Where do I start? What a week...
Wednesday/Thursday of week before last:
2 days and counting before we all leave for the trip. I get a call from my buddy Dave that his wife is sick and in the ER. Should be fine but lots of stuff going on. Long story short, a trip to Cleveland Clinic for a TON of tests, treatments, and stuff that no one should have to go through, a good diagnosis and thank the good Lord she's back home and for the most part healthy and recovered. I had committed to scrapping the TN trip altogether and was going to drive to Cleveland instead to be there for them for whatever they needed (go out and get them food, bring them clothes, someone to talk to, etc). Dave straight up instructed me to make the TN trip happen no matter what so at his wishing, that's what i did.
Friday - Sunday of weekend before last:
Work went by sloooow. At 4pm the workweek was done and i jetted home to hook the boat up and head south. Alicen followed me down and planned to fish for the next couple of days. That would not end up happening though. The entire east TN area, and consequently every single water body, was essentially trashed. 4-6" of rain fell across the entire region over the course of 3 days. That Friday night we had planned to go straight to the boat ramp and fish all night since we couldnt check into the house until 3pm Saturday. We arrived in TN to a severe thunderstorm warning that would end up lasting for 3 days. We admitted defeat that night and slept at a truck stop just off the interstate in the back of her suv. Que the makings of a true country song. Haha! The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing at the rental, eating good food and doing all the most cheesy tourist trap stuff you can think of in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area. It was not our idea or plans of a fishing trip, but sometimes you can't fight nature and just have to roll with it. Rain i can deal with, 30mph winds and lightning you just have to throw in the towel and go do something else.
Alicen left to go back to WV. My brother and a few others that were planning to come on the trip all ended up having other things come up (work, school, a house sold/had to start moving, Dave and his wife were out, etc). So there i am, alone in TN. It was an odd feeling being by myself down there since it's normally a group trip but kind of refreshing in a way. I basically turned my phone off, never checked social media or the web much at all, and essentially just cleared my head and thought about life and fish for 3 days. I could've not caught a fish that entire time and been happy. Last Monday though my plan was to fish a tailwater during the day to see what the fishing was like there then head back to the lake for the nighttime hybrid-striper topwater bite that i'd waiting since last year for. The tailwater treated me well with several white bass, drum, and catfish brought to hand. The lake, a different story. I arrived to the lake at 10pm to fish for the night. What i found was white caps and obviously no topwater bite. I spent from 10pm to 4am motoring into different coves all up and down the lake trying to find something protected and calm. Nothing. I accepted defeat and was back in bed by 5am.
At 8am and after 3 hours of sleep i was back up and in the car headed south to another tailwater. This day would be the literal key that opened the lock to the entire trip ahead. The day started drifting some shad i had caught when i first arrived. My target fish was Striper but instead I landed 31 Blue Cats, 8 Drum and a Channel Cat. Then, just before dark i finally hooked into something i knew wasn't a catfish or drum. My rod doubled over, hookset, and a long drag peeling run. Definite Striper. A solid 10 minute battle ensued and then it was in the net. 38" on the nose on the board, what a fight and fish. After that i went back to the dock and loaded up the boat. My goal was to get some numbers put up that day. I did so and got a nice Striper to boot, so i was happy. Forecasted for the night was calm winds, warm temps, and clear skies. The perfect recipe for nighttime hybrid topwater fishing. I heard a couple of crashes on top when i first arrived to my first location but not like normal. Within the first 5 minutes i caught a Hybrid and a couple of casts later a 19" Largemouth. That would end up being the ONLY Hybrid i caught in TN the entire trip and only 1 of 2 Largemouth, unreal. I fished the entire rest of the night until 4am with only 1 or 2 other blowups with nothing to show for them. Back to bed i went.
