Navigating the TVA System Bass Fishing, Half 1: Winter (Jan-March)

Taylor Watkins is a two-time NPFL Champion and lives in Clinton, Tennessee. As a bass angler and match competitor, dwelling inside proximity of a number of wonderful TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) fisheries alongside the Tennessee River system gives quite a lot of alternative for catching huge bass. Between Norris, Cherokee, Douglas, Fort Loudin, and Watts Bar lakes, Watkins has a number of locations to fish inside a 1-hour drive.

Dwelling on the TVA system comes with some studying curves as nicely. Between altering water ranges within the winter, spring, summer time and fall, the TVA system additionally has altering present speeds that drastically impacts the fishing high quality on any of the TVA impoundments.

For Half Two, click on right here!


TVA bass fishing with Taylor Watkins
Late summer time on all TVA lakes and rivers will be robust, however Taylor Watkins has some tricks to beat the tough late summer time chew.

In regards to the TVA System

On the headwater of the TVA system, Douglas, Cherokee and Norris lakes all feed into three separate river techniques that feed the remaining lakes. Cherokee flows into the Holston River which results in Ft. Loudon Lake. Douglas flows into the French Broad River and into Ft. Loudin as nicely. Norris Lake, fed by the Clench River, which flows into Melton Hill Lake. Melton Hill flows into Watts Barr, which can also be fed by the Emory River. On the fork of the Holston River, fed by Cherokee, and the French Broad, fed by Douglas is the place the Tennessee River begins.

The Tennessee River then flows into Ft. Loudon Lake, which then feeds Watts Bar.

Watts Barr, starting on the fork of the Emory and Clinch Rivers, feeds Chickamauga Lake. Chickamauga flows into Nickajack Lake, which ultimately feeds Lake Guntersville. Guntersville to Wheeler Lake; Wheeler then empties into Wilson Lake; Wilson dumps Pickwick Lake which drains into Kentucky Lake—and all result in the Mississippi River then into the Gulf.

As flood-control lakes to maintain Florence and Knoxville secure, Douglas, Wilson and Cherokee lakes all are dropped 30 to 40 toes under regular pool for the winter interval to have the ability to maintain spring runoff. As spring melts and rains hit the drainage areas, the lakes start to fill again up in the direction of regular summer time pool ranges.

Tennessee River system bass fishing is extensive
The TVA system gives a number of the best bass fishing throughout North America, however it takes analysis and time on the water.

Beneath the higher three lakes, Loudin, Watts Bar and Chickamauga sometimes drop 5 to eight toes for the winter whereas Nickajack, being smaller than the remainder, fluctuates in water stage. Additional down the road, Guntersville sometimes stays regular and solely drops 2 to three toes in water stage, and often earlier than a rainstorm to accommodate extra runoff. Pickwick sometimes drops 6 to eight toes in the course of the winter.

Reservoir vs River – Late Summer season/Fall

Whereas the water stage falls for the winter, the late summer time and fall nonetheless means a full pool with little water motion. Because of minimal rainfall, the water will get stagnant, and the chew will get robust. Fish start to narrate to thicker grass mats to take cowl from the solar whereas shaded banks and tree cowl additionally present a secure place for fish to dwell.

“This time of 12 months, the early morning and late afternoon is actually the perfect time to fish,” Watkins stated. “There are some key variations between the river techniques and the reservoirs. Basically, the fishing will get robust.”

Late summer on the TVA can be tough
Late summer time on the TVA will be robust, however as soon as you discover the fish a sample will be decided and replicated.

He doesn’t rule out the ledge chew within the rivers however the presentation adjustments to a finesse strategy because the fishing strain catches up with the fish. For what bass are left offshore, the strategy is completely different, and nearly all of the bass shall be chasing brim and begin to search for cowl.

“The bass would possibly nonetheless technically be on the river ledges, however I’m wanting principally at grass strains and getting away from the precise ledge itself. The bait fish transfer, and the bass will comply with shut behind. Areas with a thick grass line or holes inside the grass are good locations to focus your time.”

Whereas the reservoirs are barely completely different, the premise is analogous. The reservoirs lack the identical quantity of vegetation because the river techniques and the fish transfer to close by factors from the ledges the place they settle in earlier than fall.

“If I’m not operating up river on the lookout for colder water, I start fishing the deeper areas and work my manner shallower in the direction of the factors till I discover fish,” he famous. “Sometimes, the TVA is holding water within the reservoirs which implies there’s not a lot for present—it could actually get tremendous robust.”

