The fall weather is upon us, but it's somehow been stalled by a lingering summer with record hot temperatures.
Fish across the Tennessee Valley are still feeling the effects of the drought and its related low water conditions as well as hot surface temperatures.
Fear not, the fall fishing will pick up, and it won't be long as evenings get cooler and nights get longer.
Some of the best fishing right now is for late summer catfish. Catch them mostly shallow.
Crappie are still scattered for the most part, and bass are just starting to transition from a nighttime bite to increasing daylight activity. Have patience, it won't be much longer.
Tournament angler Eddie Nuckols said a few smallies can be caught at night on Watauga Lake, but they're running on the smallish side. He said the water temperature is 83 degrees.
The biggest smallmouths are less than two pounds in size lately. Catch the ones that are biting on jigs and spinnerbaits after dark.
There's a little topwater action happening just before dark as well. The talk is that a few decent largemouths are biting on up the lake. The word is most are probably hitting plastic worms around brush and on topwater plugs.
Watts Bar Lake
Chris Henderson at One Limit Bait Shop said there's not a lot going on at Watts Bar. Bass are still in a late summer pattern. The topwater bite has been a little better in the mornings. The water temperature is 80 degrees and beginning to cool with the shorter days.
A few largemouth bass can be caught on Old Monster worms, Carolina-rigs, and deep running crankbaits.
A few bass are also starting to school. Most of the nighttime bass are being caught on spinnerbaits along the main channel structure. Anglers are also starting to see an equal amount of daytime bass.
Boone Lake continues to be one of the hottest lakes going in East Tennessee for bass action. It's one of the few lakes and maybe the only one still at summer pool. It's been taking around 15 pounds to win the nighttime tournaments.
Tournament angler Wayne Routh won the latest Tuesday night event. Spinnerbaits and jigs are still producing after dark. The water temperature is in the upper 80s.
Fort Loudoun Lake
The topwater bite is decent on Fort Loudoun Lake right now. Chris Henderson at One limit Bait Shop said a few schooling fish are starting to show up. Smallies are also biting a little better of late.
The nighttime brown fish bite is best on small 5/16-ounce peanut jigs and spinnerbaits. Red and white as well as black and purple colored spinnerbaits are best. The tournament fishing has seen 19 pounds take one Friday night event and then just 13 pounds the next. Chris said the word is inconsistency.
Tournament angler Bobby Simms had 11 pounds in the last Saturday night tournament at Cherokee Lake. But it took 16 pounds to capture first place. The water temperature is still a warm 83 degrees.
Simms said anglers are catching largemouths before dark on crankbaits and then largemouths and smallies after dark on 1/4-ounce jigs. He's been using an old Bagley DB-3 to boat his largemouths. All the bass are being caught on points. Most of the smallmouths being caught are non-keepers.
Mike Churchill at Hickory Star Marina said the water temperature is still very warm at 86 degrees at Norris Lake. The striper fishing is fair to good in 35 to 45 feet of water. Anglers are catching them on jigs and other bucktails vertically. The biggest rockfish he's seen lately weighed 23 and 31 pounds.
Mike said the walleye fishing is also picking up a little early in the morning and late in the evening on spoons and nightcrawler rigs.
Anglers are catching a few bass at Douglas Lake but not a lot of them. Tournament angler Jimmy Crum said you can find a few largemouths in your normal late summer jump patterns. The water temperature is 82 degrees.
Some of the best bass fishing is still at night on a Texas-rigged plastic worm. Douglas has always been a good plastic worm lake. Fishermen were boating big numbers, but then they backed off with the late summer's heat. A few bass can always be caught on a jig or a deep diving crankbait. Crum said the lake is very low and like bath water.
South Holston Lake
Tough as nails is the best way to describe South Holston Lake. The dominate smallmouth destination is waiting on cooler weather. The water temperature is still 83 degrees with fall fast approaching.
Tournament angler Rick Chappell said spinnerbaits are working on main channel points at times. You can also scratch out a few smallies on points with 10 to15 feet of water with a jig.
Richard Simms with Scenic City Fishing Charters ( www.ScenicCityFishing.com) in Chattanooga reports that more fishermen are starting to get back on the
water since temperatures have finally moderated.
Bass fishing has basically been average, but some really good-sized largemouths have been caught in recent weeks.
Several anglers in various tournaments have taken 7 to 9-pound fish and one angler caught an 11-pound bass not long ago. Most quality fish are still being taken on river channel humps in 10 to 20 feet of water fishing Carolina-rigged and Texas-rigged worms. The early morning and late evening topwater bite has held up well. Pop-R's, Sammys, flukes and other topwater baits are working well.
