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John N. Felsher's Smallmouth Fishing Adventures
      Although anglers on Pickwick Lake might catch a dozen or more
species on any given day, the lure of landing a potential world record
smallmouth bass draws people to this section of the Tennessee River.
      One of a series of lakes formed by the damming of the Tennessee
River, the 50,000-acre Pickwick Lake spreads throughout parts of
Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi about 100 miles east of Memphis.  
This section of the river runs from the Wilson Dam at Florence, Ala., 58
miles to the Pickwick Dam at Counce, Tenn.
      In the Tennessee River tailrace below Pickwick Dam or in the lake
itself, anglers can catch just about any fish species in temperate North
America.  On a Strike King media outing, our party landed smallmouth bass,
largemouth bass, spotted bass, sauger, white bass, striped bass, skipjack,
crappies, yellow perch and bowfins.  Anglers might also catch walleye,
drum, buffalo, hybrid bass, carp, several species of garfish, catfish and
assorted bream on any given day.
      However, the lure of hooking a double-digit smallmouth bass brings
people to the 496 miles of wooded and rocky shorelines defining Pickwick
Lake.  John T. Gorman landed the current world record, a 10-pound, 14-
ounce fish on Dale Hollow Lake, Tenn., in 1969.  The lake already
produced the Mississippi state record, a 7-pound, 15-ounce fish.  Wilson
Lake, just upstream from Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River, produced
the Alabama state record, a 10.5-pound brownie.
      “I think Pickwick is probably the best smallmouth lake in the country,”
said Roger Stegall, a professional bass angler and guide from Iuka, Miss.  “I
predict the next world record will come out of Pickwick.  I’ve heard of some
10-pound smallmouths caught there.  It also has some largemouths in the
9- to 10-pound range and some big spotted bass.  It’s not uncommon to
fish a point on Pickwick and catch a largemouth, a smallmouth and a
spotted bass on three casts with the same lure.”
      Highly aggressive and tougher fighters than largemouths, smallies
prefer more current, deeper water and rocky bottoms.  Largemouths
generally prefer weeds and thick cover.  However, they often feed upon the
same forage and hit the same lures.  Smallies spawn at about 58 degrees
and slightly deeper than largemouths, which spawn when water
temperatures reach about 68 degrees.
      Smallmouth bass hit a variety of lures commonly used to entice
largemouths including spinners, topwater baits, crankbaits and soft
plastics.  They eat large quantities of crawfish, so lures such as craw
worms, small crankbaits or jigs that mimic those crustaceans may produce
excellent action.        
      “One of the simplest ways to catch smallmouths is to throw a smoke or
chartreuse grub on a leadhead jig,” Stegall said.  “Fish it really slowly on
the bottom.  Another good way is to throw a modified 3⁄4-ounce spinnerbait
with a Number 5 gold blade and a chartreuse and white skirt.  Slow-roll it
along the bottom.  Another really good technique is throwing a Strike King
Wild Shiner suspending jerkbait.”
      Near the Wilson Dam, the lake still resembles the old river channel
before the water spreads out into Tennessee and Mississippi.  The lake
averages 10 to 12 feet deep, but the Tennessee Valley Authority maintains
a channel for commercial traffic.  Some holes drop to more than 70 feet
deep.  Current flowing through the Wilson Dam can spark feeding activity
as it disorients baitfish and flushes food downstream.  
      “It’s always good when they are pulling current from Wilson Dam to the
Natchez Trace Bridge about 20 miles downriver,” Stegall said.  “A lot of
people fish near the dam because it’s easy to find fish there.  That area
has a lot of current breaks like rocks, logs, and stumps in the water.  Fish
get behind those current breaks.  Yellow Creek, Bear Creek, Second Creek
and Indian Creek are the four biggest tributaries to the lake.  They are all
good for smallmouths or largemouths.”
      Although the majority of the lake sits in Alabama, people can almost
fish three states at once in places.  An Alabama license allows anglers to
fish from dam to dam.  A Tennessee or a Mississippi license only allows
anglers to fish certain parts of the lake.
      People visiting the area might stay at J.P. Coleman State Park or
Pickwick Landing State Park, both near Iuka, Miss.  For more luxurious
accommodations, stay at Pickwick Pines Resort near Corinth Miss.  On the
Internet, see www.pickwickpinesresort.com.
      People can launch at Eastport Marina in Iuka.  For information, call
(662) 423-6972.  For booking trips with Stegall, call (662) 423-3869.  On
the Internet, see
www.fishpickwick.com.
Pickwick Lake could produce next
world record smallmouth bass
Roger Stegall, a professional bass angler and guide from Iuka, Miss.,
lands a smallmouth bass he caught in Pickwick Lake.
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