Baits and Methods

Watkins will rotate via quite a lot of baits and opts for finesse shows for fish that stay offshore whereas focusing on shallower bass with a extra energy fishing strategy. The opposite bait that heats up because the water cools down is a topwater—particularly on cloudy days.

“I attempt to maintain it easy after the ledge fishing dies and the fishing will get robust,” he stated. “Once I do fish offshore its principally finesse fishing. If I run up the river, there’s the chance to fish smaller crankbaits and spinnerbaits or flip shallow cowl.

Let’s try Taylor Watkins high three strategies for each the reservoirs and the river system.

TVA River System Baits

For the rivers, a mixture of energy fishing and finesse baits will catch fish from summer time via fall.

Texas Rig

For fishing the thick grass and punching via mats to awaiting bass, a Texas Rig is a key possibility. Watkins prefers a beaver fashion bait or the same fast-falling plastic with out flapping craws.

TVA bass fishing with Texas rig
Punch rigs and Texas rigs will account for a large variety of the bass you’re capable of find this time of 12 months.

“You need one thing that falls quick to get these fish to react,” he stated. “I like this system for grass strains and even flipping up into the thicker mat. In areas the place the grass strains break up, ideally alongside the channel edge or the place mats have some form of gap below them. It is exhausting to get the rest down via.”

He pairs a 7.1:1 ratio reel spooled with 65-pound braided line with both a 7-foot, 6-inch heavy rod for 1-ounce weights, or a 7-foot, 8-inch heavy rod for 1.5-ounce weights.


One other method for grass, a topwater frog is an effective possibility. He likes to throw a frog when the fish are actively feeding and prepared to return as much as chew.

“I really feel the time out and fish what the fish inform me,” he stated. “Once they hunker down, the punch bait will get all the way down to them. If they’re feeding on the floor, the frog is my alternative.”

His frogging arrange consists of a 7-foot, 3-inch heavy rod with the identical 7.1:1 ratio reel and 65-pound braided line. He targets the holes and open areas inside the matted grass and instead, when the water stage is larger, a buzzing frog or buzzbait over high will get bit this time of 12 months.

Ned Rig/Neko

To take care of backside contact offshore, Watkins likes a neko rig and ned rig for robust circumstances. Relying on the day, when the water is stagnant and the fish are nonetheless on the ledges, a finesse presentation is required.

“I actually just like the Omega Customized Deal with Slayer Ned Head and no matter ned bait you favor. The fish have seen all of it and get robust to catch. I lower my line measurement down to eight or 10-pounds with a 15-pound chief as my fundamental line.”

He makes use of a 7-foot medium motion spinning rod for each the ned and neko rig and prefers a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm for the neko rig.


For the hardest of robust circumstances, Watkins will use a dropshot. Whereas sustaining backside contact with a 3/8-ounce weight, the bait hovers off the underside to offer the fish a distinct look. He makes use of the identical arrange because the ned rig.

Reservoir Baits


With a scarcity of grass, and fish shifting to fundamental lake and secondary factors, a topwater bait is an effective choice to catch feeding bass.

Topwater on the TVA river system
The proper rods and reels will make a large distinction in your success—don’t overlook this piece of the puzzle

“Once they begin the transition, they’re following baitfish,” he stated. “I search for bait and brush on my electronics and can begin with a big strolling bait thrown on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy quick rod for tremendous lengthy casts and I like 30-pound braid on a 7.1:1 ratio reel.”


As bass transfer additional into the creeks, a buzzbait is an effective various to the strolling bait. The fish are baitfish oriented and the Omega Customized Deal with Alpha Shad Buzzbait is his alternative fished round laydowns and transition banks.

“For open water conditions, I like a 7-foot, 3-inch heavy rod with 20-pound monofilament line. The stretch of the road permits the fish to get the bait and the heavy rod drives the hook house.”

Round grass, Watkins will change to a medium or medium-heavy motion as braided line has no stretch and the lighter rod permits the fish to get the bait.

“Within the grass you want a heavy sufficient rod to chop the grass however not pull the buzzbait away from the fish on the hookset.”

Finesse Jig

When the fish are usually not feeding and get tighter to cowl, an Omega Finesse Pitching Jig rigged with a Zoom Pace Craw will catch fish. He prefers a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy motion rod and appears for laydowns on transition banks with the jig when fish will not decide to the topwater, or the noon and afternoon solar is excessive.

Ned Rig/Neko

Much like the river techniques, going finesse within the reservoirs is required when the fishing strain will get excessive, and you should catch a number of fish. With little present shifting if any, the fish get line shy, and Watkins will fish with a 7-foot medium motion spinning rod and both 8- or 10-pound fluorocarbon leaded and a 15-pound fundamental line to try to get a number of bites.

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