Record largemouth bass catch sparks excitement at Watts Bar Reservoir

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023

RHEA COUNTY – Watts Bar Reservoir, a popular angler’s paradise since its creation in 1942, has upheld its reputation as a consistent bass fishery, as affirmed by decades of data collection. Reservoir biologists are now optimistic that a recent remarkable catch could be attributed to the diligent Florida largemouth bass stocking efforts initiated in 2015.

The remarkable catch in question was made by Randy Miller, a Spring City resident, who reeled in an astonishing 11.22-pound largemouth bass from the depths of the reservoir. Eager to share his once-in-a-lifetime catch, Miller promptly forwarded a photo of the colossal bass to the reservoir biologist, Mike Jolley.

Jolley, a seasoned professional with over three decades of experience, possesses an intimate understanding of Watts Bar Reservoir, having spent his formative years on its waters. Jolley expressed, “We regularly conduct thorough assessments of our reservoir fisheries, including Watts Bar, to gauge the overall health of population dynamics. Some anglers have expressed concerns about the status of the bass fishery in this lake. I am delighted to report that Watts Bar has consistently proven to be a thriving fishery, supported by our long-term, routine data collection efforts.”

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The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) reservoir crews play a crucial role in monitoring the reservoir’s fisheries. They perform yearly creel and electrofishing surveys across the entire expanse of the lake. Moreover, these dedicated crews have diligently introduced one million Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into the reservoir since the inception of the stocking program in 2015. Jolley enthusiastically declared, “In all my years in this field, I have never witnessed a largemouth of this magnitude caught in our reservoir, and I am eager to witness more such successes.”

Over time, reservoirs can face various challenges, such as sedimentation, which can bury crucial rocky spawning areas and insect habitats. Nutrient levels may decline, and fish habitat can deteriorate. To address these concerns, reservoir crews have been implementing habitat improvement initiatives on a rotational basis, which includes the construction and placement of 250 new structures. These structures will benefit a range of fish species at different life stages and also provide anglers with attractive fishing targets.

With the arrival of fall, anglers have an excellent opportunity to explore the reservoir’s abundant offerings. As bass resume their springtime patterns, they become more accessible targets, and the waterways become less congested. However, anglers are reminded to adhere to safe boating practices. Additional information on fishing and boating in Tennessee can be found at tnwildlife.org.