Pickwick Lake is not just for smallmouth anymore.

The huge fishing hole, which flows through the northeast corner of Mississippi as well as Alabama and Tennessee, is producing some of the best largemouth bass action in the country.

And striped bass, spotted bass, white bass, crappie and catfish, too.

May is a peak month for the action.

"You name it up here and Pickwick's producing it," said long time guide and tournament fisherman Roger Stegall of Iuka. "This lake has always been a good one, but its identity is changing. Used to be people, especially in Mississippi, looked at it as a place to go catch smallmouth.

"It's still a good smallmouth lake, but the spotlight has shifted to the great largemouth fishing. I think it's because we've seen the lake start to have grasses like hydrilla and milfoil. I know they are problem grasses for other lakes but here it has really helped."

Just how good is it? Stegall, whose time on the water has been limited this year due to surgery, gives a few examples.

"I had a friend who brought in a 10-pound, 4-ounce largemouth in a tournament in April and he was already thinking about what he'd spend that lunker pot money on, but he never got the chance," Stegall said. "A guy brought one in right before the scales closed that was 10-11.

"And now, if you don't catch 27 or 28 pounds for a five-fish limit, you aren't gonna be in the money. It's that good."

Stegall set an FLW record several years ago with a 27-pound-plus catch of five smallmouths, which helped him win the event.

"You can't win a tournament up here on smallmouth like that, and it's not because we don't have quality smallies," he said. "It's because the largemouth have just gotten that much better."

The grasses have helped, although they are not always the key to big catches, he said.

"Thing is, the grass is sporadic," Stegall said. "One year it will be in one cove and the next year it will be gone, but will pop up somewhere else. Then, the next year it will be somewhere else. But the results are significant. Even in the summer, when we're fishing the deep humps in the middle of the lake, you can see the results. You know how we used to pull up on those humps, when (the TVA) was pulling current to run the generators, and catch a bunch of 2- and 3-pound bass. Now you can do the same thing, only they are 5- and 6-pound bass.

"It is truly incredible and it just keeps getting better."

For the past two weeks, the lake has been producing great bass action and the big largemouth are available on just about any pattern a fisherman wants to try.

The mdwfp.com fishing report includes catches of spawning bass in the shallows, but bigger fish are being caught on deep crankbaits offshore. A tournament last weekend required 27 pounds to win.

While bass fishing dominates conversations about Pickwick - the lake was recently ranked No. 20 on the B.A.S.S. list of the top 100 bass lakes in the country - the attention will soon shift to another species.

"Best catfish lake in the world," said Tony Williams of Tupelo. "We're running a little late this year due to the unusually late spring, but in the next couple of weeks the cats will start moving up on the steep bluff banks and the fishing will get really, really good.

"You can go from bluff bank to bluff bank, and fish the shelves in 5 to 6 feet of water and load a boat with good keeper cats between 2 and 5 pounds. All you need is a little bit of time and a box or two of nightcrawlers and you can put the hurt on them."

Williams said the catfish use the cracks in the rocks to spawn, and gather in big numbers on those shelves.

"You look up on the bluffs and follow the big cracks down the wall, and you know they continue on down in the water," he said. "A lot of people rig fly rods with corks and night crawlers and roll cast their baits out there. I use light spinning gear."

Fishermen have about another week to get in on the crappie action, but the action is decreasing by the day.

"It's been a great year to this point, but it's about over and we'll soon be chasing the big schools deep again," said Billy Turner of Corinth. "The spawn was fun this year, but it happened real quick. It was late starting and then, boom, it peaked and is already slowing."

When summer comes, the big schools of stripers and white bass will start turning up chasing shad on the surface.

"You watch for them on the flats in Bear Creek, and you can see the splashing for miles," Williams said. "It will make a catfish guy like me put the worms down and start throwing topwaters."