April 2015 Wilson / Pickwick Lake Fishing Report

April is one of the best months for fishing on Wilson Lake. Crappie will be moving to the shorelines to spawn along with the bass and shell crackers. Catfish will begin to stage on shallow bluff ledges and points leading into the mouth of feeder creeks and sloughs. Target catfish in 10 to 20 feet of water on the upper portion of the lake. Hog Island, the Wheeler dam tailrace downstream to Town Creek, and the rocks of the old river lock system near Bluewater Creek will hold plenty of cats. Worms, shrimp, chicken livers, guts, and cut bait will all do well now. On the lower portion of the lake, search for catfish in Shoals Creek along the channel ledges and isolated wood cover. All the bluff wall ledges 15 to 40 feet deep will hold fish. For trophy fish try fishing just off the bottom along the ledges of Jackson Island near Wilson Dam. Whole live shad or large chunks of skipjack will be your best bet. Smallmouth bass will be post spawn and ready to feed. Drifting live shad in the Wheeler tailrace will be at its best. Smallmouth will also be found hanging off the ends of long points in 15 to 30 feet of water on the lower end of the lake.

The first week of April is historically the peak spawn for smallmouth bass on Pickwick Lake in the “Horseshoe” below Wilson Dam. Last year we had several 10 fish 45-50 pound catches trolling live shad in this region. Target fish in the calm water early in the morning and late afternoon. Move out into the edge of the current and eddy pools during the middle of the day. Fish will stage along the Pond Creek gravel bar as well as the pea gravel bars across from McFarland Park. On the lower end of the lake target both catfish and smallmouth on humps and gravel bars in 10 to 20 feet of water. Typically, the bass will hold on the up current side and top portion of the hump, while catfish tend to hang near the backside and closer to the bottom. Use live shad if you’re targeting both species. If your targeting catfish only, shad or skipjack guts will be best fished on light line with spinning tackle. For heavy weight catfish use your electronics to locate fish along the basses of the river ledges. Bigger catfish will be found near rock or wood cover near the bottom in deeper water. For catfish trips, meat or trophy, or live bait smallmouth action, contact Brian Barton at www.brianbartonoutdoors.com or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

March 2015 Wilson / Pickwick Lake Fishing Report

March is the best spring month for catching a trophy catfish on Wilson Lake. Fish will begin to migrate from their deep winter haunts to shallower water to begin feeding to build body fat reserves for the upcoming spawn. When water temperatures reach the upper 50’s, catfish will begin to migrate upstream toward Wheeler Dam in great numbers. Ledges and steep contour breaks along the numerous islands in the middle portion of the lake will be good locations to start your search. Troll large pieces of cut bait or whole live gizzard shad very slowly along the drop-offs. Most fish will be on or near the bottom so I typically drag a few baits with a float rig and suspend a few baits 1 to 3 feet off the bottom. On warm sunny days try fishing rock bluff walls on the North side of the lake. The sun concentrates shad schools along the bluff and the catfish are not far behind. March is the month for a mix bag on Pickwick. The catfish bite should be good from one end of the lake to the other. Fish will begin to transition from deep holes and ledges in the river channel to open flats and rock piles. I prefer to anchor upstream of the fish and “walk” bait back to the fish from a stationary position. Live shad, shad guts, and crawfish work best this time of the year. Fish will still be grouped in numbers so if a fish is caught stay put and fish the area thoroughly before changing locations.

March is the month for smallmouth bass on Pickwick. Without a doubt more trophy fish are caught this month than anytime of the year. Depending upon water temps, smallmouth will spawn the later part of March or early April. Fish have been gorging on shad and their body weights are peak. I like the mid lake area from Natchez Trace to Pride Landing. Concentrate on pea gravel banks, sandy flats, and small chunk rock bottoms in 6 to 15 feet of water. There will be plenty of fish in the “ Horseshoe “ below Wilson Dam, but there will also be plenty of anglers there also. Your chances for trophy fish are much greater downstream where fishing pressure is much less. Five fish strings of 22 to 25 pounds are very common if you can locate fish that haven’t been pressured. Best tactic, locate fish, fish holding structure, and then anchor and float a live shad minnow back to the fish.


February 2015 Wilson / Pickwick Lake Fishing Report

Water temperatures on the Tennessee River will be the coldest of the year this month. Fish can still be readily caught but angler patience will be needed. For catfish on Wilson Lake, start your search along the steep bluff walls on the North side of the lake. Fish will position along ledges from 40 to 90 feet of water. The old Muscle Shoals Aqueduct in the mouth of Shoals Creek is good this time of the year. Fish vertically in the standing timber from Gray’s Landing to McKernan Creek. This flooded timber holds some big catfish throughout the winter, but anglers must fish stationary to avoid snags. Remember to downsize bait and to give each set at least 30 minutes before moving to another location. Search your electronics for deep schools of bait fish. On sunny days, the catfish will suspend underneath the balls of shad.

