John's Journal...

Where and How to Catch Fish in August and Early September with Roger Stegall at Pickwick Lake

Trophy Smallmouth

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Roger Stegall, the owner and operator of Roger Stegall’s Professional Guide Service on Pickwick Lake, which makes up the boundary of Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, has fished Pickwick Lake for 32 years and guided on the lake for 22 years. Unlike many guides, Stegall will help you find and catch any species of fish. He’s just as comfortable running a trotline and catching catfish as he is guiding his clients to smallmouth that weigh over 5-pounds each. He can put you on a limit of white bass or show you where and how to catch the biggest largemouth you’ve ever hooked. You pick the species, and Stegall will locate the fish and show you how to catch it.
Question: Roger, most people don’t think about catching trophy smallmouth during the Dog Days of summer. How do you find and catch them?
Stegall: To locate and take big smallmouths on Pickwick Lake in August when the daytime air temperature is 100 degrees, look for shell bottoms to locate smallmouths, and then search for smallmouths in more-shallow water than normal. Many of the smallmouths I catch at this time of year will be holding in 8 to 12 feet of water. The smallmouths may be as much as 100-yards away from a drop-off that drops into 20 or 30 feet of water. To find the shell bottoms, use a Carolina rig and drag the lead across the bottom. You’ll feel the lead come in contact with the shells.Click to enlarge

Question: Why are the smallmouths in that shallow water during extremely-hot weather, instead of the deeper, cooler water?
Stegall: The smallmouths move up to the shallow water to feed on crawfish. In the hot-weather months, deep water generally has an oxygen deficit. Therefore, many of the fish that normally will be holding in deep water because it’s cooler move up to more-shallow water. Although the water’s warmer, there’s more oxygen there than in their deeper haunts. The crawfish and the shad will be moving back to shallow water because they need oxygen to survive. When the night starts getting longer, and the days become shorter, all fish will move back to shallow water.

Question: The Tennessee River is known for having a lot of current. How critical is having the current running where you’re smallmouth fishing at this time of year?
Stegall: In August and early September, when the weather’s really hot, having current is productive at producing quality smallmouth bites. At this time of year, we’ll have much-more current than usual because the hydroelectric plants have to run more during hot weather than cooler weather. Therefore, they force more Click to enlargecurrent through the lake, which make those smallmouths bite better.

Question: How will you catch the big smallmouths now?
Stegall: This month, we’ll catch numbers of smallmouths in the 4- to 6-pound range. August may not be the best month for smallmouths, but it is a productive month. At this time of year, I’ll be fishing a Carolina rig with Strike King’s new Rage Anaconda or the Strike King 3X Grub. One lure that’s been really hot this year for me is the new Strike King Rage Craw.

Question: What color Rage Craw do you prefer?
Stegall: The green pumpkin and the watermelon red have been producing well for me.

Question: How long is the leader you use on your Carolina rig?
Stegall: At this time of year, I like a 4-1/2- to a 5-foot leader with a 3/4-ounce weight above my barrel swivel.

Question: What size leader and main line do you use?
Stegall: My leader will be 10-pound-test line, and my main line will be 20-pound-test line. 

Question: Where do you fish this Carolina rig?Click to enlarge
Stegall: Generally I’m fishing on shell bottoms or around any type of structure in the 8- to 12-foot range where I know the smallmouths are holding. I really prefer to fish the Carolina rig around brush piles, stumps or rocks on the bottom. When current’s being generated through the lake, I search for current breaks on the main river in 8 to 12 feet of water. You’ll find places like this often where you’ll locate an underwater creek entering the underwater river channel. You’ll often find little ditches or submerged Indian mounds where you’ll locate current coming across the bottom in 8 to 12 feet of water. Any place where you find a current break like this, you’ll discover big smallmouths. We’ve had a tremendous shad spawn at Pickwick this year and we’ve been catching some really big, healthy smallmouth. I’ve caught big, fat, healthy smallmouth this month that look like they’ve never had hooks in them.

Question: What other lures do you use to catch smallmouths at this time of year?
Stegall: I’ve been doing really well with either the 1/4- or the 1/16-ounce shaky-head jig with the Strike King brown or green-pumpkin Finesse Worm. The watermelon red and the pumpkin red also have been productive colors for me this year. I’m fishing the shaky-head jig on spinning tackle with either 6- or 8-pound-test line around stumps, rock piles and brush piles where I normally fish the Carolina rig. At daylight, when I’m fishing the pea-gravel banks, I’ll be fishing a Spit-N-King or a spook-type bait. Most of the time when that Spit-N-King starts flashing water over those gravel beds, the smallmouths can’t stand it. They have to come up and eat the bait. Although I mostly fish a shad-colored Spit-N-King, on some days, a bright color, like chartreuse or white, will really turn on the smallmouth bite.

To fish with Roger Stegall at Roger Stegall’s Guide Service or learn more about the fish at Pickwick Lake, call him at 662-433-3869, or visit, or email

For more information on staying at Pickwick Landing State Park on Pickwick Lake, contact the Hardin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at, call (731) 925-8181 or (800) 552-3866, or visit Pickwick Landing State Park offers fishing, boating, hiking, camping, swimming and golf. Lodging includes the lakeside inn with over 100 rooms, cabins that sleep eight and a campground that contains 48 sites with grill and electric/water hookup at each site. A restaurant at the park offers delicious southern cuisine. Call (731) 689-3135 or (800) 250-8615 to learn more.

Tomorrow: Don’t Forget the White Bass

Check back each day this week for more about "Where and How to Catch Fish in August and Early September with Roger Stegall at Pickwick Lake"

Day 1: Trophy Smallmouth
Day 2: Don’t Forget the White Bass
Day 3: Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty
Day 4: Hot-Weather, Deep-Water Largemouth
Day 5: Largemouth Aren’t Just Deep Now


Entry 471, Day 1