Break out the finesse baits


With cold weather and water temperatures in the low 40’s, anglers need to bundle up and break out their finesse baits. Who will defeat the elements to claim the crown?

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - Kayak fishing competitors heading to the second event of the 2021 Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® this weekend had better bring their woolies because cold air is on pace to clash with the competition at Watts Bar Lake in Knoxville, TN. Saturday is expected to top out at 40 degrees and Sunday might reach the 50-degree mark. Low temperatures in the region earlier this week dipped down to 20 degrees.

“The conditions anglers will need to endure for our Watts Bar Lake event is a brand-new test of skill and determination,” says tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “Already, we’ve seen some of the coldest practice fishing temperatures we’ve ever had so there’s no doubt things are going to be challenging. Still, the Farwide Angler of the Year points are just as valuable - and the payouts will be significant as always. With that in mind, we’re looking forward to seeing how our elite field handles the chill and figures out innovative ways to fill their limits in this cold weather scenario. I’m thinking everyone should bundle up and be prepared to tackle winter fishing patterns.”

Located roughly midway between Chattanooga and Knoxville, TN, this expansive reservoir on the Tennessee River features more than 39,000 acres of surface water, 722 miles of shoreline, deep water ledges at its southern end, plus plenty of islands dotting the main lake. The bass filled waters here begin as the Tennessee River below Fort Loudoun Dam in Lenoir City and continue for over 70 miles to Watts Bar Dam near Spring City. Along the way the Clinch River, Emory river and several smaller but significant tributaries including White’s Creek, Caney Creek and Poplar Creek add to the flow. The system supports impressive populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass with an especially strong representation of fish in the 2- to 3-pound class.

“I think this is the ‘sleeper lake’ of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) system,” says Hobie B.O.S. veteran, Kristine Fischer. “It’s on the same stocking program as Lake Chickamauga, a bit downstream, and it doesn’t receive a ton of pressure from the tournament circuit. It has remarkable populations of chunky largemouth and smallmouth bass, plus decent numbers of spotted bass as well. All three could factor into the outcome this week, but I think that the smallies will probably be most in play because they have really good genetics on this river and can be a little more aggressive than the bigmouths in a cold-water environment. Every time you set the hook here you also have a chance at connecting with a beast, so it’s vital to make the most of every strike. I’ll be carrying a jerkbait, jig, small swimbait, finesse-style Alabama rig and, probably, a drop shot or Ned rig.”

Fischer, who recently moved to Tennessee, suspects water temperatures in the low 40-degree range will make for long stretches between bites which anglers will have to counteract with mental toughness. She also believes the better scores will be concentrated in deeper water. “Although some shad and other baitfish have been spotted in the back bays and tributaries,” she says, “I’m betting the best bite will be in secondary staging areas on the main lake, and I might check for warmer water around the edges of the bigger islands, too. We’ve got some incredible offshore anglers on this circuit so this might be their chance shine and show off their skills with finesse tactics.”

Like Fishcher, fellow Volunteer State resident Jordan Marshall figures it’s going to take a lot of work to come away with a check at this event. “This lake is jam-packed with bass in the 16- to 19-inch class, but I doubt it’s going to fish big given the cold. I think people are going to have to cover a lot of water using finesse methods to grind out some fish and hope to keep upgrading throughout each day. Considering the conditions, local anglers are likely to score well since they probably know of a few spots that hold fish year-round. Still, I don’t think the pre-fishing is going to help much this week, so if you are coming from out of town the playing field should be pretty level whether you get in three days of practice or just one.”

Marshall notes that Watts Bar is an exceptionally versatile lake in terms of fishing opportunity. “There’s a good ledge bite at the southern end of the lake, plenty of small docks for anglers that like to target visible structure, and lots of moving water between Kingston and Melton Hill, so there are plenty of ways to fish here,” he explains. “I plan to look for current as one of my keys, and I’m going to cover a lot of water. Luckily, I have a Hobie 2020 PA 14. It’s fast, stable and excels in the flow. To be efficient in the current and keep on moving, there’s nothing better than a Hobie with a Marriage Drive. I think that, and my local knowledge of the lake, should give me a bit of an edge as we kick off the competition.”

As for enduring the cold, McWhorter suggests competitors come prepared with warmer, drier clothes than usual, and mentally brace for any nasty sliders Mother Nature throws at them over the weekend. “They are going to have to really work hard to climb up the leader board at this event,” he concludes. “It’s going to real interesting to see the creative ways they get the bass to bite. I know it’s going to be cold out, but that will just give us another chance to see what these elite kayak bass anglers are made of. Cold or not, I can’t wait to get this tourney started.”

For more information on the Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power-Pole, or to register for an event, visit: