In June, structure fishing gets really good on the Tennessee River's Pickwick Lake. I'll be fishing offshore on the mussel beds on the main river channel and secondary creek channels with crankbaits, jigs and 12-inch plastic worms. I'll use a quality depth finder with side-imaging and down-imaging to locate those mussel beds.

When you start fishing those bars, and you feel the shells with the lip of your crankbait, the jig as it crawls over them or the sinker on the front of your worm, then drive over the tops of those bars to learn how your depth finder is recording them to see the difference between the shells, the mud or clay bottoms and the rocks. Then you can motor over the tops of underwater bars with shells on them and identify them. So, locate the shells to find the bass in June.

Over the years, I've learned that the bigger bass tend to hold along the deeper Pickwick bars. I prefer to fish bars that are 17- to 22-feet deep. Having current coming across those bars generally will increase your likelihood of catching bass. Set up your boat in a way that will enable you to cast your baits upstream and retrieve them downstream with the current to make your bait appear more natural as it comes across the bottom.


Fish crankbaits

I like to fish Mann's 20+ and Mann's 30+ crankbaits in the grey ghost and chartreuse/blue-back colors at this time of year on 12-pound-test Trilene fluorocarbon line with a Pinnacle 4.7:1 gear-ratio reel and a 7-foot, 11-inch cranking rod.

Tennessee River bass like a stop-and-go action when you're fishing deep-diving crankbaits. I'll crank these baits down to the bottom, use a medium retrieve and speed up the crankbait, stop the lure for about two counts and then speed up my retrieve when I start moving the crankbait again. I'll use that stop-and-go tactic about three times on each cast I make.

The bass usually will attack the bait when it stops, or when I start to retrieve the bait after I've let it sit still for a two-count. Most of the time you won't have to take up the slack in your line when these bass hit the bait. The largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass will let you know when they have the crankbaits - bowing up quickly. Remember to cast upstream, and bring that crankbait with the current downstream.


Worm up the bass

If I can't get the bass to bite the crankbait, I'll switch to a Mann's 12-inch Jelly Worm in watermelon/red or black/red flake with a ½-ounce sinker in front of it. I'll be using 15-pound-test Berkley fluorocarbon line with a No. 6/0 Gamakatsu wide-bend hook. I'll be casting on a 7½-foot flipping rod with a 6.4:1 gear-ratio Pinnacle reel. I'll cast the big worm upstream, let it sink to the bottom and then slowly drag it over the mussel shells downstream. Using this tactic, I may catch a trophy smallmouth that will weigh 7 or 8 pounds or, because of the size of the worm, primarily catch largemouth bass.


Catch them on jigs

I'll also fish the shell banks with a ½-ounce Mann's HardNose Stone Jig in black/blue with a black/blue Mann's HardNose Craw as a trailer. I'll also be throwing a green pumpkin Stone Jig with a red HardNose Craw as a trailer. Once the jig hits the bottom, I'll drag it over the shell beds, since Pickwick bass seem to prefer having the bait drug rather than hopped.

I'll catch smallmouths on the jig and the crankbait, but I probably won't catch many smallmouth, if any, on the 12-inch worm. Pickwick Lake holds a number of 5-pound smallmouths. With the three baits I've suggested, you'll have a mixed bag of smallmouths, spotted bass and largemouth bass. A good day of fishing in June on Pickwick Lake will include catching and releasing 25 or 30 bass that will weigh from 1½ to 7 pounds each.

Historically, fishermen prefer to fish early and late in the day, but on Pickwick Lake the best time to fish is when power's being generated, which often may be in the middle of the day. Once the water temperature reaches 80 degrees after the spawn, the bass will hold on the mussel bars all summer. When I fish there, I pay much more attention to the generator schedule than the time of day. If you fish 15 to 20 bars in a day, you'll probably find bass holding on six or seven of those bars.

You'll enjoy productive fishing at Pickwick Lake in June due to a large population of bass in the lake and a tremendous amount of grass and mussel bars where the bass can feed.