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Fishing Old Hickory Lake Tennessee


It’s 6 a.m. on Old Hickory Lake in Middle Tennessee, and your mind is still focused on the soft, warm bed you willingly left an hour ago. The night before, visions of reeling in a champion size large mouth bass or walleye had you itching to grab a pole. Now you just want to grab a couple more hours of sleep.

Then, you start to feel a tingle on your line. Your mind quickly shifts gears, as you go from a drowsy guy sitting on a cold boat seat to hyper sensitive super fisherman. Just as you stand up, preparing yourself for what you are certain will be a Moby Dick-like battle, there is a powerful tug on the reel and the line begins to spin out.

You pull hard on the pole and begin to crank in the line. The fight goes back and fourth for what seems hours. Finally, in a moment of triumph, the “epic battle” actually only lasting a few moments, a flash of silver pops out of the water and lands on the deck of the boat. It’s a largemouth alright and just over three pounds.

That was my first experience fishing on Old Hickory Lake in middle Tennessee. After that day, I knew it wasn’t going to be the last. The lake is a perfect example of freshwater fishing in middle Tennessee. There is plenty of variety to chase including striped bass, black buffalo, walleye, largemouth bass and of course flathead catfish just to name some of the major species found in Old Hickory.

Some of the lakes record makers include a 46-pound striped bass, a 25-pound walleye, an 86-pound flathead catfish and an 11-pound largemouth bass.

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The lake is located just northeast of Nashville on the Cumberland River. It was constructed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 1952 when the river was dammed by 3,750 feet of concrete, stretching from bank to bank. It created a lake with 440 miles of shoreline and more than 22,000 water acres, which gives it plenty of elbow room for boaters. There are nine fishing docks, 56 boat ramps and 10 marinas.

Since its creation, Old Hickory Lake has become the destination for anglers in Tennessee and from around the country. The lake is the site of several major regional and national fishing tournaments every year including the Wal-Mart FLW, Everstart, Bassmaster Megabucks, BASS Tennessee Eastern Invitational, and Super Bass Classic National Championship. For information on exact dates on these our any other lake tournaments visit www.sumnercountytourism.com.

Personally, I’ve never participated in any of the tournaments, preferring to strike out on my own, but I have picked up some helpful tips from the pros. Craig Wilkes has been fishing Old Hickory since he was old enough to stand on the shoreline and cast out a line.

“The variety and size of fish is what makes this such a great lake to fish,” Wilkes said. “And the weather in this part of Tennessee is generally good enough to let you get on the water and fish almost year round.”

Wilkes admits that the winds coming off the water in the winter months can feel “down right frigid” he said its worth suffering the cold to hook into a five or six pound stripper.

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Not every day is that good of course.

“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of thousands shad, but only end up with two keepers,” Wilkes said. “But fishing is all about the experience to me and Old Hickory Lake is just a beautiful place to spend the day relaxing.”

This time of the year the big fish are generally looking for shallow water to spawn. For stripers, live bait is the best but plastics like flukes and top-water baits like jumping minnow also do the job. I usually look for them around the base of the Cordell Hull Dam.

For bass, you can’t miss with spinner baits and crank baits. They usually collect near the mouths of the creeks and pockets of the rivers that feed into the lake. Minnows and jigs are the best bait for crappies, but you might need to float in shallow water, 4 to 10 feet, to find them.

For more information on fishing at Old Hickory Lake or for boat and camping at the lake contact the Old Hickory Lake Visitor Center, 615-822-4846, located at No. 5 Power Plant Road, Hendersonville, Tennessee 37075.