BASS on Tennessee River Lakes in 2021
The Tennessee River features some of the most renowned largemouth bass fishing in the Southeastern U.S., leading tournament organizers to schedule events there repeatedly.
The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) will host its prestigious 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series on Fort Loudoun Lake at Knoxville, Tenn., Feb. 25-28. BASS is returning to that fishery after drawing the largest spectator crowd in its 49-year history during the 2019 Classic.
BASS will also hold two events in Alabama. On May 20-23 they head to Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro, before stopping at Pickwick Lake in Florence on June 10-13.
In addition to interest shown from enthusiastic spectators during BASS weigh-ins, these fisheries are producing heavy limits of quality-sized fish, which is what matters when as much as $300,000 in cash and prizes are at stake.
Fort Loudoun Lake, on the upper Tennessee River, extends about 50 miles from Lenoir City to Knoxville, and is connected by canal to Tellico Reservoir on the nearby Little Tennessee River.
During the 2019 BASS Classic the winner boated a 20-pound limit, including a 6-pound smallmouth. That in itself is enough for return events, but the enthusiastic welcome received from the spectators and tourism officials also made quite an impression on tournament organizers.
The reservoir doesn’t get the pressure other nearby reservoirs do, meaning fish grow older and larger. In addition, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) stocked about 150,000 Florida-strain largemouth in 2015. About a decade after TWRA stocked Chickamauga Lake with this species, larger catches started showing up in creels, including a 15-pound, 3-ounce bass (a new state record that is confirmed to be a black bass/Florida strain hybrid). TWRA designating Fort Loudoun for future releases can only mean larger fish in the future.
The reservoir also features decent structure for both smallmouth and largemouth. Anglers seeking largemouth can find perfect structure on Fort Loudoun, and smallmouth are abundant through the locks on Tellico.
The upcoming event is the 27th time BASS has visited the fishery, which is the second most popular destination in BASS history. It also has been ranked second on “Bassmaster” Magazine's list of “Best Bass Lakes of the Decade.” Guntersville has hosted two BASS events already this year.
Guntersville has abundant Milfoil and Hydrilla weed beds, where anglers can find explosive largemouth action on topwater baits. In addition, it offers a good number of submerged timber beds for fish structure. All this has led to the reservoir garnering the reputation as the place to go for trophy-sized fish.
Considered the best trophy smallmouth fishery in the country, Pickwick has been consistently chosen as a go-to spot for tournament organizers.
Since it is situated at the southern boundary of habitable climate for smallmouth, fish have longer growing seasons, which produce larger catches.
Pickwick is also at the northern boundary for threadfin shad -- a primary prey species for smallmouth bass -- and the reservoir has an abundant supply of these.
Located in both Alabama and Tennessee, BASS has held six major events here in the past, including the TNT Fireworks BASS Nation Championship last November. The reservoir also received 105,121 Florida-strain largemouth stockings in 2015.
Recreational anglers who pursue large- and smallmouth bass have the same opportunities to catch these trophy fish, and know that when the major tournament trails return repeatedly to a certain reservoir, it is for a good reason. The above lakes offer the chance for any angler to boat what could be the catch of a lifetime.