A few folks who are working at it are catching some good bluegills and a few shellcrackers in 10-15 feet of water. Redworms or meal worms seem to be the best bait.
Catfishing has remained solid all summer long. Of course, it is better when TVA is generating hard and generation schedules have been weak because the drought just won't let up.
Still, most anglers are putting decent numbers of catfish in the boat anywhere from those 2 and 3-pound “eaters” with plenty of those 10 to 20-pound kickers showing up in decent numbers.
The area around the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant is always a great catfishing hotspot, but anywhere you can find decent river channel structure anywhere from 20 to 60 feet deep can be good.
Melton Hill Lake
Tournament organizer Dwayne Raines said not a lot has changed in recent weeks on Melton Hill Lake. It's been just more of the same hot weather and slowly increasing weights in tournaments.
He said fishing was much improved with jigs flipped to brush and topwater lures accounting for the bulk of the fish caught. The bite seemed to be better below Beaver Creek down to Hickory Creek. Len Hart and Shane Howard took the last tournament with 9.35 pounds in 5 fish.
Cordell Hull Lake
The fishing is beginning to get a little better, but it's still on the slow side at Cordell Hull Lake. Barbara Taylor at Granville Marina said the water temperature is 82 degrees, and the bass fishing has been tough. The lake is still above summer pool as well.
There's some milfoil starting to show up on the lake and it's welcomed by bass fishermen.
Crankbaits and spinnerbaits have been the top largemouth producers, but Barbara said they're still running on the small side. She said cooler weather is coming.
Old Hickory Lake
Guide Jim Duckworth said the best bet at Old Hickory is for catfish. They're biting in shallow pockets. He said there's no oxygen below the six foot mark, and fish are shallow because of it. The water temperature is 91 degrees. Most of the fish are being found around grass.
With no generation going on, there's no real river bite at all. Some bass are being found around the Gallatin Sewer Hole because of the generation there.
There are a few white bass in the jumps in the early morning, but they're few. Jim said the fishing is as bad as he's seen it. A few crappie can be caught by trolling 200-Series Bandits. He said to use the trolling motor to keep them as slow as possible.
Dale Hollow Lake
The water temperature on Dale Hollow is in the mid to upper 80s. Thomas Weaver at Horse Creek Dock said the nighttime smallmouth bite is steady, and those who know how to catch them are boating 8 to 10 brown fish per night.
They're pulling the lake about two feet every 10 days or so. Smallies are being caught on the main channel where the river current breaks against the bank.
One angler recently boated 3 smallies of more than 21 inches over the weekend.
Most smallmouths are holding in 18 to 25 feet of water. Jigs and spinnerbaits are working, but Weaver said the heavier 3/8-ounce jigs are getting to them first.
The Thursday night tournament has produced at least one smallie of more than 21 inches in the last four events. A few walleye are also being found at night on spoons in the thermocline at 25 to 30-feet.
Percy Priest Lake
The wind blown banks are where you're going to find most of the action on Percy Priest Lake. Guide Jim Duckworth said the water temperature is a blazing 92 degrees still.
The wind blown banks are producing a few bass on topwaters and shallow running Bandit crankbaits.
Cats can be caught shallow in three feet of water on jugs as well. A few white bass are in the jumps and hitting poppers and Road Runners.
The hybrid and rockfish bite is terrible right now. A few crappie can be found with trolled 100-Series Bandit crankbaits, and a few others on jigs in 10 to 12-feet of water.
Tims Ford Lake
Wade Smith at Tracker Boating Center said the water temperature at Tims Ford Lake is still 86 degrees. The bass fishing is a little on the slow side but the topwater action is stating to pick up early and late in the day.
Quite a few crappie are being caught by vertically jigging small grubs and tube jigs. Downriggers are working for good numbers of rockfish right now. The biggest are running about 15 pounds and are being caught on bucktails.
Clayton Bentley at Bo's Landing on Reelfoot Lake said the fishing is really pretty good. It's crappie time all over again. The water temperature is hot at 86 degrees, but so is the crappie fishing.
Clayton said they're catching them around stumps with jigs tipped with minnows and, of course, the famed Reelfoot Lake double-hook crappie rig.
Anglers are catching 27 to 30 crappie per trip and some are boating more than 50. There's no word on the bass or bluegill fishing because everybody's catching crappie. And there's quite a few big catfish being caught on the minnows around the stumps while crappie fishing.
