Big Bass Tour Berkley Lake Breakdown – Chickamauga

Shryock Advises Anglers to Think Outside the Box at Chickamauga

By Pete Robbins


Lake Chickamauga has become a mid-May staple of the Big Bass Tour, and for good reason – it pumps out giant bass (and lots of them) year after year after year. Over the past six years it has never taken less than 7.14 pounds to crack the top ten overall, and in both 2018 and 2020 a remarkable three double-digit fish were brought to the scales. If you want to be competitive, you have to bring your “A” game.

It’s results like those that drew Ohio native Hunter Shryock to move to the area. The same can be said for many of his peers on the Bassmaster Elite Series and Bass Pro Tour. Not only is the Tennessee River impoundment centrally-located for their jobs, but it also provides them with a proper training ground for learning to catch tournament-winning stringers.

Shryock competed in an Elite Series event on “Chick” just a few weeks ago, but he thinks that the fishing should be remarkably different when the BBT field descends on the prolific fishery from May 13-15.

“The water’s warmed up and the lake is at full pool, which is typical for mid-May. There are still some shallow, because a few will still be spawning for a couple of weeks, but most of them are moving offshore.” He said.

“You have to think outside the box to get an advantage,” he explained. “That could mean a different lure, an out-of-the-way location, or even something extra like Maxscent. These fish have seen everything so you need to do something different. That could be downsizing your bait and your line, or as we saw during the Elite Series tournament it could be the opposite end of the spectrum with guys throwing big glide baits.”

The good news is that there are “8- to 12-pounders everywhere, from one end of the lake to the other, so you don’t have to get locked into one region. Everybody will be in a place where it’s possible not only to catch the biggest fish of the hour, but also the biggest single fish of the event.”

In terms of “offshore,” Shryock believes that the biggest schools will be on bars in 12 to 15 feet of water, although he’s seen and heard of bass being caught in the 30 foot range. While Chickamauga’s bass often group up by size, that’s not always the cases. “You might catch a three and then another three and then a six-pounder,” he explained. The key is “getting the schools to fire up.” Accordingly, he’d likely start with a Berkley Dredger 20.5 or 25.5 crankbait on a 6.6:1 gear ratio Abu-Garcia Revo baitcasting reel, retrieving it fast enough that they have to “eat it or get out the way.” If that doesn’t get the school excited, he’d next turn to finesses, likely with a Berkley Bottom Hopper on a dropshot. “It may sound silly, but if you can get one to bite that you can follow it up with the crankbait or a Berkley Hollow Belly.” He’d throw the latter lure on a ½ or ¾ once leadhead, typically in a Gizzard Shad pattern. “The key is to keep it in contact with the bottom.

For dedicated giant hunters, he would recommend an oversized glide bait like the ones several of his Elite colleagues used successfully.

One other bite that he’d look to maximize is the shad spawn, and he’d focus on bluff banks for that one, hitting key stretches first thing in the morning.

“It only lasts and hour or so, but you’d have it to yourself,” he explained. “And there’s no reason you wouldn’t catch a 6-, 7- or even a 10-pounder.”

While the shallow bite heroics are mostly over, this should still be a slugfest, so consult the live leaderboard to make sure that you don’t waste an 8- to 10-pounder on an hour when it won’t bring home the bacon. Brute force may be necessary for Chickamauga’s big fish, but strategy is the other half of the equation.

To discover more Berkley baits that are “hot” right now at Chickamauga click here. What’s Hot At Chick