Cordell Hull Reservoir In Tennessee

General Description

Cordell Hull Reservoir is an impoundment on the Cumberland River system and is one of the younger reservoirs when compared to others in the state. Cordell Hull Reservoir is operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.  The reservoir became a reality in 1973 following the completion of the Cordell Hull Dam.

The reservoir covers 13,920 surface acres at summer pool and lies within Smith, Jackson, and Clay counties. During the wintertime, Cordell Hull experiences a 5-feet drawdown from the summer pool level.

Cordell Hull has varying habitat types (ex. rocky banks, aquatic vegetation, bluffs, points, etc.) as well as great forage bases (ex. gizzard and threadfin shad) that sustain and promote good fisheries.  It is in a large riverine with several tributaries and embayments of varying sizes.

Towns and communities near Cordell Hull Reservoir are Carthage, Cookeville, Gainesboro, and Celina.  Cordell Hull hosts a variety of game fish and opportunities to pursue them.

  • Largemouth/Smallmouth/Spotted Bass: 5 per day in combination. 
  • Largemouth Bass: 15 inch minimum length limit. 
  • Smallmouth Bass: 18 inch minimum length limit. 
  • Spotted Bass: no length limit. 
  • Crappie (all species): 15 per day in combination,10 inch minimum length limit
  • Catfish (all species):  No creel limit for fish 34 inches and less in length; only one fish over 34 inches in length may be harvested per day.
  • Striped Bass or Hybrid Striped Bass: 2 per day in combination
  • Striped Bass: 32-42 inch PLR. Only one fish may be over 42 inches. 
  • Hybrid Striped Bass: 15 inch minimum length limit.
  • White Bass: 15 per day, no length limit.
  • Yellow Bass: no creel or length limit. 
  • Walleye: 5 per day, 16 inch minimum length limit. 
  • Sauger: 10 per day, 15 inch minimum length limit. 
  • Paddlefish: 2 per day; season is open from April 24 through May 31. Culling is prohibited. 
  • Redear Sunfish: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Bluegill/Warmouth and other sunfishes: no creel or length limit.

Largemouth Bass

Excellent opportunities for largemouth bass currently exist in Cordell Hull Reservoir. TWRA’s biannual spring black bass electrofishing surveys produce consistent evidence of a good largemouth bass fishery at Cordell Hull Reservoir. It is not unusual to see several largemouth bass in the 5 pounds plus range when conducting these surveys in late April and early May. A good forage base of gizzard and threadfin shad have helped sustain this LMB fishery through the years. The average size bass caught in Cordell Hull, according to roving creel surveys, was around 2.5 lbs. Variances in river flows and aquatic vegetation densities dictate fish distribution, spawning success, and juvenile survival. Largemouth bass spawn when water temperatures are in the 68 to 72-degree range.

Target Areas and Techniques (Largemouth Bass):

Fishing for largemouth bass can be successful year-round. During the winter months, look for natural springs in the creeks. This is where shad will find warmer water temperatures and bass will be close by. Consider jigs or slow-rolling spinnerbaits in these areas. As water temps begin to rise in the spring, concentrate on the creeks around deeper banks while fishing crankbaits, jigs, and jerk baits. As largemouth bass begin to spawn they will move to shallow water, so try to locate stump beds or fallen trees on flats in 2 to 8 feet of water. Floating worms, flipping soft plastics, and spinnerbaits work great.  In June and July, bass fishing opportunities are great.  Fish are transitioning to more cover such as wood and grass flats just off the main river channel. Soft plastics and topwater baits are good baits to use during this time.  During the fall as bass are focused on schooling pods of shad, crankbaits, Rat-L-Traps, and swimbaits are all good choices for catching bass.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass in Cordell Hull Reservoir are not as prevalent as largemouth bass, but their occurrence has remained consistent over the past several years as witnessed by anglers and electrofishing surveys. Smallmouth bass continue to show up in spring electrofishing surveys, typically on sloping rocky banks, preferred habitat of smallmouth bass for spawning. Peak spawning time for smallmouth bass occurs when water temperatures are in the 59 to 60-degree range.

Target Areas and Techniques (Smallmouth Bass):  

Concentrate on the lower end of the reservoir from Defeated Creek to the dam. Some tributary streams also offer good smallmouth bass habitat. Choice of baits to catch smallmouth bass range from a float-n-fly, soft plastics, and Whirly Bee on spinning gear with small diameter fishing line.  During the springtime, concentrate on gravel flats in 5 to 8 feet of water while using jerkbaits.  During the hot summer months, smallmouth can be caught on dark-colored spinnerbaits with Colorado blades on those deep points on the main lake at nighttime. Smallmouth bass can be caught in the fall using crankbaits, preferably shad color, in the creeks.

Crappie (Black and White)

Crappie fishing in Cordell Hull Reservoir remains average to good overall. Cordell Hull is characterized as being a predominantly white crappie reservoir. However, some “black nose” crappie and black crappie also appear in anglers’ catches. Blacknose crappie fingerlings were stocked into Cordell Hull Reservoir several years ago by TWRA. Blacknose crappie are simply black crappie with a black genetic mark on their forehead. The influence of blacknose crappie genetics, first introduced by these stockings, still shows up in crappie catches at Cordell Hull. Nearly 60,000 black/blacknose crappie were stocked into Cordell Hull by TWRA  in 2018 and 63,359 black crappie fingerlings in 2020. It is not unusual for crappie populations in reservoirs to exhibit cyclic densities in yearly abundance, as has been observed at Cordell Hull. Crappie spawn in the peak of spring season, white crappie when water temps are in the 60to 65-degree range, and black crappie when water temps are in the 62 to 68-degree range.

Target Areas and Techniques (Crappie):  

Crappie can be caught in the main creeks such as Defeated, Martin, Indian in February. Concentrate on deepwater cover in the creek channel while using jigs or live minnows.  As crappie move to shallow water to spawn, concentrate on the creeks while fishing woody debris in 2 to 8 feet of water using jigs and minnows. During the summer crappie will move to deeper water, so concentrate on bluffs near creek channels. Anglers also fish for crappie at night during the summer by fishing under light sources to attract minnows, shad, and crappie. A submersible or floating light will work well, and crappie can be caught by using minnows and jigs vertically fished below the lights. Fall is also a good time to catch crappie by fishing in tributary areas while using jigs and live minnows to catch crappie near structure.

Sauger

Cordell Hull offers some excellent opportunities for anglers in the pursuit of sauger. Sauger populations are self-sustaining in Cordell Hull, as there are no sauger stocking projects there. It is possible, however, that some sauger migrate upstream via locks in Cordell Hull Dam from neighboring Old Hickory Reservoir, which does have an annual sauger stocking program. Cordell Hull is one of the few reservoirs in the state that can boast of such stability in sauger populations. Evidently, Cordell Hull houses favorable sauger spawning sites which would incorporate favorable water flows and substrate during spawning times. Sauger spawn when water temperatures are in the 40 to 45-degree range.

Target Areas and Techniques (Sauger):

Wintertime provides the best opportunity to catch sauger. Use one-ounce jigs tipped with minnows while fishing (jigging) on the bottom near the mouths of creeks. When fishing for sauger consider the water flow of the river, which seems to make them a little more active. Some fishermen will even troll while fishing with stick baits. As the water warms with rain, concentrate on deeper holes near Gainesboro to Celina on the main river while trolling using jigs tipped with minnows. During the summertime, sauger can be caught trolling deep running crankbaits in the main river near Celina due to cooler water temperatures existing there. As fall approaches, sauger can be caught back downriver between Granville and Gainesboro on big jigs and minnows, if water flows permit. 

Walleye

A limited amount of walleye are caught in Cordell Hull Reservoir each year. The closely related sauger is more abundant at Cordell Hull and thus provides a greater opportunity for anglers. Both species tend to share preferred sites within the reservoir. The state and world record walleye, which weighed 25 lbs., came from neighboring Old Hickory Reservoir (below Cordell Hull) in 1960. Walleye fingerlings have been stocked into Cordell Hull in the past. Walleye spawn when water temperatures are in the 45 to 50-degree range.

Target Areas and Techniques (Walleye)

During the winter months, concentrate on the mouths of creeks around Granville using jigs with minnows.  As the water warms with rain, concentrate on deeper holes near Gainesboro to Celina on the main river by trolling using jigs with minnows.  During the summertime, walleye can be caught trolling deep running crankbaits in the main river near Celina due to cooler water temperatures. As fall approaches walleye can be caught back down the river between Granville and Gainesboro on big jigs and minnows if water flows permit.

Striped Bass

TWRA continues to stock striped bass annually in Cordell Hull Reservoir, depending on hatchery success. Great numbers of gizzard shad, threadfin shad, and skipjack herring continue to provide a forage base very conducive to a trophy-striped bass fishery. Skipjack herring are the bait preferred by anglers for striped bass in Cordell Hull Reservoir. The state record striped bass, weighing 65 lb. 6 oz., was caught in Cordell Hull Reservoir in 2000 by Mr. Ralph H. Dallas. River flows, thermal refuges, and forage bases dictate where the striped bass will be oriented. Because of TWRA’s annual stocking program of striped bass at Cordell Hull, excellent opportunities for angling should persist. A roving creel survey conducted in 2017 showed an increase in fishing pressure (nearly double) as compared to the 2012 creel survey.

Target Areas and Techniques (Striped Bass)

Winter can be a fun time to fish for striped bass. Concentrate on the lower end of the reservoir in the major creeks while fishing with shad or skipjack with downriggers or planer boards. An artificial bait of choice is an umbrella rig with soft plastics that resemble shad species. As the water warms in early spring, striped bass can be caught on shad in the mouths of major creeks from Granville to Gainesboro. During the summertime, concentrate on the area around Celina due to the cooler water temps while using planer boards. This pattern will work as well during the fall, as water temps begin to cool and fish scatter downriver.

Catfish

Both channel and flathead catfish can be found in Cordell Hull Reservoir. Catfishing on Cordell Hull is not as popular as in other reservoirs across the state or in comparison to other game species of fish within this reservoir. Creel surveys conducted in 2017 showed low catch rates of 0.51 catfish/hour with an average weight of 2.06 lbs. Anglers should expect fair success while pursuing catfish at Cordell Hull. Channel catfish spawn when water temperatures are in the 75 to 80-degree range.

Target Areas and Techniques (Catfish)

Beginning in June, catfish become very active and fun to catch. Catfish baits range from cut bluegill and shad to raw chicken livers. Other baits that are often used to catch catfish include catawba worms, nightcrawlers, and doughballs. Catfish can be caught during the day or night while fishing on the bottom of the lake. Other techniques that fishermen use to catch catfish are jug fishing, limb line, and trotline fishing. Check fishing regulations for procedures required for varying methods.

Bluegill

Good bluegill fishing opportunities exist for anglers fishing Cordell Hull. Catch rates have remained consistent through the years, according to roving creel surveys. Abundant habitat favorable to bluegill can be found throughout Cordell Hull Reservoir. The preferred spawning temperatures for bluegill are in the 70 to 75-degree range.

Target Areas and Techniques (Bluegill)

Bluegill will begin to move into shallow water to spawn when water temperatures reach 70° in May.  Natural baits such as nightcrawlers, mill worms, catawba worms, and crickets work great. Artificial baits such as 1/32 Beetle Spin on lightweight tackle can be fun for catching sunfish species. Concentrate around bushes and gravel pockets in 5 to 10 feet of water during the spawning time frame.

Contact Information

Region 3 Office: 931-484-9571
Toll-Free:  1-833-402-4698
E-mail the office

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