The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency manages several small lakes across the state for fishing and recreation. The bass fishing potential of these places may surprise you.
by Vernon Summerlin
All these Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) lakes are well managed and manicured, and, surprising as it may seem, most experience relatively little fishing pressure. These lakes are also perfect for family fishing outings to catch largemouths, crappie, bream and catfish. And these are fishing lakes only. Swimmers, skiers or yahoos ripping around on personal watercraft won't bother you.
The agency lakes were created to supplement fishing opportunities, particularly in the middle and western portions of the state. Of the 17 TWRA lakes, which range in size from 15 to 500 acres, nine lie west of Kentucky Lake. All but two lakes in West Tennessee require a $3 daily permit fee for anglers between 16 and 65 years of age with a Tennessee fishing license. Holders of the Sportsman License are exempt from the fee. All of the lakes have fishing piers, and boat rentals are available at all but Garrett and Whiteville in West Tennessee, which are the two lakes not requiring the $3 fishing permit. Garrett Lake is open 24 hours a day, but the others open a half-hour before sunrise and close a half-hour after sunset. Only Bedford, Marrowbone, VFW and the four Williamsport lakes prohibit operating gas motors.
SUMMERTIME TECHNIQUES Summertime angling techniques apply to all these lakes, with the exception of Marrow Bone, which is a spring-fed lake and has cool water throughout the summer and fall. On the other lakes, a good general plan includes starting with topwater baits over cover (which is abundant in most of these lakes) early and late in the day and on cloudy days. A floating weedless worm is another effective bait for working the aquatic vegetation, laydowns and fish attractors.
As the sun gets higher, switch to deep-running cranks, spinners, plastics rigged Texas or Carolina style and, probably the most effective of all, shiners or large minnows. With the water being the warmest of the year in August, fish the waters near the dams because it is deepest there. Sonar will help boat anglers locate the deep spots in the lake.
Most of the lakes have a plentitude of small bass; therefore, smaller versions of the baits mentioned are appropriate for them. For example, use 4-inch worms instead of 8-inchers, and tuffies instead of shiners.
You should notice that bass limits and length restrictions are not uniform in all agency lakes. Many have Protected Length Ranges (PLR) to preserve spawning-sized fish. The PLR, where in effect, allows you to keep only one bass 18 inches or longer. Proper measurement is from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
To learn what the bass are hitting and where the best action is, ask the lake's concessionaire on those lakes that have one. They are a good source of lake intelligence.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
MARROWBONE LAKE IN DAVIDSON COUNTY Concessionaire John Pepper said, "TWRA claims this lake is like a fish hatchery. We have great reproduction. We have a lot of small bass and encourage people to take five home with them."
Marrow Bone Lake is 60 acres in size, spreading across a dammed hollow with long fingers reaching up other hollows. It has depths of 40 feet with several creek channels. Many laydowns along the banks provide good cover, as does the aquatic vegetation that grows along the banks. It gets heavy fishing pressure on the weekends from spring to fall.
"The lake is full of springs that keep the water cool in the hottest part of summer," said Pepper. "In fact, the bass hang around these springs. There are so many of them that I don't know where they all are. The best way to find them is to come out here when the water is muddy, and you'll see the clear circles around them."
Pepper believes that jig-fishing is the most productive method for this lake. He says you have to "listen" to the fish.
"They'll tell you which baits and colors they want. Every day is different. I suggest you start with jigs fishing the trees and weedbeds. Most of the time you can stay with the jig because they hit it all day. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, plastic baits and topwaters are good, too; you just have to listen to the fish. It's a matter of letting the fish talk to you - that's true on any lake," he said.
Monthly bass tournaments are held on Marrow Bone each month except January. It is on Marrowbone Lake Road near Joelton, approximately 20 miles north of Nashville. From Nashville, take U.S. Highway 41A (Clarksville Highway), go left on Eatons Creek Road and then take a right on Grays Point Road. The concessionaire's phone is (615) 876-9050.
It's open year 'round. Facilities include a boat-launching ramp, a fishing pier, boats and trolling motor rentals, bait and tackle, restrooms, picnic tables and concessions. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish, warmouths and blue and channel catfish. You may keep five bass 14 inches or less and 18 inches or longer, with only one being greater than 18 inches.
