Deep crankbaits haven't kicked in yet on Boone Lake, perhaps due to the unusually high water levels. Photo courtesy Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Rex Pendergrass at Watson’s Marine in Bluff City believes having some current is always a good thing when you’re reservoir bass fishing.
With all the water moving downhill through the TVA system, there has been a lot of current this summer. Average water surface temperatures have been trending cooler than usual not only on Boone Lake, but all the way down the line to the Tennessee River.
Cooler water and steady current means more active fish and a lively bite. But there is a down side.
“We’ve had so much excess water this summer that there has been a lot of color and trash and debris to deal with,” he said.
The bass fishing on Boone Reservoir has held up despite the higher-than-normal water levels on that TVA impoundment.
“Water color doesn’t seem real bad on the South Holston side. The Watauga side got pretty nasty, but it’s cleared up a little bit now,” Pendergrass said.
“I’ve been hearing a little bit of everything, from fish up shallow to fish out deep. Boone is always hit or miss, because there are so many combinations of what can be happening with the current.”
The small rootbeer pig-and-jig remains a night fishing staple on that lake. The flippin’ jig bite is also holding up for numbers, if not for size. The deep crankbait bite has not shown up — perhaps a casualty of unusually high water levels.
Last weekend, Joe and Allen Leonard won the Watson’s Marine night tournament on South Holston with five fish weighing in at 19.25 pounds. Brad and Larry Coffman came in second with five fish at 17.84 pounds. Jigs and big Texas-rigged soft plastic worms (10 to 12 inches) contributed to the winners’ circle.
Joe Slagle at Lake View Dock on South Holston Lake reports that the smallmouth fishing after dark has continued to hold up on that reservoir.
“They’re getting down a little deeper. Some guys are catching a few on the big crankbaits on the Virginia side. But getting to them with the (pig-and-jig) has been the main way to go about it around here,” Slagle said.
The trout fishing continues to thrive on that lake, both for daytime trollers and night anglers down-lining natural baits under the lights.
Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton has been receiving encouraging reports of the nighttime spinnerbait bite on Cherokee Lake. On Douglas, the pig-and-jig has been the dominant bass bait, fished in 25 to 30 feet of water.
“I haven’t heard anything from our local lakes and rivers,” Colyer said. “I would think that the rivers should be in the best shape to fish that they’ve been all year. Water levels are normal and the water is clear.”
Keith Bartlett, author of “The Weekend Angler’s Guide to Good Fishing,” has spent most of his recent angling time exploiting the jig bite on South Holston. But he is keeping a close watch on the Holston River through and below Kingsport.
“The river looks like it might finally be settling down a little bit. This is really going to be a great source of smallmouth fishing because it’s been unfishable for the better part of two months,” Bartlett said.
He has already laid out his plan of attack. He’ll start with topwater lures, including small Spooks, Pop-Rs and buzzbaits. Then he’ll work his way down into the water column, with hard and soft subsurface lures that probe various depths. Small spinnerbaits are also good to keep on hand for days when the water is a little stained.
Ben Walters at Eastern Fly Outfitters in Johnson City reports that he’s heard of a few stripers being caught on streamers in the lower end of the Watauga tailwater.
For trout fishing, the South Holston has been the most reliable of the two rivers, but the fish have been particularly selective when dialing in on the sulphur mayfly hatches in that river.
“Trout have been awful picky on the sulphur patterns. It’s a day to day thing, so you need a good collection of Pale Morning Dun and sulphur patterns in sizes 16 to 18,” Walters said.
Due to fluctuating water conditions, an even broader range of nymph sizes — 12 to 18 — come into play with subsurface offerings. Hot patterns have been standard Pheasant Tails and, if you want to go all ‘Pacific Rim’ on the trout, the Tungsten Death Metal Pheasant Tail.
George Thwaites is a Sports and Outdoors Writer for the Kingsport Times-News. Email trophy fish photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KTNSptsThwaites.