Tennessee has countless opportunities for anglers and hunters to chase dreams across the state. World-class fishing and superb hunting is right in the backdoor of most every region in the state. However, sometimes it is good to get away and take a trip to try out a new location. Fortunately there are other great options at state parks and resorts.
Tennessee has numerous state parks, with many located right on the banks of great fishing waters or situated reaching some great public land hunting. Even better, state parks offer a variety of lodging and camping options, as well as amenities to make trips more comfortable and fun.
EDGAR EVINS STATE PARK
Anglers have an absolutely perfect location from which to sample the great fishing on Center Hill Lake at the Edgar Evins State Park. There are opportunities for many different fish species at Center Hill, but with more than 18,000 acres, this middle Tennessee reservoir supports a great black bass population.
The black bass season on Center Hill never stops; it only transitions. Anglers can go there any time of year and have a decent opportunity at boating fish. Obviously, some times are much better than others, but it truly offers year-round opportunities.
From late winter until the spring spawn is the peak time for bass. Center Hill has good populations of all three black bass species and all make their way shallower as the water warms in spring. This means some fantastic action with good chances at landing a hawg, as prespawn is when the big females are at their heaviest.
Although all three species come shallow in the spring, they do not all move to the same locations or same depths. Different tactics and locations produce better for certain species. However, it is possible to catch different species in the same general vicinity.
Largemouths are usually found along the banks with an easier slope into deeper water, preferring areas with wood or other cover. Smallies and spotted bass prefer banks with steeper drops, typically along rocky banks. Long tapering points that go from deep water to shallow water may hold all three species along the length of the point.
A favorite bait for much of the year is a Bandit crankbait, with the 200 and 300 series most frequently used in either shad or crawfish. Other great baits include jigs, spinnerbaits and plastic worms or creatures.
After the spawn, bass move deeper but are still in play. Some bass stay shallow all summer, and long points where bass can easily move up and down in the water column are always good bets. Spotted bass get pretty deep in the summer months with anglers specifically targeting spots using a drop-shot rig to finesse them a bit.
Fall is another great time to target black bass on Center Hill. As water cools, bass start moving shallow again and put on the feed bag for the coming winter. Look for smallmouths on steep banks especially ones with shade. A football-head jig in peanut butter and jelly color is a good option, as is a plastic grub. The turbo tail grub from Bass Assassin is especially good because of the vibration put out by the spade tail.
For largemouths, anglers often go back to a Bandit crankbait or a spinnerbait. One technique that is not well known but is really catching fire on the lake is using a Big Hammer swimbait. This bait is not going to produce huge numbers of bass, but it is definitely a big-fish bait. A shaky-head rig with a 4- or 6-inch finesse worm is often employed for spotted bass. Another great option is going back to the drop shot with a 4-inch finesse worm, such as the Robo Worm Fat Shad or Zoom Finesse Worm in kudzu color.
1630 Edgar Evins State Park Road – Silver Point, TN 38582 – 931-858-2115
Rooms: 34 economy suites, $70 – $100
Camping: 60 improved sites/9 primitive, $10.50 – $31.25
Onsite Amenities: Restaurant, marina, three boat launches, gift shop, hiking, birding
Nearby Amenities: Lodging, dining, shopping, sight-eeing, nightlife
PARIS LANDING STATE PARK
One of the best jumping-off spots in the state for some excellent waterfowl hunting is Paris Landing State Park. However, there is also world-class fishing available at Barkley and Kentucky lakes.
Millions of waterfowl migrate down the Mississippi River corridor and span out to follow other river systems as well. The Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, along with Kentucky and Barkley lakes, are magnets for passing waterfowl. This puts hundreds of thousands birds right at Paris Landing.
Added to the natural attractions are two national wildlife refuges that amplify the enticement for birds to hang out in the area. The Big Sandy Unit of the Tennessee NWR is very close to Paris Landing. Nearby is the Cross Creeks NWR, which is also extensively managed for waterfowl. Add in the two big lakes, the rivers and the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and it makes a perfect storm of waterfowl nirvana.
The area gets some migrant Canada geese, as well as some resident Canadas and white geese, too. However, the real gem is the amount of ducks the area attracts. Mallards are by far the most numerous, but hunters are likely to encounter most any species of duck that travels the Mississippi Flyway. Thousands and thousands of puddle ducks or dabblers come through the area, but hunters see plenty of diving ducks on the lakes as well.