CARROLL LAKE IN CARROLL COUNTY Carroll Lake is a flatland reservoir of 100 acres with aquatic vegetation. The lake is shaped somewhat like a rectangle. Bobby Wilson, Assistant Chief of Fisheries, said, "Carroll is an old lake, built back in the 1950s. In the late 1980s, we drained it and made some improvements. It has a good population of medium to small bass."
It's hard to beat a weightless worm worked over the lily pads early and late in the day during the summer and fall. The pads are in the shallow upper end. The area around the dam is about 15 feet deep, and the riprap is a good place to fish in the summer.
Carroll Lake is on State Highway 22 between McKenzie and Huntingdon. From I-40, take exit 108 (Highway 22) and go approximately 20 miles north to the lake. The concessionaire's phone is (731) 352-0654.
It's open year 'round. Fishing facilities include a boat-launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, boat rentals, bait and tackle, picnic areas, restrooms and concessions. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish and blue and channel catfish. You may keep five bass with no length restrictions.
DAVY CROCKETT LAKE IN CROCKETT COUNTY Two major arms make up the 87-acre Davy Crockett Lake. The north-pointing peninsula that divides the lake has steep banks.
Wilson said, "The best bass fishing areas in summer are along both banks of the peninsula because the water is deep there. The best bank-fishing is from the dam, and the outside shorelines are shallow."
He says the lake has a good distribution of bass sizes. The new 10-fish limit is to help remove some of the smaller fish.
Davy Crockett Lake is about four miles west of Humboldt off State Highway 152. From I-40, take exit 80B (U.S. Highway 45) north to Humboldt, stay on the bypass west of Humboldt and turn right on State Highway 152W. The concessionaire's phone is (731) 784-3889.
It is open year 'round. Fishing facilities include a boat-launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, boat rentals, a picnic area, a playground and restrooms. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish, and flathead, blue and channel catfish. You may keep 10 bass with no length restrictions.
GARRETT LAKE IN WEAKLEY COUNTY Garrett Lake is one of two agency lakes that don't require a permit. This 183-acre lake has two launching ramps. The one at the northwestern bank at about the center of the lake is rather primitive and not as good as the one on the southeastern side.
As in flatland lakes, bass run the banks early and late in the day and head for the deeper areas during the middle of the day. Eagle Hill Road runs into the lake, and if you can locate the submerged roadbed, you'll have a good place to fish for bass. The dam also holds bass, as do the large cove on the western side and the smaller one on the east. The upper end is shallow and not likely to have many bass.
Garrett Lake is about seven miles east of Dresden off State Highway 54. Take State Highway 190 north of Highway 54, go right at the split and follow directional signs to the lake and the better of the two ramps. The lake manager's phone is (731) 423-5725.
It is open year 'round. Fishing facilities include a boat-launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, a picnic area and a picnic pavilion. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish, chain pickerel and blue and channel catfish. You may keep five bass with no length restrictions.
GLENN SPRINGS LAKE IN TIPTON COUNTY At 310 acres, Glenn Springs Lake is one of the three largest agency lakes. A long arm and a short arm make it a J-shaped lake.
Wilson said, "Glenn Springs is our newest lake in West Tennessee; it opened in 1995. It is one of our best bassing lakes. All the shoreline is steep, 35 feet in places, except the shallow upper end. Its bass cover is outstanding - aquatic vegetation, standing timber and fish attractors. Of course, the dam is a good place to fish in summer and fall. There is a little island I recommend anglers try. It's in the arm across from the fishing pier."
This lake, Graham and Davy Crockett are the lakes where you have the best chance of catching a big bass.
It's located on Glenn Springs Road 12 miles northeast of Millington. From Memphis, take U.S. Highway 51N from I-240. Go left on Drummonds Road, turn right on Glenn Springs Road and go one mile to the lake entrance. The concessionaire's phone is (901) 835-5253. Fishing facilities include a boat-launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, boat and trolling motor rentals, bait and tackle, a picnic area, restrooms and concessions. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills and catfish. You may keep five bass 14 inches or less and 18 inches or longer with only one being greater than 18 inches.
HERB PARSONS LAKE IN FAYETTE COUNTY This 177-acre lake gets a lot of pressure from the Memphis folk. The peninsula points have dropoffs that hold bass in summer, as does the dam. The large cove on the southern side of the lake has beaver lodges and holds bass. There are fish attractors and downed trees throughout the lake.
