John's Journal...

Pickwick Dam, Tennessee Heaven for Fishermen with Roger Stegall, Todd Witt, Phil King, Roger Gant and Claggett Talley

Pickwick, the Land of Monster Smallmouth with Roger Stegall

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: If you’re a multi-species fisherman, I’ve found a piece of fishermen’s heaven at Hardin County, Tennessee’s Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama border. Pickwick has some of the best populations of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, stripers, catfish and crappie in the country. This week, the fishermen who live and guide there will tell you why they believe this area is a fisherman’s heaven. Roger Stegall of Iuka, Mississippi, fishes for largemouths, smallmouths, bluegills, catfish and anything else that swims in Pickwick Lake, but he’s built his reputation as one of the premier smallmouth guides on the Tennessee River.

Question: Roger, why are there so-many big smallmouths in Pickwick Lake?
Stegall: When the Tennessee River swings down into Alabama and corners into Tennessee and Mississippi, it’s the farthest range of the southern smallmouth bass, which has a longer growing seClick to enlargeason than the northern smallmouth bass. Too, the lake has an abundance of bait, plenty of current, deep holes where the smallmouth bass can bury-up during the cold winter months and the hot summer months, rocky terrain, mussel beds and old creek and river channels where bass can feed, and ideal habitat for the bass to lay their eggs and raise their young. I believe the next world-record smallmouth bass may be caught at Pickwick Lake.

Question: How large are the smallmouths you usually catch on Pickwick Lake?
Stegall: We generally catch 5 to 7 pounders. The biggest smallmouth I’ve ever caught weighed 8 pounds. I also hold the record for the five biggest smallmouths ever weighed-in during a FLW tournament – a total of 27 pounds, 6 ounces.

Question: How do you catch these big smallmouths?
Stegall: I caught those record smallmouths on a Strike King spinner bait. We also catch a number of smallmouth on Strike King tube baits. Because Pickwick has a tremendous population of crawfish hClick to enlargeere at Pickwick, and the smallmouths feed on them heavily, a Strike King jig with a Rage Craw on the back of it is also productive. Right now, we have one of the best populations of smallmouths at Pickwick I’ve seen in the last 32 years of fishing here. Too, the lake recently had a big influx of three-different kinds of grass – coontail moss, milfoil and hydrilla – causing a largemouth explosion in the lake. I finished second in a tournament in August with a five-fish limit of 20.57pounds. The first-place winner had 20.97 pounds. Any time you have two, five-fish limits that weigh 20 pounds plus during the month of August, you know there’s a healthy largemouth population of bass in your lake.

Question: Why do you think bass fishing in Hardin County, Tennessee, is some of the best in the nation?
Stegall: You can catch fish year-round here. The smallmouth and the largemouth season runs 365 days a year, and very rarely is the weather too cold or rainy to fish. Here in Hardin CountyClick to enlarge, we have one of the finest state lodges providing a huge and plentiful food buffet. We’ve got other great places to stay and eat as well as some of the finest bass fishing you can enjoy anywhere. If you want to catch big smallmouth, you can’t beat Pickwick Lake. If you want to have great accommodations and restaurants, you can’t beat Pickwick Lake. If there were a better place to fish, I’d guide there.  

To fish with Roger Stegall, call (662) 423-3869, or visit, or email  

To learn more about fishing below the dam at Pickwick, contact the Hardin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at, or 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 hook-ups at each site. A restaurant at the park offers delicious southern cuisine. Call 731-689-3135 or 800-250-8615 to learn more.

Tomorrow: Bet on Pickwick’s Largemouth Bass with Todd Witt

Check back each day this week for more about "Pickwick Dam, Tennessee Heaven for Fishermen with Roger Stegall, Todd Witt, Phil King, Roger Gant and Claggett Talley"

Day 1: Pickwick, the Land of Monster Smallmouth with Roger Stegall
Day 2: Bet on Pickwick’s Largemouth Bass with Todd Witt
Day 3: King of Cats
Day 4: Pickwick has Slabs Galore with Roger Gant
Day 5: Tons of Stripers with Claggett Talley


Entry 472, Day 1