There are lots of places within easy reach of Paris Landing where hunters can hunt ducks. Plenty of public land is available, although some of the locations require being drawn in a lottery for blinds. Other areas are open for walk-in with some of the drawn blinds available on a first-come, first-serve basis if the blind owner does not show by a certain time. Check the TWRA website or hunting guide for complete regulations.
There are also guides available with reasonable rates for day hunts. Steve McCadams (www.stevemccadams.com) has been guiding in the area for some 35 years and is one of the most popular guides in the area. He offers open water hunts on the Tennessee River and flooded private land hunts for ducks and geese.
Paris Landing SP has plenty of lodging options. The campground has 45 RV sites with water and electric and 18 primitive sites. For more comfortable lodging, hunters may want to stay in one of the three-bedroom cabins or in a room at the inn. There are 130 guest rooms at the inn with balconies facing Kentucky Lake. Suites are available with mini fridges and microwaves. The inn also features a fitness room.
Bringing a duck hunting boat is no problem either as there is a boat launch at the Paris Landing marina. The marina is open in the winter, weather permitting, but has shortened hours from the peak summer season. There are plenty of other launching locations a short drive away. The Riverboat Restaurant at Paris Landing offers excellent menu choices as well as seasonal buffet options.
16055 Hwy 79 N. Buchanan, TN 38222 – 731-642-4465
Rooms: 130 guest rooms, $58 – $213
Camping: 45 improved sites/18 primitive, $13.75 – $24
On-site Amenities: Restaurant, golf, gift shop, marina, fitness room
Nearby Amenities: Lodging, dining, sight-seeing, nightlife, LBL
PICKWICK LANDING STATE PARK
The obvious choice for staying at Pickwick Lake is at Pickwick Landing State Park. It is big and comfortable and offers lots of lodging options, as well as great access to the lake and Tennessee River. There is a three-lane boat launch and rentals for canoes, fishing boats and pontoons.
Pickwick Lake offers great year-round fishing for a variety of species and it is a superb place to target a mixed bag or simply a place to spend vacation fishing for whatever fits the urge. Black bass and catfish are the two most popular species, but there is also great fishing for crappie, stripers, sauger and panfish. It definitely has something for every taste and is great for the whole family.
Black bass is king at Pickwick and in years past that meant predominantly smallmouth bass. While there are still some great smallies in the lake, the largemouth population has made a big comeback over the past few years. One of the reasons for the uptick in largemouths is the increase in aquatic vegetation seen over the past 10 years or so. There is also a good population of spotted bass, so anglers have all three main species of black bass to target.
If that is not enough of an incentive, a hybrid bass has been showing up in recent years, which has added a lot of excitement to bass fishing. It is a cross between a smallmouth and a spotted bass and locals are calling it a mean mouth bass. Fish in the 4- to 5-pound range are caught regularly.
Bass fishing follows regular patterns at Pickwick in the spring, but come summer, there is a phenomenal ledge bite. Bass set up shop on ledges in deeper water, particularly those with shell beds present. The best action occurs when there is current being pulled. Later in the fall, bass move shallow, which brings a third great time to catch boatloads of hungry bass.
The lake offers great fishing, but going out on the river below the dam brings another dimension. Bass are certainly in play there, but huge catfish and stripers also prowl the waters below the dam. Anglers cruise up close to the boils, throw out baits and drift downstream with the current. This is a great tactic to use from the dam all the way down to the first power line crossing. Live baits caught from the river are best to use, but other tactics work, too.
Wintertime is not a down time at Pickwick. There is great fishing for bass, stripers and catfish throughout the winter months, although a little more patience is required. The bite is not quite as prolific as the warm months but winter is a great time to catch a real trophy.
Another winter opportunity on the river is for sauger, which travel upstream in late fall to congregate below the dam until early spring. Fish on bottom with jigs, minnows or a jig tipped with a minnow to put lots of these hard fighting and tasty fish in the cooler.
There are many other state parks near great hunting and fishing, meaning a little bit of research can reveal some awesome opportunities.
116 State Park Lane, Counce, TN 38326 – 731-689-3129
Rooms: 119 guest rooms, $80 – $245
Cabins: 10 cabins, $120 – $140
Camping: 48 improved sites/33 primitive, $10.50 – $31.25
On-site Amenities: Restaurant, golf, disc golf, marina, tennis, swimming, birding
Nearby Amenities: Lodging, dining, sight-seeing, nightlife, Shiloh Military Park