Pickwick Lake can be boom or bust this month depending upon the water conditions. If heavy rains and rising, muddying waters occur, search for catfish in the mouths of feeder creeks all along the lake. Fish will move into only a few feet of water to feed on the influx of worms, crawfish, insects, and other invertebrates that are washed in by the heavy rains. The pipelines near Pride Landing and Colbert Steam Plant are good bets if the river is stable. The river channel ledges from Cane Creek to Waterloo will hold plenty of catfish. Use your electronics to locate structure along the ledges then anchor upstream and work baits back to the cover. Stumps and logs traditionally produce better in winter than rocks from my experience. Late February is the one of the best times of the year to land a trophy smallmouth. Fish live shad around cover on gravel bars and tops of ledges in 10-18 feet of water. Drifting or anchoring will both work but I prefer to anchor if Wilson Dam is generating less than 50,000 cfs. When drifting use just enough weight to keep your bait down without constantly dragging the bottom. If anchored, cast at a 45 degree angle in the current and bump the bait along the bottom till it reaches the back of the boat then reel in and repeat the process.

For guided Catfish or live bait Smallmouth Bass fishing, contact Captain Brian Barton at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit our website at www.brianbartonoutdoors.com.

November 2014 Wilson / Pickwick Lake Fishing Report

This month will be a little more difficult for catching numbers of catfish than the previous months. Passing cold fronts and falling water temps will decrease the activity and mood of the fish. Fish will also begin to school up in large numbers, which means locating them will be more difficult. If anglers can locate a school of fish in a feeding mood the action can be good. The key to catching fish now is to anchor down and fish stationary. Try to present baits right at the fish and leave it as still as possible. Cut the bait size down and use a smaller hook like a 3/0 or 5/0. Cut baits will still be best, along with whole shad minnows. I like to cut the tail off the small shad in colder water. Concentrate on deeper water in the lower 1/3 of the lake. I like the Steenson Hollow area on the south side of the lake in 60 to 80 feet of water. The bluff lines from Indian Springs downstream to Wilson Dam will be good. Here focus on steep ledges and the base of Jackson Island.

Last year December on Pickwick Lake was on fire. Use live shad on the river ledges and holes in river channel to double on both catfish and bass. I like the ledges from Natchez Trace to Brush Creek on both sides of the lake. There are several holes in the river channel that are 3 to 10 feet below the remaining bottom. Anchor just upstream of the hole and allow your bait to drift back into the hole. Fish will normally be positioned at the front end or along the top edge of the hole. Walking bait with a three way swivel or simply a split shot above a hook will both work fine. Drift the main river channel from O’neal Bridge to the head of Seven Mile Island to catch numbers of smallmouth. For catfish concentrate on the base of the bluff line at Sheffield and the rock row near Tuscumbia Landing. Live shad minnows are always best but small cut bait chunks or bait shop shiners will also work. For up to date photos and information visit us on Facebook at Brian Barton Outdoors or the web at www.brianbartonoutdoors.com.

October 2014 Wilson / Pickwick Lake Fishing Report


This is one of my favorite months of the year for catching catfish on Wilson Lake. Water temperatures will ease back to the upper 60’s this month and that will fire the cats up. Wilson and Pickwick Lakes have an excellent shad hatch this year and that should lead to great fall fishing. Best bets on Wilson for numbers of fish will be the area just downstream of Wheeler Dam and the base of the dam itself. A slip float rig fished along the base of the spillways and lock area will be hard to beat. I use a B-n-M medium action spinning rod spooled with 12 lb. test Vicious Ultimate fishing line to target these fish. Most of the fish will be in the one to three pound range so heavy tackle is not required. My bait of choice is a lively shad minnow attached through the lips on a 3/0 Daiichi Bleeding Bait circle hook. If you cannot collect shad minnows try store bought minnows or small fresh shrimp. Set your float depth two to three feet above the bottom. Make a long cast and allow your offering to sit still a minute or so, then reel a few turns of the handle and allow it to sit still again. Most strikes occur as soon as your float stops movement. Other good choices are the ledges of Hog Island and the flats in the mouth of Town Creek. Here I use the same tackle but go to a drop shot style rig with a ½ to ¾ ounce split shot 18 inches under my hook. Slowly bump the bottom with this rig while drifting downstream.

For big catfish head down the lake to the Shoals Creek area and to the South toward the Robert Trent Jones clubhouse. These flats range from 50 to 65 feet deep and have numerous humps and other topographic features. Here I switch to Vicious 80 lb. test braided line with a 50 lb. test mono leader. I tie a Carolina rig with a 2 to 3 ounce sinker about 3 to 4 feet above a 7/0 Daiichi circle hook. I attach a golf ball size float about half way between the swivel and hook in order to float my bait up off the bottom. Bait of choice here is a chunk of cut skipjack 3 to 5 inches in length. When fishing this pattern, I’m fishing for 20 pound plus fish so I use much larger baits. Trolling at .3 to .4 mph over contour usually works best, however if the bite is slow an anchor down approach is your best bet.

Pickwick Lake will be good from one end to the other. Cats can be caught in the tailrace below Wilson Dam is big numbers. Here anchoring in eddy currents usually produces best. For drifters, grab some minnows and drift from the Singing River Bridge to the Seven Mile Island area. Your likely to boat some good smallmouth and hybrids as an added bonus in this area with lively minnows. Further downstream, try the river ledges from Kroger Island down to Waterloo. Shad will bunch up in large schools along the river ledges and the cats will be just below waiting on an easy meal. To catch these fish drift or use your trolling motor to move downstream while keeping your bait a few feet of the bottom. Wherever you fish this month carry an extra cooler because the bite should be great. For fishing tips or fishing trip information visit www.brianbartonoutdoors.com.

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