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Giant striped bass on Norris Lake - LaFollette, Tennessee

Side scan sonar units are used to find the schools of baitfish and the stripers.
Side scan sonar units are used to find the schools of baitfish and the stripers.
Jimmy Jacobs

Norris Lake is a 34,200-acre Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir on the Clinch River. It lies just northwest of Knoxville near the town of LaFollette, Tennessee. More importantly to traveling anglers it is home to some very large striped bass. And those fish are active right now.

A 40-inch striper taken from Norris Lake in March.
Rick Rosenberg

The stripers are constantly on the move in the lake, sticking mainly to open water. They follow schools of threadfin shad and alewives, so finding those bait fish is the ticket to hooking a big striper.

To find the bait and striped bass, local anglers and guides use planer boards to put out a spread of baits. Then using side scan sonar units they locate the bait schools and troll around them. The planer boards pull the baits out to the side of the boat, while lines with just a float are fished out the back. Using this system eight lines can be trolled covering a span of up to 50 yards wide.

Each line is baited with a live shad or alewive. When a fish is hooked, the planer board releases the line so the fish can be fought.

The stripers run anywhere from 8 to 25 pounds, but fish up to 50 pounds have been taken from the impoundment.

Early this spring some of the best action was in Davis Creek off the Powell River arm of the reservoir. A morning of fishing that area with Capt. Rod McCarty of Fishin’Rod Striper Guide Service out of Sugar Hollow Marina boated four stripers, with the biggest stretching to 40 inches.

Later that same week a morning with Capt. Melvin Cook of Mel’s Striper Guide Service out of Hickory Star Resort & Marina proved just as productive. This time the action was on the Clinch River arm just upstream from the Loyston Sea. This area is the widest part of Norris Lake and gets its name from the town of Loyston that was submerged when the lake was impounded.

Fishing near a projection in the lake that locals call 50-Pound Point (because the spot once gave up a 50-pound striper), planer-board trolling again produced half a dozen fish running from about 8- to 12-pounds. The longest measured 28 inches.

For anglers wanting to battle some brute-sized fish, Norris Lake stripers are willing to give you that fight from now on through the early summer!