Andy Morgan hooks a bass on Chickamauga Lake in Rhea County. (Photo: Garrick Dixon)

Chickamauga Lake in Dayton, Tennessee reeled in an accolade almost as large as the nation’s top bass fishermen catch during the annual fishing events the lake hosts.

Bassmaster released its “100 Best Bass Lakes” in the latest issue of Bassmaster Magazine and named Chickamauga Lake the No. 2 Best Lake in the U.S. and No. 1 in the Southeast Division.

Additionally, Kentucky Lake was named No. 25 in the Northeastern Division and Pickwick Lake was No. 6 in the Southeastern Division.

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“This is a big-bass factory,” it says in the article, touching on the 42-pound winner during Chickamauga Lake’s 2018 “The Chick” fishing event. While anglers compete to catch the biggest fish of the day, Dayton, Tennessee benefits with approximately $14 million in economic impact.

Chickamauga Lake offers 36,240 acres of premium bass fishing. It stretches from Watts Bar Dam to Chickamauga Dam, bordering Rhea, Meigs and Hamilton Counties with 810 miles of shoreline. Tennessee’s famous fisherman Bill Dance, angler and host of “Bill Dance Outdoors” on the Outdoor channel, boasts about the lake’s favorable characteristics: water current, riprap banks and rocky bottom, cool water in the summer and bait fish.

“The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Association has done an incredible job developing and maintaining the high-level fishery that Chickamauga has become,” said Kevin Triplett, Commissioner of Tourist Development for Tennessee. “Our devoted outdoor visitors love catching fish. What draws them more is not only the opportunity to catch more fish but bigger fish. We have a tremendous quality of fishing water all across Tennessee. And Chickamauga is gaining a reputation nationwide for what we have known for a while. If an angler heads to Chickamauga, he better bring a sturdy fishing line and a big net.”

Bassmaster Magazine uses current fish weigh-ins from tournaments held in the past 12 months at the fishery; the catch rates, fish and forage densities; premium access and experience for anglers.

Kentucky Lake borders Tennessee and Kentucky with 160,309 acres of premier fishing. Tournament fishermen net fish as big as seven to eight pounds. According to Bill Dance, Kentucky Lake is hailed as the “crappie capital of America” with its gravel banks and weed beds along the 2,300 miles of shoreline.

The 43,100-acre Pickwick Lake borders Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, and was praised by Bassmaster for the variety of fish (smallmouth, largemouth and spots) that can be caught in the same day. Some tournaments on the lake saw winners with fish limits weighing 30 pounds while most events see 17 pounds announced as winners. Bass, crappie, and catfish love this lake because Pickwick has a mix of shallow and steep ledges, feeder creeks, bluff banks, gravel bars and exceptional water quality.

Tennessee is home to more than 500,000 acres of lakes and 55,000 miles of rivers and streams. Of the state’s more than 110 million visitor stays, 14 percent participate in outdoor activities from fishing to boating, hiking and hunting, according to DK Shifflet. Compared to surrounding states like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri, Tennessee ranks No. 1 in total economic impact for fishing, according to 2011 research provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And, 833,000 anglers account for $1.43 billion in economic impact nationwide, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Additionally, for the first time ever, Knoxville will host the Bassmaster Classic March 15-17, 2019 downtown on The University of Tennessee at Knoxville campus. At what’s called “the Super Bowl of bass fishing,” 50 anglers will compete for $1 million in prizes.

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