Volunteer Division anglers will be able to fish their strengths at Watts Bar Lake - Major League Fishing
Volunteer Division anglers will be able to fish their strengths at Watts Bar Lake
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Volunteer Division anglers will be able to fish their strengths at Watts Bar Lake

Image for Volunteer Division anglers will be able to fish their strengths at Watts Bar Lake
East Tennessee's Watts Bar Lake will be in excellent shape for the June 8 BFL Volunteer Division tournament. Photo by Phoenix Moore.
May 23, 2024 • Dave Landahl • Phoenix Bass Fishing League

Although it’s not as famous as its Tennessee River neighbor Lake Chickamauga, Watts Bar Lake holds its own when it comes to quality bass and plenty of them. John Murray, a local guide and Bass Pro Tour pro, is of the opinion that anglers fishing the June 8 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Volunteer Division tournament on Watts Bar will see this lake at one of its absolute best times of the year. 

Tournament details

Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Volunteer Division

Watts Bar Lake

Spring City, Tenn.

June 8

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About the fishery

Watts Bar Lake was built in 1942 on the Tennessee River. There are approximately 39,600 surface acres and 722 miles of shoreline. Some of the better-known tributaries of Watts Bar include the Emory River, White’s Creek, Clinch River and Piney Creek. 

Along with Florida-strain largemouth bass, anglers can catch smallmouth and spotted bass as well. There is plenty of cover and structure for bass to thrive, including laydowns, some vegetation, rocky points and shorelines.

According to Murray, don’t expect Watts Bar to fish like Chickamauga in early June.

“A 9-pounder was caught recently,” Murray said. “Unlike Chickamauga, you don’t need to just focus on deep ledges offshore. Fish your strengths: flip cover or fish deep structures. With three river arms, you have a lot of options. It’s a neat lake for BFL.”

“A billion laydowns” are part of the excellent cover on Watts Bar.

What to expect

Murray says the most consistent approach over the years for putting bass in the livewell on Watts Bar has been flipping laydowns with jigs or creature baits.

“There are a billion laydowns in this lake, flipping and pitching is the tried and true Watts Bar specialty,” Murray said. “But this is also a great time of the year to be fishing deeper edges. You’ll get more bites using drop-shots and a big worm, but I feel bigger bass in deeper water will be caught using a big crankbait or a spoon. 

“Of course, guys fishing the shad spawn early with a buzzbait could catch a 6-pound smallmouth bass almost anywhere on this lake and end up winning the derby.”

Murray feels the lake is fishing better than in 2023, with improved bag limits being caught in local events.

“We had a recent tournament that took over 20 pounds to win with a five-fish limit,” Murray said. “Weights seem a little higher than years before. I’d approach this event as a big-fish derby for sure, targeting big bass with whatever method I felt comfortable with and fishing whatever my strengths are.  Watts Bar is a perfect lake to fish your strengths. If I wasn’t fishing the BPT at the Chowan River in North Carolina, I’d definitely be fishing this BFL. Watts Bar is a terrific lake.”