When the Toyota Series Central Division wraps up its season on Dale Hollow Lake next week – a lake known for its smallmouth fishing, thanks in big part for producing the world record smallmouth back in 1955 – its anglers probably won’t be weighing in masses of brown fish.
Due to a slot limit that allows possession of just two smallmouth in total (one under 16 inches and one over 21 inches), even if anglers manage to turn this event into a smallmouth smashfest, it won’t show at the scales. To find success in the Central Division finale, anglers will need to be specific about how they choose to put green fish in the livewell.
Toyota Series Central Division
October 29-31, 2020
Hosted by Byrdstown-Pickett County Chamber of Commerce
How the Lake Sets Up
Straddling the Kentucky and Tennessee border, the 27,000-acre impoundment was created with the damming of the Obey River above the Cumberland River. It’s one of four major flood control reservoirs on the Cumberland River and covers about 620 miles of shoreline at full pool (651 feet).
Because it’s a flood control reservoir, water levels at Dale Hollow can fluctuate enormously. At the time of publishing, the lake is about 10 feet below full pool (641.7). That water level is likely to stay about the same, but there’s some rain in the forecast throughout the week leading up to the tournament that may impact how much water the reservoir is holding and how much current is being pulled during the event.
Rocky with plenty of shoreline cover (and ample grass), there’s almost always a shallow bite to be had at Dale Hollow, especially in the lake’s many creeks (like Sulphur Creek) and major tributaries (like the Wolf River).
What to Expect
Adam Wagner is no stranger to Dale Hollow. A resident of Cookeville, Tenn., and 14-time winner in Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine competition (including an All-American win and two regular-season wins on Dale Hollow), Wagner is usually pretty dialed on what’s happening on the famed Kentucky-Tennessee fishery.
Wagner hasn’t been to Dale Hollow since his BFL win in late August, but he’s talked to Dale Hollow locals recently and has fished there plenty this time of year in past seasons. He says this upcoming Toyota Series event should present some unique challenges, mostly because of the warm weather the region has experienced to this point.
“We don’t have a fall anymore,” he quips. “The weather’s too warm. If it was cool and the water was down in the low 60s, you can throw a topwater – and they still might bite one – and can catch them real good flipping grass in the clear water.”
The warmer-than-usual water temperatures are throwing anglers for a loop right now, but there’s a chance that changes in the coming week. Forecasts predict a decent chance of rain almost every day until the tournament starts with highs rarely touching 70 and lows in the high 40s and low 50s.
“I think if the water cools down a bit you can get some really good topwater and spinnerbait bites,” Wagner says. “There’s a good shallow bite when it gets cool. In that clear water it’ll really surprise you. You can see them bite when they’re in the mood.”
Cool nights might help the bite, but they could also present some logistical issues.
“Get some cool nights and that’ll definitely help,” he adds. “Of course, then there’ll be long fog delays too, because that lake definitely fogs up when you get those cool nights.”
Assuming not much changes in terms of water temperature and water levels, Wagner expects modest bags to grace the weigh-in stage.
“I’m going to say 11 pounds a day is going to be real good,” he posits. “I think 13 to 14 pounds a day will be right there to win.”
Baits and Techniques
Dale Hollow has plenty of grass – though not as much as it had last year, according to Wagner – and some cooler weather might push some fish into that grass and turn on the flipping and frogging bites.
Assuming that’s not the case, though, there’s still a lot of shallow cover and structure from which to haul in some quality fish. Wagner expects the Wolf River and Dale Hollow’s many creeks to come into play next week, maybe in a big way.
“The Wolf River will come into play if you get a little water color, whether it is flipping or shallow cranking,” he says. “There’s some guys that really do good up there this time of year. I’m sure someone will be fishing this tournament that will do well up there, way up the river.”
The midlake area is filled with grass and sports some creeks that should keep anglers active. And if the weather cools off enough to get fish grouped up and moving out to points, it could open up a whole world of other possibilities for targeting big largemouth and smallies alike.
“I think a drop-shot could be good,” he says. “You’ve got your topwater – I think topwater could really come into play, even on fish that are out. A spoon, drop-shot, worm or a jig. And the deep grass; I think that’ll still come into play.”
In other words, fish are still scattered enough to produce up shallow and potentially out deep, on any number of baits. Pick your poison.
A lot can and probably will change in the next week, and it’s worth keeping an eye on the conditions. In any case, Dale Hollow has the fish population, grass and natural cover to give anglers plenty of good options for catching every species of black bass at any time of year in just about every way you can think of.