Put simply, Tennessee is a great state for bass fishing. The state’s best bass fishing lakes tend to be big, sprawling reservoirs, with lakes like Pickwick and Dale Hollow providing some of the best bass fishing in this, or any, state.
Clear water, steep banks and a rocky bottom characterize 30,600-acre Douglas Lake (sometimes called Douglas Reservoir). Points and offshore structure are reliable bass magnets, but you can also find success targeting near-shore weed beds and brush piles. Though historically a largemouth lake with excellent recruitment and growth rate, Douglas Lake has also been stocked with smallmouths in recent years, adding a new opportunity for anglers.
Dale Hollow Lake
Made famous by its controversial world-record smallmouth (an 11-pound, 15-ounce giant that has been unsurpassed since 1955), Dale Hollow Lake lies across the Kentucky border. A lot of years have passed since the record was set, but Dale Hollow continues to earn its title as the self-proclaimed Smallmouth Capital of the World. Clear water, abundant forage and a wide variety of cover make it perfect smallmouth water, and there are also plenty of big largemouth bass to be caught.
This 43,000-acre giant sprawls across three states – Alabama and Mississippi are the other two – and provides some of the best bass fishing in all three. Pickwick is famous for its smallmouth bass, but there are plenty of 5-pound-plus largemouths here too. Tournament anglers often weigh in with a mixed bag, and a five-fish daily limits weighing 20 pounds or more is not uncommon.
One of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, 160,000-acre Kentucky Lake sprawls across the border between Tennessee and Kentucky, and its many stump fields, points and coves are magnets for big largemouth bass and the anglers who follow them. Kentucky lake is also an amazing crappie fishery, and the artificial brush piles that crappie anglers have sunk all over the lake provide a bonus bass habitat.
Don’t let this 34,500-acre reservoir’s reputation as a crappie lake fool you. Crappies may be big and plentiful, but largemouth bass grow fast and huge in Chickamauga Lake. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the best action takes place in winter. Targeting sloughs, creeks, bluffs and submerged stumps is a key to success, and there are lots of 10-pounders to be caught. In 2014, a local guide brought in a five-fish limit that weighed an incredible 49 pounds.