Tennessee Tarpon Saves the Day

Frustrated, Chuck and I fished and fished and could not buy a bite! We fished the generators, the lake, the lock, and several other areas. We were in pursuit of the spring white bass run at Pickwick Dam. But somehow the white bass did not get the memo that I was there to meet them! About noon, after fishing for 4 hours to show nothing, we decided to hit the generators to see if the high sun brought any fish in. Chuck tossed his favorite white bass bait out, a 2 ½” white plastic grub on an 1/8th oz jig head. He wasn’t 2 cranks into his cast and…BAM….”FISH ON” my until then frustrated fishing partner yells, and before the latter of the 2 words came out, the fish was already 2 feet in the air. The 14” shiny miniature tarpon proceeded to jump 4 more times as it pushed Chucks 4 lb test to the max on his ultra light combo. Before I could congratulate him on his catch, I was already doing a battle of my own. In the next hour or so, we proceeded to catch a skipjack almost every cast and brought our tally near triple digits. This “known for catfish and striper bait” member of the herring family saved our day! The white bass never did show and if it weren’t for the little aggressive silver slimers, we would have had a long sloooow day.


Catfisherman all throughout the south make trips yearly to Tennessee’s Dams to fill their coolers with skipjack to stock up on bait for the year. The strong oils in Skipjack put off a scent that the cats cannot resist. But what many people don’t do is see the hard fighting fish as a sport fish. I can think of many many fishing outings that would have been big ol’ goose eggs if I didn’t come across a school of Skipjack. And with an ultra light, or fly rod, they sure are a blast to catch!


My favorite baits are a white plastic curly tail on a jig head. Usually 1/8th oz, but will go heavier if the current is really rolling. Another favorite is a castmaster spoon; they cannot resist the flash of the minnow imitating bait! But these hungry little rockets will hit just about anything. I have caught them tossing 6” hard stick baits or 5” plastic jerk baits for larger fish.


Just about any of our dams in the Cumberland or Tennessee River system hold large numbers of Skipjack. They usually are in fast current or even right up in the boils of the generators. If they are there, they are usually willing to bite!
So next time the fish you are targeting aren’t cooperating, change some tactics and you may be going home with a sore arm after all!

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