Holston River Smallmouth Fishing

North_Fork_Holston_RiverpubdomWhether you are a fly angler or spin fisherman, you’ll love fishing for smallmouth bass on the Holston River.  Like many of the rivers in this part of the United States, bronzebacks grow fat and happy, even in skinny water.

From Wikipedia:

The Holston River is a major river system of southwestern Virginia and east Tennessee.  The three major forks of the Holston (its North, Middle and South Forks) rise in southwestern Virginia and have their confluence near Kingsport, Tennessee.  The North Fork flows 138 miles (222 km) southwest from Sharon Springs in Bland County, Virginia.  The Middle Fork flows 56.5 miles (90.9 km) from near the western border of Wythe County, Virginia, joining the South Fork in Washington County southeast of Abingdon.  The South Fork rises near Sugar Grove in Smyth County and flows 112 miles (180 km) southwest to join the North Fork at Kingsport.  From there the main stem of the Holston River flows 136 miles (219 km) roughly southwestward, just north of Bays Mountain, until it reaches its confluence with the French Broad River just east of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.  This confluence is considered to be the start of the Tennessee River.  Source

Holston River Smallmouth Fishing

Timothy Keller HolstonSeveral reservoirs have been built along the Holston, and most of the fishing opportunities in east Tennessee are on tailwater stretches beneath the hydroelectric dams between lakes.  The Cherokee Dam tailwater runs a little over 50 miles from Jefferson City, TN through Blaine and Mascot, TN before finally winding all the way down to Knoxville.

This stretch is touted to be some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the state, and, arguably, even the country.  It can’t be argued, though, that this river puts up great numbers of respectable to trophy smallmouth bass in any given year. This is  a direct product of careful management, stocking, a fortified forage base, and great natural recruitment by the spawning smallies.  Source

This river’s crystal-clear waters, diverse underwater structures, and abundant baitfish populations make it a prime location for landing trophy-sized bronzebacks. Let’s dive into the top spots and tips for targeting smallmouth bass in this picturesque waterway.

1. South Holston Dam Tailwaters:

This section, just downstream of the South Holston Dam, boasts consistent water temperatures and oxygen-rich flows. The tailwaters are often teeming with baitfish, attracting predatory smallmouths. Look for areas with swift currents and rocky structures; these spots are ideal for drifting live bait or casting soft plastic lures.

2. Fort Patrick Henry Lake:

While not strictly a river spot, this impoundment of the South Fork Holston River is a haven for smallmouth bass. Focus on the deep water near the dam and around submerged timber. A slow-moving jig or drop-shot rig can be particularly effective in these areas.

3. Rotherwood Rapids:

Rapid sections of a river can be excellent hunting grounds for smallmouth. The turbulent waters of Rotherwood Rapids offer numerous pockets and eddies where bass like to ambush their prey. Cast spinnerbaits or crankbaits parallel to current seams to entice strikes.

4. Shoals and Gravel Bars:

Throughout the Holston River, you’ll find various shoals and gravel bars, particularly in the middle and lower sections. These structures provide ideal habitats for baitfish and crayfish, the primary diet of smallmouth bass. Use crayfish-imitating soft plastics or live bait in these areas.

5. River Bends:

As the Holston winds its way through the landscape, it creates deeper pools on the outer curves of its bends. These deeper areas often house big smallmouths. Casting deep-diving crankbaits or dragging a Carolina rig can yield fantastic results.

Tips for Fishing the Holston River:

  1. Seasonal Movements: In the spring, smallmouth move to shallow areas for spawning. Focus on gravel bottoms and shallower structures. During summer and fall, they’re more likely to be found in deeper waters, especially during the hottest parts of the day.
  2. Lure Selection: Soft plastics, especially those mimicking crayfish, are a favorite for Holston River smallmouth. Spinnerbaits, topwaters, and jerkbaits can also be very effective, especially in the early morning or late afternoon.
  3. Safety First: The Holston can have swift currents and sudden depth changes. Always wear a life jacket, especially if you’re wading or kayaking.
  4. Catch and Release: To maintain the quality of fishing on the Holston, consider practicing catch and release. This ensures that future generations can enjoy the same thrilling experience.

The Holston River, with its scenic beauty and prolific smallmouth population, is a dream come true for bass anglers. By understanding the river’s structure and the habits of its smallmouth bass, you can improve your chances of landing that trophy bronzeback. So gear up, hit these top spots, and enjoy the thrill of the chase on the Holston!

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