"This is a good lake to catch a lot of bass if you aren't picky about the size," said Wilson. "Occasionally, a 7- or 8-pounder is caught, but it isn't one of our lakes for big bass. I would rank it among the top half-dozen agency lakes."
Herb Parsons is about eight miles north of Collierville off Collierville-Arlington Road. The lake concessionaire's phone is (901) 861-5087.
The lake is open year 'round. Facilities include a boat-launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, boat rentals, a picnic area, a playground, restrooms, vending machines and concessions. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish, chain pickerel, and blue, channel and bullhead catfish. You may keep 10 bass 14 inches or less and 18 inches or longer with only one being greater than 18 inches.
LAKE GRAHAM IN MADISON COUNTY With 500 acres, Lake Graham is the largest of the TWRA lakes, and it's shaped like a "V." It has a lot of standing timber, so be careful when navigating, because many trees are broken off just below the waterline.
"This lake holds a special place in my heart," said Wilson, "because that's where I started my career with TWRA as lake manager in 1980 as the lake was being built. It opened in 1983, and 50 percent of the lake has standing timber. The channels are marked to help boaters avoid the trees. It's a deep lake, too. All the coves are deep except in the upper ends.
"It's a bit crowded with smaller bass, and we're hoping people will take them. We stocked the Florida-strain bass from the very beginning, and we've been putting them in since 1998. Those 4-year-olds probably weigh close to 4 or 5 pounds now. We'll stock them again next year, too. We put them in Carroll Lake, Browns Creek Lake and Shellcracker Lake of the Williamsport lakes.
"The lake record is over 13 pounds, and I believe the next state record will come from there. I'm surprised it hasn't happened already. The fish have the genetics, the timber, the food - everything is in place for some big ones. Every year we hear of 10- and 11-pounders coming out of there."
Lake Graham is about five miles east of Jackson on Cotton Grove Road. From Nashville, take I-40 exit 93 to U.S. Highway 412, and follow 412 to Cotton Grove Road. From Memphis, take I-40 exit 85, turn right to Parkway and follow signs. The lake manager's phone is (731) 422-0950.
Like Parsons, Graham is open year 'round. Facilities include a boat-launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, boat and trolling motor rentals, bait and tackle, a picnic area, restrooms, vending machines and concessions. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish and blue and channel catfish. You may keep 10 bass 14 inches or less and 18 inches or longer with only one being greater than 18 inches.
MAPLES CREEK LAKE IN CARROLL COUNTY Maples Creek, in Natchez Trace State Forest,
is 90 acres with lily pads. TWRA shocks up a few 8-pound bass in their surveys. The 8-pounders usually come from the point across the lake from the fishing pier and the point across from the old boat shed. It is not one of TWRA's better bassing lakes because of the many small bass and the few big ones, with not many in between.
Maples Creek is about four miles north of I-40 in Natchez Trace Park. From I-40, take exit 116 (State Highway 114) to Maples Lake Road. The lake manager's phone is (731) 423-5725.
Open year 'round, the lake has a launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, boat rentals, a picnic area and restrooms. Game fish species consist of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish and blue and channel catfish. You may keep five bass, with no length restrictions.
WHITEVILLE LAKE IN HARDEMAN COUNTY Whiteville is the other fee-less lake and has no concessionaire. This good-sized 158-acre flatland lake is silted in and mostly shallow. Wilson ranks bass fishing here as fair because it's overcrowded with small bass. Regulations have changed to encourage anglers to keep the bass they catch.
Whiteville Lake is two miles south of Whiteville off U.S. Highway 64. The lake manager's phone is (731) 423-5725.
It is open year 'round. Facilities are limited here, with a boat-launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, a picnic area, picnic pavilions, a playground and restrooms. Game fish species include largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish and blue and channel catfish. You may keep five bass, with no length restrictions.
COMING ATTRACTIONS Look for a new TWRA lake to open in Gibson County. If all goes well, the largest of the agency lakes will open April 2003.
Browns Creek Lake (covered in Part I last April) will become a trophy-bass lake next year with a PLR limit from 16 to 21 inches. It has been stocked with Florida-strain bass and was stocked again this year. Aquatic vegetation and trees, as well as threadfin shad, will be put in the lake. Wilson says they will electroshock the lake to remove the small bass. The lake won't be closed to fishing while it goes through the changes.
That completes a look at TWRA's 17 lakes. Happy hooking!
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