If you’re looking for the best catfish fishing in Tennessee, look no further! With its diverse water sources such as the Mississippi River, Tennessee River and many lakes, this southern state is a hotbed of incredible catfishing opportunities.
In this blog post, we’ll be exploring some of the most popular spots to cast your line when searching for tasty catfish in Tennessee. So grab your rods and lures – it’s time to delve into where to go and what conditions will give you the biggest reward.
Top Catfish Fishing Locations in Tennessee
Tennessee offers numerous catfish fishing spots, attracting anglers from all over the country. The state’s fertile waters boast a variety of catfish species, including channel, blue, and flathead catfish. Below are some of the best catfish fishing locations in Tennessee, along with details on each location to help you plan your next catfishing adventure.
Chickamauga Lake is a 58.9-mile-long reservoir located in southeastern Tennessee. It was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1940 when the Chickamauga Dam was completed. The lake covers approximately 36,240 acres and features 810 miles of shoreline. Chickamauga Lake is known for its abundant blue and channel catfish population, making it a popular destination for catfishing enthusiasts. Some prime catfishing spots on the lake include Soddy Creek, Sale Creek, and the area near the Chickamauga Dam.
Old Hickory Lake
Old Hickory Lake is a 22,500-acre reservoir located in north-central Tennessee. It was formed by completing the Old Hickory Lock and Dam in 1954. With 440 miles of shoreline, the lake offers plenty of opportunities for catfish anglers. Old Hickory Lake is home to large blue, channel, and flathead catfish populations. Some top fishing spots include the Cumberland River, Drakes Creek, and the Old Hickory Lock and Dam area.
Watts Bar Lake
Watts Bar Lake is another TVA reservoir located in eastern Tennessee, covering about 39,000 acres with 722 miles of shoreline. The lake was created in 1942 with the completion of the Watts Bar Dam. Known for its healthy blue, channel, and flathead catfish populations, Watts Bar Lake attracts novice and experienced catfish anglers. Prime fishing spots include the Clinch River, Emory River, and the waters surrounding the Watts Bar Dam.
Kentucky Lake is one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, covering approximately 160,300 acres and boasting 2,300 miles of shoreline. It was created in 1944 with the completion of the Kentucky Dam. The lake is located in western Tennessee and extends into Kentucky. Kentucky Lake offers excellent catfishing opportunities, with large blue, channel, and flathead catfish populations. Top fishing spots include Big Sandy River, Blood River, and the area near the Kentucky Dam.
Pickwick Lake is a 43,100-acre reservoir in southwestern Tennessee, extending into Mississippi and Alabama. It was formed in 1938 with the completion of the Pickwick Landing Dam. The lake is known for its thriving blue, channel, and flathead catfish populations. Some of the best catfishing locations on Pickwick Lake include Bear Creek, Yellow Creek, and the area around the Pickwick Landing Dam.
Percy Priest Lake
Percy Priest Lake is a 14,200-acre reservoir located in the north-central part of Tennessee. The lake was created in 1967 with the completion of the J. Percy Priest Dam, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built.
The lake offers 213 miles of shoreline and is known for its healthy channel and blue catfish populations. Prime catfishing spots on Percy Priest Lake include the Stones River, Hurricane Creek, and the waters close to the J. Percy Priest Dam.
Reelfoot Lake is a unique natural lake situated in the northwest corner of Tennessee. It covers approximately 15,000 acres and was formed by earthquakes in the early 19th century.
Reelfoot Lake is characterized by its shallow depth and an abundance of cypress trees, providing ideal habitat for channel catfish. Some of the best catfishing spots on Reelfoot Lake include the areas around Blue Basin, Black Bayou, and Long Point.
Tellico Lake is a 15,860-acre reservoir located in eastern Tennessee. The lake was formed in 1979 with the completion of the Tellico Dam, a TVA project. With 373 miles of shoreline, Tellico Lake offers ample opportunities for catfish anglers.
The lake is home to blue, channel, and flathead catfish populations. Top fishing spots on Tellico Lake include the Little Tennessee River, Citico Creek, and the area near the Tellico Dam.
Tims Ford Lake
Tims Ford Lake is a 10,700-acre reservoir located in southern Tennessee. The lake was created in 1970 when the TVA completed the Tims Ford Dam. The lake boasts 246 miles of shoreline and is known for its thriving populations of channel catfish.
