COUNCE, Tenn. – The start of Lithium Pros Stop 3 on Pickwick Lake Presented by Covercraft marks the midpoint of the season for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Fuel Me. Spring water fluctuations at Pickwick Lake have the anglers searching for a definite bite as all the other conditions point toward a few lights-out days of fishing in the near future.
Falling throughout practice, the lake has been coming down about .04 feet per hour and sits at about 414.76 feet at the beginning of the tournament off day. With 414 feet being the summer pool of the TVA, it’s a fair bet that the water levels will stop falling at some point early in the tournament, which, given the other conditions, could spark a great bite. That said, up and down conditions during the spawn are basically a part of life on the Tennessee River, so counting on things to stabilize perfectly and a Chickamauga-style sight-fishing tournament to break out is perhaps a little too hopeful.
Another factor contributing to a more difficult practice than anticipated is the lack of grass. While some pros report a little grass, the swathes that blanketed the stretch of the lake above the Natchez Trace during the Toyota Series Championship in the fall appear to largely be gone. Wintertime floods knocking out grass on the Tennessee River are another common occurrence, but it doesn’t make things easier, as a good grass bed is one of the most preferred places for fish to stage during unstable conditions.
It’s hard to find someone with better Pickwick bonafides than Mark Rose, but even he is off the beaten path for this one.
“I’ve never fished a big tournament on Pickwick this time, not that I can remember,” Rose said. “I’m sure I fished some BFLs back in the day. The one Randy Haynes won and I made that Top 10, that was the first week of May, and they were out. It was an earlier spring, the fish were done, a lot warmer. These fish are in all phases of the spawn, they’re just shy of a great shad spawn, they’re just shy of a good ledge bite, they’re in-between a lot of things right now.”
In Rose’s opinion, the bulk of the fish have yet to spawn, which could mean there will be some excellent shallow fishing during the event.
“I caught a few spawning fish the Saturday before cutoff, so I think there have been a few fish spawning. And I tried to find the ones that had worked their way out, but I never did get on that deal,” Rose said. “I think it’s a real strong transition time right now. I feel like come Thursday, that there’s gonna be a mad dash by the fish. It’s gonna be like rush hour to get to whatever cover is available. The first really 80-degree days that these fish have seen are coming the day of the tournament and I think they’re gonna make a strong push, I really do.”
For Beck, a lot of it comes down to the conditions.
“The water was up 3 feet Saturday, and it fell pretty quick,” Beck said. “The fish, there are still some shallow, but they were on their way up to do their thing and they’ve jerked the water out. So, they’ve pulled out a little bit.
“It’s a high possibility that when this water stabilizes is going to be the biggest key to it,” Beck said. “Once it stabilizes, we’ve got the temperature and we’ve got the moon for them to scoot back up quick. They ain’t far from the bushes, they went in, and they’re just out on the outer edges of them.”
Known for his offshore prowess, Beck found a much better shallow bite in practice.
“It could be a 4- to 6-foot drop, or a 3- to 6-foot drop, all the way out to your regular river drops,” Beck said. “There are fish out there, getting them to bite is not as easy as the shallower bite. Yesterday I stayed offshore pretty much all day and I probably had three keepers. This morning, I picked up a flipping stick and a bug and got bit quick. That shallow bite is definitely happening.”
Nixon has also struggled to put together a perfect bite, and like others, figures change is coming.
“It looks great, and it should be great, it’s not great,” Nixon said. “I think the fishing is decent, and it may get better when they stabilize it. Then we’re gonna get a warm night, and it’ll be warm in the tournament, so fishing could get a lot better. Dogwoods are bloomin’, the fish are supposed to be eatin’ – that’s my theory.”