Jefferson County, Tenn. — Teams from 10 states across the Southeast will converge in east Tennessee May 24-26 for the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeast Regional at Douglas Lake, and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Skylar Hamilton believes plenty of bass will be caught.
“You can catch 12 pounds in 30 feet of water or catch 12 pounds flipping shallow or fishing up the river. Whatever you want to do, you can catch 12 pounds,” the Dandridge, Tenn., native said. “A 4-pounder is like gold on Douglas. It will be a fun but frustrating time of year. You will catch a lot of fish, but size will (be hard to come by).”
Nestled in the hills of Jefferson County, Douglas Lake provides the opportunity to catch quality largemouth and spotted bass. Douglas has played host to several B.A.S.S. events, most recently the 2021 St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open won by Daisuke Aoki with 43 pounds, 13 ounces.
The Southeast Regional will feature teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Anglers will launch out of the Dandridge Dock Boat Ramp each day at 6:30 a.m. ET, returning to the harbor at 2:30 p.m. for weigh-in. The full field will compete on Days 1 and 2, while Day 3 will feature the Top 16 boaters and nonboaters along with the top two boaters and nonboaters from each state if they are not already in the Top 16. Full coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com.
Smallmouth and largemouth bass are the showcase species at Douglas Lake, and both will likely play a big role. The bass will be targeting gizzard and threadfin shad, as well as bluegill and crawfish.
The end of May historically is the time a lot of the bass will make their move to their offshore areas, Hamilton said. Both largemouth and smallmouth will congregate in these areas, which are long points that have slate and gravel patches, brushpiles and rockpiles as well as ledges and dropoffs.
“It’s when the females that just got done spawning are recuperating offshore,” Hamilton said. “That is prime time. The good thing about Douglas is, they don’t have far to swim. There isn’t a big migration. They are up in a bush one day, and the next day they can be out on the ledge in 25 feet of water.”
These bass can be caught with the regular assortment of offshore techniques like deep-diving crankbaits, football jigs, spoons and big worms. Finesse presentations have also become popular choices on Douglas. With limited amounts of cover, forward-facing sonar will likely play a big role.
“Those fish get pressured so fast,” Hamilton added. “It will be (whoever) finds a group of fish that isn’t as pressured or rotates as many spots as they can.”
At the same time, there are plenty of bass that stay shallow as well. What those fish will be on will be determined by the water level, which will still be rising up to summer pool. A big rain event could send the water into the bushes, which will provide more cover and opportunity for ambush points.
“The way things are now, you can fish shallow on Douglas and do just as well if not better than someone who is offshore,” Hamilton said. “Anything on Douglas that is shallow can hold a fish. We don’t have any grass, so if there is something in the water up shallow there will likely be a fish next to it.”
It will be the angler’s choice on how they want to catch these shallow bass. Topwaters, squarebills and spinnerbaits will likely play a role, as well as swimbaits.
The top-finishing boater and co-angler from each state represented in this tournament will earn a spot in the 2023 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on legendary Lake Hartwell Oct. 18-20.
The tournament is being hosted by the Jefferson County, Tenn., Department of Tourism.
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Title Sponsor: TNT Fireworks
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC