April is a special month for both Douglas and Cherokee lakes. Some anglers will claim that it is the best time to fish on the neighboring bodies of water here in Jefferson County. You won’t hear me disagree, although the weather can throw a few curve balls in East Tennessee this time of year. Here are the current conditions of both fisheries and what to expect in the coming weeks.

Douglas Lake 

Water temperatures vary drastically this time of year, and as of right now you can see anywhere from low to mid 50s in the upper reaches of the reservoir and low to mid 60s on the opposite end of the lake towards the dam. Creeks and coves will warm up quickly on a sunny day and you can see a substantial rise in water temperatures in those areas compared to the deeper main lake water.  

Smallmouth bass are in all three stages of the spawn and can be caught with a wide variety of lures. Ned rigs, jerkbaits and small swimbaits have been providing consistent success and even a larger 6-inch swimbait has been getting good bites as well. Steep rocky areas are great places to start fishing for smallmouth but always be sure to check gravel points and banks. Look for more smallmouth to be spawning in the coming weeks with some stable weather!  

Largemouth bass are a little further behind and can be caught doing everything from fishing the backs of the creeks and pockets with chatterbaits and spinnerbaits to utilizing forward facing sonar with jerkbaits and damiki rig style baits in open water around baitfish. Crankbaits can be hard to beat on a windy day as well as lipless crankbaits on flatter tapering points and banks.  

Crappie are on the verge of spawning with some fish already moving shallow. Target protected coves and pockets out of the wind and look for pre-spawn fish still in open water around creek channels and deeper brush. 1/16oz – 1/4oz jig heads with small 2-inch swimbaits and baby shad style baits in natural colors have been working the best. Adjust your jig head size according to depth and wind.  

Cherokee Lake 

Although only a few short miles apart, Douglas Lake and Cherokee Lake fish very differently. Water temperatures are roughly the same as Douglas depending on the lake area.  

Smallmouth bass fishing has started getting good with a few warm days triggering some fish to spawn. Focus on large boulder style rocks around islands and inside creeks. Ned rigs and 3-inch swimbaits with a 1/4oz head are the ticket as well as jerkbaits.  

Largemouth bass are really making a comeback on Cherokee Lake after a few years of being victim to the amazing smallmouth population. Shallow running crankbaits, chatterbaits and jigs work great in the river section of the lake. You will want to fish shallow pockets and flatter style banks. Target isolated laydowns and docks on the lower end of the lake with bigger swimbaits and jigs. 

Crappie fishing has been fair if you can run enough boat docks during the day. You will want to get good at “shooting” docks, but you will also find crappie in manmade brush piles. The baits mentioned in the Douglas Lake report will be successful on Cherokee also.   

Springtime Fishing in the Lakeside of the Smokies

Whether you are fishing for a trophy largemouth or smallmouth bass or want some crappie to take home, April is the month to get out on Douglas and Cherokee lakes. Our area has a variety of companies that offer guided fishing trips. Guided fishing trips are great options for those unfamiliar with the lakes, just getting started with fishing, or looking to have a professional share some tips and tricks with you. With a plethora of lodging options from RV parks and campground to lakeside cabins, you’re guaranteed to find a comfy spot to lie your head at the end of the day. Plan a trip and experience what these beautiful fisheries have to offer this spring!

About Skylar Hamilton

Skylar began his professional bass angler career in 2011 at the Bassmaster Open held on Douglas Lake, where he and his family lives. In 2017, Hamilton qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series at the age of 21 and won a Bassmaster Open and qualified for the Bassmaster Classic twice. 

In 2021 he began guiding fishing trips on both Douglas and Cherokee Lakes. He is a US Coast Guard licensed captain, and while he is a pro bass fishing angler, he loves to also guide trips for crappie fishing.  

Learn More: https://skylarhamiltonfishing.com