Some of the best catfishing locations on Tims Ford Lake include the Elk River, Big Hurricane Creek, and the waters surrounding the Tims Ford Dam.
Douglas Lake, also known as Douglas Reservoir, is a 28,420-acre reservoir located in eastern Tennessee. The lake was formed in 1943 with the completion of the Douglas Dam, another TVA project.
With 513 miles of shoreline, Douglas Lake offers excellent catfishing opportunities for blue, channel, and flathead catfish. Prime fishing spots on Douglas Lake include the French Broad River, the Nolichucky River, and the area near the Douglas Dam.
These fishing locations in Tennessee offer diverse habitats and opportunities for anglers. Each location has its unique history and features, making them worth exploring as you continue your catfishing adventures in the Volunteer State.
Ideal Fishing Setup for a Tennessee Fishing Trip
When planning a fishing trip to Tennessee, having the right fishing setup is essential to maximize your chances of success. The ideal setup will depend on the type of fish you are targeting and the specific location you plan to visit. However, here is a general guide to help you prepare for your Tennessee fishing adventure.
Rod and Reel
A versatile medium-heavy to heavy action rod in the 7-8 foot range suits most catfish species in Tennessee. This rod type provides the backbone to handle larger fish while still being sensitive enough to detect subtle bites. Consider using a quality baitcasting or spinning reel for the reel that can hold at least 150 yards of line with a smooth, reliable drag system.
Monofilament or braided line in the 20-50 lb test range is recommended for catfishing in Tennessee. Monofilament offers good stretch and abrasion resistance, while braided line provides superior strength and sensitivity. If you’re targeting larger catfish or fishing in areas with heavy cover, opt for a higher test strength or braided line for added durability.
Hooks and Terminal Tackle
Circle hooks and J-hooks in sizes ranging from 2/0 to 8/0 are popular choices for catfishing in Tennessee. Choose the hook size based on the bait you plan to use and the size of the fish you’re targeting. Additionally, have an assortment of sinkers or weights (egg, bank, or pyramid) to adjust your setup depending on the water conditions and fishing technique.
Live or cut bait, such as shad, bluegill, or skipjack herring, is highly effective for catfishing in Tennessee. Other options include nightcrawlers, chicken liver, shrimp, and prepared stink baits. Be prepared to experiment with different bait types and presentations to find what works best in your chosen fishing location.
A sturdy fishing net or grip is essential for landing large catfish safely. Pliers or a hook remover are necessary for unhooking fish without causing injury. A measuring tape or bump board can help you measure your catch, and a quality tackle box will keep your gear organized and easily accessible. Don’t forget to pack a comfortable life jacket for safety on the water.
Before heading out on your Tennessee fishing trip, have a valid Tennessee fishing license. You can purchase a license online or at various retailers across the state. Licenses are available for residents and non-residents, with daily or annual permits options.
By preparing the ideal fishing setup for your trip to Tennessee, you’ll be well-equipped to handle various fishing conditions and target multiple catfish species. This will increase your chances of success and help ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience in the Volunteer State.
1. How do I choose the right fishing rod for catfish fishing?
Select a medium-heavy to heavy action rod in the 7-8 foot range. This type of rod provides enough backbone to handle larger catfish while still being sensitive enough to detect subtle bites. Choose a rod made from graphite or composite materials for added strength and sensitivity.
What type of reel should I use for catfish fishing?
A baitcasting or spinning reel that can hold at least 150 yards of line is suitable for catfishing. Baitcasting reels offer better control and accuracy, while spinning reels are easier to use for beginners. Ensure the reel has a smooth, reliable drag system to handle the powerful catfish runs.
3. How should I set up my line for catfish fishing?
Start by spooling your reel with 20-50 lb test monofilament or braided line. Attach a swivel to the end of your mainline using a Palomar or improved clinch knot. Next, add a weight or sinker (egg, bank, or pyramid) to a separate piece of line (12-24 inches long) and tie one end to the swivel. Finally, tie a circle or J-hook to the other end of the weight/sinker line.
4. What bait should I use for catfish fishing, and how do I attach it?
Standard bait options for catfish fishing include live or cut bait (shad, bluegill, or skipjack herring), nightcrawlers, chicken liver, shrimp, and prepared stink baits. For live or cut bait, hook the bait through the nose, back, or tail, depending on the bait size and type. Throw them onto the hook for nightcrawlers and chicken liver, ensuring the hook point is exposed. Prepared stink baits can be molded around a treble hook or used with special bait holders.