLW Tour’s sixth stop of the season is Lake Chickamauga in east Tennessee. One of the gems of the South for hunting monster bass, the Lake of the Giants promises big fish – and lots of them – and perhaps the best chance of seeing the century mark broken this season. READ MORE »

Hunting Offshore With Setzer

Hunting Offshore With Setzer

If Braxton Setzer wins the FLW Tour’s sixth stop of the season fishing offshore, he has a faulty trolling motor to thank for it. READ MORE »

The Man With the Plan Behind KBF

The Man With the Plan Behind KBF

Fishing for bass from a kayak is a relatively new concept when you consider how established the sport of bass fishing really is. But in recent years, kayak fishing – specifically for bass, and, more specifically, in a tournament format – is poised to help expand the sport, and Chad Hoover has been at the forefront of that movement. His is the momentum that has been driving it since nearly the onset. READ MORE »

Tougher but Still Santee Cooper

Tougher but Still Santee Cooper

The Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division finale began this morning at Santee Cooper, where even though fishing has been tough, everyone expects to see mega-bags brought to weigh-in. The bass are nearly done spawning, but a strong shad spawn in the mornings offers real potential. READ MORE »

Big Weights Expected at Santee Cooper

Big Weights Expected at Santee Cooper

The Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division finishes up its 2019 season at the Santee Cooper lakes, Marion and Moultrie, in South Carolina this week. Forty pros and co-anglers will qualify for the championship, and an Angler of the Year will be crowned as the field fishes for hefty postspawn largemouths. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Cherokee Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Cherokee Lake

Targeting spawning smallmouth bass was by far the dominant pattern when the FLW Tour visited Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee in April. With a few exceptions, the top 10 pros targeted various combinations of rock and gravel banks where the fish were bedding. Finesse baits such as shaky heads, Ned rigs and small swimbaits saw the most work. READ MORE »