Steve McCadams at Kentucky Lake said anglers are finally getting a reprieve from the hot and dry summer as rain and cooler temperatures entered the picture.
Surface temperatures were in the 87- to 90-degree range but will likely fall some going into the weekend as cooler nights are in the forecast. Bass action has been best around grass beds on spinnerbaits. Some fish were taking chrome and blue colored Rattle Traps, along with Texas rigged worms in the red shad, black and blue, and black with red glitter, just to name a few.
Topwater patterns produced a few fish, too, as tossing jerkbaits such as Rebel's Pop-R, Storm's Chug-bug, Rapala, and Zara Spook were fooling a few fish into striking.
The early morning and late afternoon hours were best for topwater action. Some smallmouth were showing up but not on a consistent basis as a few anglers worked Carolina rigs, jig and pig combos, and finesse baits along long sloping sandbars near the main river and around bridge piers or rock bluffs.
Crappie have shown signs of improvement and will likely improve in the days and weeks ahead as the early fall bite can be good. The fish often show a surge in activity as cooler conditions enter the picture.
Catfishermen are hoping for current in the main river. Action has been slow for the last few weeks but the early fall action could improve if current returns as fish will respond dramatically.
Anglers are catching crappie with plain minnows on the ledges of river channels at Weiss Lake.
Carolyn Landrem at J.R.'s Marina said you can find them in 6 to 10-foot depths. The water temperature is 81 degrees.
Largemouth bass are being found along river ledges as well and also under docks with deep water. Crankbaits and jigs are the baits of choice for bass. White bass are in the jumps early and late and are hitting Little George's and Rooster-tails.
Jim Fields at Townson's Bait Shop said the water temperature is in the mid 80s at Wheeler Lake. Anglers report they're still catching good bream on redworms and crickets in shallow water. The catfishing is fine on nightcrawlers and rooster livers.
The hybrid striped bass are being caught on spoons and spinners as well. The largemouth bass bite is decent on spinnerbaits. They're running in fair size. A few crappie are being caught in deeper water on minnows.
Bubba Haddock at Gray's Tackle checks in with Pickwick being one of the hottest lakes going this month. The water temperature is 84 degrees.
The last all-nighter saw 21 pounds of smallmouth brought in, and it took more than 16 pounds of brown fish to just get in the money. Haddock and his partner won the last Saturday night tournament with 18 pounds. They also had a recent lunker that weighed 4.90 pounds.
Plain red spinnerbaits in the 5/8-ounce Stan Sloan version are killing the smallies after dark. Find them along deep stump rows on the main river channel with drops near 21 feet. Haddock said the lunker smallmouth came on a Ribbit fished near grass.
The water temperature is 84 to 85 degrees at Wilson Lake, and the action isn't near as good as that at nearby Pickwick Lake. Bubba Haddock at Gray's Tackle said it took just more than 12 pounds to win the last Saturday night tournament.
Once again, the bass fishing is being dominated by largemouths with smallies being pretty much a no show in tournament creel limits. Big plastic worms and deep running crankbaits are the tickets for the largemouths that are being boated.
It's a hot 88 degrees at Lake Guntersville. Carol Ann Sporleder at Waterfront Grocery said bass are hitting early on topwater baits like Ribbits and Zara Pups around grasslines.
In the mid-morning, catch them on Snag-Proof Frogs, Sweet Beavers, and Paca Craws around the heavy grass mats.
Later in the day, hit them with 10-inch plastic worms and Fat Free Shads. Some good bass are biting, but no real big fish have been caught lately.
It's still warm at Lake Cumberland with a water temperature sitting on 87 degrees.
Rick Mercader at Grider Dock said the smallmouth bass aren't doing much and the crappie and bluegill action is slow with the continued heat.
The striper fishing on the other hand is doing fairly well. Anglers are catching stripers as big as 18 to 20 pounds, and you'll see a 40 pounder every now and then.
They're catching them on downlines with live shad fished from 35 to 40 feet.
Laurel River Lake
Kayla Napier at Holly Bay Marina said the water temperature is one of the few that's dropped into the 70s. That's not helping a lot yet because there's little success being found for smallmouth bass and other fish.
The best fishing going has been up in Craig's Creek where anglers are catching some decent sized rainbow trout.
The word is they're hitting best on nightcrawlers and minnows.
Center Hill Lake
Like most lakes, the water temperature at Center Hill is in the mid 80s still.
Jennifer Bowman at Edgar Evins Marina said anglers report catching bass on spoons, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits.
The little bit of bass action is about all that's going well.
Jennifer said the heat has everything else from crappie to bluegill shut down.