Lake Chickamauga MLF Should be a Spawn/Prespawn Slugfest

What lurks in the waters of Lake Chickamauga (left to right): Heath Jordan with a 9-pounder caught from the bank; MLF pro Andy Morgan with a 13-pounder; Bill Hall with a 13-pounder. (Photos courtesy

DAYTON, Tenn. – Competition in the Stage Four (Chickamauga Lake) MLF Bass Pro Tour begins Tuesday and the experts say the anglers expect to catch big bass, and plenty of them.

According to local MLF pros Jacob Wheeler, Andy Morgan, and Michael Neal, this impoundment of the Tennessee River is stacked with good, scorable-size largemouth, and some of the best double-digit trophy bass fishing opportunities in the country.

Kevin VanDam prepares to launch for an official practice day on Chickamauga. (Photo by Garrick Dixon, MLF)

“Multiple 10-pounders are possible,” said Wheeler, who won an Elite Series event here in 2014. “This lake has some of the best big-bass-catching opportunities in the country, but don’t forget, there are a ton of 2- to 4-pounders as well.”

Morgan agrees with Wheeler.

“There are seriously unbelievable numbers of 2- to 4-pounders in Chickamauga,” Morgan confirmed. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few 10-pounders and several in the 7- to 8-pound range.”

Morgan has recent experience with those Chickamauga giants: he caught a 13-pounder there in early March 2018, a fish that he documented on his Facebook page.

“That’s not the only one of those swimming in this lake,” Morgan said.

Pro angler Ott DeFoe, recent winner of the Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville hopes to keep his Tennessee River momentum rolling.

“Momentum is a real thing in fishing,” DeFoe asserted. “When you have a good tournament and make good decisions it kind of gets the ball rolling. It’s been that way for me this year and I hope I can keep it going.”

Local favorite Wesley Strader arrives for practice day on Chickamauga. (Photo by Garrick Dixon, MLF)

Early Arrival on Chickamauga

Many national tournaments fished on Chickamauga in the past 10 years have taken place later in the season – mid to late-June – when the lake’s largemouth are schooled up offshore. The MLF Bass Pro Tour arrives in town during the classic pre-spawn/spawn period, and unlike the offshore-ledge bite that has dominated many events in the past, the 80-angler field may just be in for a big bass treat in the shallows.

“The water levels are right where they’re supposed to be for this time of the year,” said Michael Neal. “There will be a slow, but steady rise in levels throughout the tournament unless there’s a massive rainstorm. The bass will be up on the shallow rocks, pea gravel, sunken stumps, and laydowns. All of the classic pre-spawn/spawn cover. Fish will be replenishing throughout the tournament.”

No Local Advantage?

Will local knowledge factor play a part in the outcome on Chickamauga? Wheeler, Morgan and Neal agree that it won’t.

“Not this time out,” Wheeler said. “It’s pretty common knowledge about some of the known big-fish areas like Harrison Bay, Sequoia, and the Powerplant, but I’m not sure those will be players. They’ll still be productive, but there will be bass caught dam-to-dam. Lots of good bass – you can’t dink yourself to first place here.”

Morgan confirms: “It’s going to be classic pre-spawn/spawn fishing. I think the known areas for big fish will still be the same areas that produce the bigger fish, they’ll just be shallower.”

MLF pro Zack Birge during a Saturday practice trip below Chickamauga Dam. (MLF Photo)

Neal also feels that his lifetime experience on Chickamauga won’t be of significant benefit to him.

“With so many bass pushing up toward the banks, there’s really no advantage for anybody,” says the Dayton native. “I think things like having a huge local tournament going on the Saturday of our event will have more impact than an angler with local knowledge.

“I believe the Top 10 will end up being spread out from one another on the lake and will show everybody just how good Chickamauga is. I mean, it’s so good right now, it’s hard to explain. Just check out the FishDayton page on Facebook: there are already 50 bass over 10 pounds registered there for 2019. Those are just the bass people took the time to report!”

Baits and tactics will run the gamut, according to Neal: “You’ll need to throw Rat-L-Traps, vibrating jigs and swimbaits; you’ll have to flip and pitch, and throw wacky rigs.”

Wheeler’s advice? Look somewhere else for advice.

“I’ve finished second in the last two events I’ve fished, so I’m not going to say anything about how to fish Chickamauga,” Wheeler joked. “I don’t think we could’ve picked a better time to fish this lake, but these MLF pros are too good. Ultimately, this will be a great event, but I’m not giving anybody anything.”

MLF professionals are taking part in numerous public events and appearances this week.

Bass Pros in the Ballpark – Monday, April 8th
• MLF Angler First Pitch – Andy Morgan to honor Morgan’s induction into the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame and Ott Defoe to honor Defoe’s Bassmaster Classic win
• Meet and greet signing table set-up by fan entrance
• Casting/Pitching contest between the first and second inning
• TIME: 6:00 p.m. autographs, game starts at 7
• LOCATION: AT&T Field, 201 Power Alley Chattanooga, TN 37402

Angler Clinic: Rhea County HS/MS – Tuesday, April 9th
• MLF Angler parking lot appearance during lunchtime
• Wrapped trucks/boats, pitching boards, angler cards, give away swag, autographs & photos
• TIME: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
• LOCATION: Rhea County HS, 885 Eagle Ln. Evansville, TN 37332

Tennessee Aquarium Promo & Sturgeon Release – Wednesday, April 10th
• Angler Q/A sessions 1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
• TIME: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Seminars from 1p.m. – 3:30 p.m., sturgeon release at 4pm)
• LOCATION: Tennessee Aquarium & Sturgeon Release at Coolidge Park, 1 Broad St. Chattanooga, TN 37402
Angler Appearances – Saturday April 13th
• Afternoon appearances and seminars
• LOCATION: Tennessee Aquarium, 1 Broad St. Chattanooga, TN 37402

MLF College Face-Off – Saturday, April 13th
• Bryan College vs. Bethel University
• MLF style tournament, Scoretracker format on Watts Bar Lake
• TIME: 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., Trophy Presentation @ 4:45 p.m.
• LOCATION: Spring City Boat Ramp, 2109 New Lake Rd, Spring City, TN 37381

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