Up at 9am after a refreshing 4 hours of sleep. Instead of driving to a tailwater, i decided to fish the lake all day throwing carolina rigs and deep diving crankbaits for bass. Since i would be meeting Dcasto that night at the lake, it would save me a bunch of driving. Long story short, i fished for bass all day and only got 2 hits, missed them both, and no fish brought to hand. I was feeling pretty bummed until i talked to several other boats including a couple of local boats that i felt confident they knew what they were doing and not one single other boat had boated any more than 1-2 fish and small ones at that. The lake has risen about 15ft over the course of the previous 3 days so it had the fish all out of whack. Dcasto and I fished the lake that night until around 2-3am and not a fish. We headed back to the house to get some rest for the next day. This day would go down as my first day ever of not catching a single fish in TN.
We woke up and drove to one of the tailwaters i had fished earlier. After my previous days 17 fish-less hours on the water, and since it was his first day down, we both just wanted to catch some fish. Our plan was to catch catfish first, then go to an adjacent tailwater that is usually loaded with white bass and drum. We were on a mission to just pad the numbers. Haha! We arrived to the first tailwater to find it about 8ft higher than what i had fished it on Monday. We decided to fish it anyway since there was a nice big eddy right along the bank. The fish had to be there since the current was ripping in the middle. We fished a while and landed a couple of cats and drum. Then, Dcasto hooks into something bigger. I could tell by the run it was a Striper. He lands the beast and what a giant it was. Fattest fish i'd seen in a while. We land it, take a pic or three and my next cast i hook one. I get halfway spooled and it comes unbuttoned. Dang. I cast out again and at the end of the drift i get a thump. Hookset and a brief fight later, I've got a striper in the net too. We fish a couple more hours with no luck then decide to go to the adjacent tailwater to dominate white bass and drum. That plan worked like a charm and we dominated a bunch of different species for the rest of the evening. We met Gill that night at the lake for 1 more try at the nighttime Hybrid topwater bite. Nothing. We gave it up and headed home.
The magic day. Playing off of hints and clues from my Tuesday outing and the previous days trip with Dcasto, we knew the Striper had to be in the one tailwater in good number, it was just a matter of figuring them out. We arrive and have a few hits but no real solid connections. We talk about trying something heavier since all of us were throwing 1/2oz-3/4oz baits. Gill ties on a 3oz swimbait and hooks up and lands a nice Striper. After a second hookup/catch i tie on a 1.5oz swimbait and my first cast land one too. We all tie on heavier swimbaits and proceed to catch 16 more solid fish to end out the day. My biggest was a taped 38" and boga grip weighed 28lb slab. Most every fish we all caught was over 30". It was a day we'll never forget. Finished the night off with a celebratory gas station parking lot Taco Bell dinner for good measure.
Back at the tailwater no doubt. We proceed to fish the way we did the previous day. I caught a little Striper and a Spotted Gar. I had never caught one before. I had cast out and when i reeled in my bait bumped and snagged the thing so it was in no way legit, but still one of the coolest fish i've seen.
We then decided to actually put my boat in the water. We drifted a few times and caught a drum. Then i had an accidental snag Paddlefish catch. Gill wanted back on the bank so our plan was he would fish the bank and Dcasto and myself would boat fish until either of us figured out a pattern then we'd all stick to whichever it was. Gill ended up catching quite a few Striper from the bank and I ended up with a few from the boat, another Paddlefish, and Dcasto put on an absolute clinic on the Drum. I finished out the day with a beautiful Walleye right at dark. We topped the night, and trip, off with a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings. I ate a pile of wings and toasted the day and trip off with a nice cold Guiness. Cheers Tennessee, cheers.
We all head our separate ways. I did have some unfinished business though. I'd never made the trip to TN and not caught a Smallmouth. A quick 5 mile detour on the way home near Kingsport and a few casts into the North Fork of the Holston and a couple of lower teens Smallies were brought to hand. Trip complete.
**Trip Species Recap: Largemouth, Smallmouth, Striper, Hybrid, White and Yellow Bass, Flathead, Blue, and Channel Catfish, Longnose and Spotted Gar, Paddlefish, White Crappie, Drum, Walleye, and a Buffalo for a total of 16 Species.**
WV Born and Raised
Multi-Species Fishin' Addict
Appalachian Range Outdoors
Vibe Kayaks Pro Fishing Team