The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Thursday, 09 November 2023 23:16

Great fish caught on Watts Bar Reservoir Featured

Randy Miller with his Watts Bar Reservoir large-mouth bass

Rhea County — Watts Bar Reservoir created in 1942, has remained a consistent bass fishery according to data collected over the past decades. Reservoir biologists are hopeful that a recent catch is reflective of Florida largemouth bass stocking efforts started in 2015. 

Randy Miller of Spring City caught an 11.22-pound largemouth bass on the reservoir and graciously shared the photo with reservoir biologist Mike Jolley. Jolley, an employee with over three decades of professional experience, grew up on the lake and has intimate knowledge of its waters. Jolley shared, “We routinely evaluate our fisheries in reservoirs, including Watts Bar, to assess overall health of population dynamics. Some anglers have questioned the status of the bass fishery in this lake. I’m happy to share that Watts Bar has remained a consistent fishery based on long-term, routine data collection.”

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reservoir crews perform yearly creel and electrofishing surveys throughout the entirety of the lake. Furthermore, crews have stocked one million Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into the reservoir since 2015. Jolley stated, “In my career, I’ve never seen a largemouth this size caught on the reservoir, and I look forward to seeing more.” 

Reservoirs decline overtime due to many factors including sedimentation that can cover rocky areas used for spawning and insect habitat. Nutrient loads can decrease, and necessary fish habitat degrades. Reservoir crews address habitat needs on a rotational basis adding structure. Crews and volunteers recently built and added 250 structures. Structures will be utilized by bass, crappie and various other fish at different life stages. They also provide a place for anglers to target fish. 

Fall is a great time of year to fish. Bass can resume springtime patterns, making them more easily targeted. Furthermore, waterways are less busy. Anglers are reminded to follow safe boating measures. More info on fishing and boating can be found at