With spring water temperatures rising faster than usual, Bassmaster Elite Series pro David Mullins believes there will be plenty of bass caught during the 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open at Cherokee Lake presented by Mossy Oak Fishing.
But finding a few quality bites will be the key to catching the winning bag.
“Everybody is going to have 10 to 13 pounds,” the East Tennessee native said. “A 4-pounder goes a long way on this lake. It is almost like fishing a New York smallmouth fishery. The weights are so tight. There are so many 2 to 2 3/4-pound fish that everyone can catch. It is just a matter of separating yourself with a big one or two.”
Competition days will be March 31-April 2. Anglers will take off from Cherokee TVA Dam Boat Launch each day at 7 a.m. ET and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m. The Top 10 boaters after Day 2 will advance to the championship round while the co-angler champion will be crowned at the conclusion of the Day 2 weigh-in. Full coverage can be found on Bassmaster.com.
The Holston River impoundment stretches 59 miles through the hills of East Tennessee and covers around 30,000 acres. Made up of mostly rock structures, Cherokee features all three species of bass, with largemouth and smallmouth making the most impact on tournament results.
“The only thing Cherokee has is rock and mud. There is nothing else,” Mullins said. “Usually one side of the lake will be flat and the other side has a bluff. There’s not a tremendous amount of cover you have to go through. No grass or standing timber and very little brush.”
Cherokee Lake has hosted several Bassmaster events, including an Elite Series event in 2017, a College Series event in 2018 and most recently a Bassmaster Open in 2020.
During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the event until the end of October and current Elite Series angler Matt Robertson claimed the trophy with 40-12. The bass caught during that fall event were largely found in deeper water, some as deep as 30 and 40 feet.
That will likely not be the case this time around, as warm weather will be coaxing the bass to the shallows to spawn, according to Mullins.
“This historically will be a prespawn bite. But as warm as I’ve seen it already, the water temperature is in the mid- to upper 50s, there is a high chance it will be all spawn when (anglers) get there. The bass will be really close to where they want to spawn, whether that is in pockets or just off the channel in the flats. There may even be some postspawn.”
With very little cover in the lake, Mullins said the bass will spawn on different types of rock structure, whether that is bigger rocks, pea gravel or slate banks. He added that smallmouth and largemouth can be found close to the same areas and don’t have much separation in their spawns.
“The largemouth tend to be in the pockets and creeks, whereas smallmouth tend to be close to the main channel. But with it being this time of the year, they will be in the same areas,” Mullins said.
With gizzard and threadfin shad being the main forage in the lake, Mullins said he expects topwaters, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and other moving baits to play a big factor for prespawn bass while shaky heads and drop shots have been historically productive for spawners.
With the water rising pretty much every day during the spring months, anglers will likely not be able to see the bass on their beds.
Mullins expects it will take around 16 pounds a day to take home the trophy.
With one Southern Open completed at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Tennessee native Brandon Lester leads both the Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year race and Southern Opens standings with 200 points, followed byJoey Cifuentes III (199) and Tom Frink (198).
Visit Jefferson County, Tennessee, is hosting the event.
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: St. Croix
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Presenting Sponsor:Mossy Oak Fishing
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Strike King, Triton Boats, VMC
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The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series presented by Mossy Oak Fishing, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship, Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX, Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.