Story by Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons
SPRING CITY, TN. – Anglers and their family make their way to Spring City, Tennessee for the third stop of the 2022 National Professional Fishing League on Watts Bar. Hosted by Spring City, Tennessee, anglers will compete starting Wednesday May 25th through Friday the 27th. The fish are in the post-spawn “funk” phase and its anyone’s game this week. Low weights are expected on this Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir and shallow, mid depth, and deeper offshore bites should all play.
About the Lake
Controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Watts Bar is a manmade reservoir along the Tennessee River in East Tennessee. It’s about 72 miles long extending northeast from the dam to the dam at Fort Loudin. The dam spans 2,960 feet and is 112 feet high, providing flood control and electricity for the region. With the current water level at 740.92 ft, almost at normal summer pool, anglers will be able to spread out and fish both shallow and deep this week.
With a colder day Monday and some weather moving in for the start of the tournament on Wednesday, Taylor Watkins doesn’t believe the fish will do a lot of moving throughout the week on Tennessee’s Watts Bar.
“I think the combination is going to keep the bass where they are now, and maybe the fish that are currently offshore will start biting a little better, but overall, with the weather, they should stay put. I don’t see fish that are not offshore now moving out there this week.”
Watkins expects a decent event for fish catching and thinks 85% of the NPFL field will bring a limit to the scales daily. Watts Bar is wide open right now, and although the fishing is tough, anglers can pick their poison and fish how they are comfortable.
“You can basically fish however you want right now – you could flip, toss moving baits, fish out deeper, fish shallow, finesse fish or power fish – maybe a topwater.”
With bass in all stages, and the lake seemingly a few weeks behind for this time of year, Watkins still isn’t sure what the winning pattern will be this week. Sampling the offshore bite some on the first day of practice, the bass he is catching are not the right ones, yet.
“The guys who know what to look for will get on them and will not miss the ‘deal.’ Someone will idle this week and find some things but they may be sharing water out there. I think overall the fish are scattered and spread out and it should help spread the field out and you may have some things to yourself.”
Another angler agrees that Watts Bar is a bit behind schedule. Derrick Blake has some history on this week’s playing field and thinks with a lot of bass just coming off the spawn, it may not be the event everyone was thinking leading up.
“Some of us guys caught fish with bloody tails and they are in that funky phase. There were some local events here this weekend and it took 12 pounds to win, which is low. It’s going to be tough on us guys this week.”
When the anglers finished up practice on Sunday, the fishing was a little tough due to lack of water movement. Blake expects the current to pick up a bit during the week and is still unsure about the offshore bite.
“Watts Bar is different than the other TVA Lakes. If you find a group with 20 bass here that’s a big group. It also seems like the last five years; they just don’t want to go offshore like they used to either. With the lack of current, and the fish just seeming to have come off beds, I think it’s going to be a tough week.”
Echoing the others about tough conditions, Brian Hatfield also notices the fishing being down the last few years, even more this year. He sampled the offshore bite in practice and reports the size and quantity are not what he is looking for.
“The spawn has been a little later but the fish offshore here are not the same as Chickamauga, we don’t have the big groups of fish and they don’t seem to want to go out there like other places. Maybe it’s the vegetation growth or the striped bass, but for whatever reason the weights are down.
Hatfield, like Watkins, doesn’t believe the fish will move a lot this week and the bass that are offshore should remain, and the ones shallow should stick close by.
“I believe we are not going to see much movement. Maybe some fish will move off the bank, but they won’t necessarily move out offshore. I think it’s going to be a tough tournament – 10 pounds a day should get paid easily.”
How to Watch
Tune in daily May 25th through the 27th to thenationalprofessionalfishingleague.com to watch daily action from Watts Bar, with Live Coverage beginning on Thursday. Follow along and watch the daily LIVE Leaderboard, LIVE Blog, and on the water photo galleries and blogs of the anglers on Watts Bar!
Check out the LIVE Weigh-ins, here!