Guntersville Reservoir Fishing

Fishing in Tennessee

General Description

There are only approximately 2,500 acres of Guntersville Reservoir located in Tennessee. This is out of a total of 67,900 acres which resides in the state of Alabama.  

The TN portion of Guntersville Reservoir is mostly a tailwater area (below Nickajack Dam) with associated tailwater characteristics (i.e. river flows, riprap banks, and congregations of baitfish like shad). The Sequatchie River empties into the Tennessee River in this section of TN waters which also offers a unique fishery at its mouth and within.

The bowfin fish has been observed near the mouth of the Sequatchie River which is the only place that TWRA reservoir personnel have observed this species in Region 3 reservoirs. Several gamefish species can be caught in the TN portion of Guntersville Reservoir, such as largemouth bass, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, sauger, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, and catfish. Good populations of forage exist in this area like gizzard and threadfin shad as well as skipjack herring. Several drum and buffalo fishes call this area home as well.

Fishing regulations for the TN section of Guntersville can be different than statewide so make sure to check those in the TWRA Fishing Guide. No fish are currently stocked in this section of Guntersville.


  • Largemouth/Spotted/Alabama Bass: 5 per day in combination, no length limit.
  • Smallmouth Bass: 1 per day, 18 inch minimum length limit.
  • Crappie (all species): 30 per day in combination, 9 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, 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.
  • Rock Bass: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Redear Sunfish: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Bluegill/Warmouth and other sunfishes: no creel or length limit.

What you can catch

Black bass (Largemouth, Spotted, Smallmouth)

A good opportunity exists for catching multiple species of bass at Guntersville Reservoir. The riprap banks provide great habitat for spotted and smallmouth bass. Further downriver, anglers can find laydowns, stumps, bars, and breaks in the current that are more suitable for largemouth bass. However, any species of bass may be found in any of the variety of habitats available in this tailwater and beyond. Additionally, there is no shortage of bait fish in this area of Guntersville, so the growth rates of bass are typically good.

Target areas and techniques (Black bass species)

Anglers will find good success while fishing a variety of baits and lures. Any bait that mimics shad will be a good choice throughout the year. Additionally, fishing live shad around current associated with rocks and current breaks will typically produce results. Several small sunfish like bluegill and redear will also serve as food, so lures that resemble these fish species will be effective as well. As bass spawn in the spring look for a structure that provides cover associated with gravel bottoms to locate preferred spawning areas in more shallow water. During the summer look for bass in main river structures such as humps and points. Popular baits include topwater baits, plastic worms, and Carolina rigs. During the fall, bass can be caught on flats in the river channel. At this time good lures to use are crankbaits and soft plastics. The banks adjacent to the dam are good choices year-round when flows are favorable. Later in the fall and through the winter many anglers catch all species of black bass while drifting shiners or shad below Nickajack Dam during times of favorable river current.

Crappie (black and white)

A consistent crappie population exists in Guntersville Reservoir. The best suitable habitat for crappie is found within the lower reach of the TN portion of this reservoir where the water is more sluggish and woodier habitat can be found versus the more riverine characteristics of the upper end of Guntersville. Fair to good fishing for crappie is expected annually at Guntersville. The peak spawning time for crappie is when water temps are in the 60’s which typically occurs in late March through early May.

Target areas and techniques (Crappie)

As water temperatures warm in the spring crappie begin to move shallow and fishing heats up.  This begins in late March but isn’t in full effect until April.  During the pre-spawn, anglers can find crappie in the small coves adjacent to the main river as well as laydowns on the river’s edge, located out of the main current. Use jigs and minnows around stumps and woody debris.  As spring turns to summer focus on deeper structure near coves. Minnows are commonly used this time of year.  In the fall and winter trolling and vertically jigging minnows or tube jigs along habitat areas works great. Fishing rocky protrusions on the river that create eddies or back currents are also great places to target crappie.


The redear sunfish population in Guntersville continues to provide great opportunities for anglers. Several areas of suitable spawning habitat and desired food coexist in the reservoir which typically yields consistent year classes of redear sunfish.


There is an excellent population of bluegill in Guntersville Reservoir. Angler pursuit and success for bluegill at Guntersville are expected to remain consistent because of favorable populations of these fish. Multiple areas of bluegill habitat are available in this upper end of Guntersville. Bluegill can spawn several times per year with the first spawn typically occurring in the month of May when water temps are in the 70-75-degree range.

Target areas and techniques (Bluegill & Redear)

Bluegill and redear sunfish (shellcrackers) will begin to move shallow to spawn in April through the first part of June.  Natural baits such as worms and crickets work great.  Artificial baits such as small jigs can be equally effective.  Any of these baits can be used with or without a float.  If the depth at which the bait is presented needs adjusted, a float is a great option.  During the spawn, concentrate efforts around shallow areas, bridges, gradually sloping rocky banks, and grassy areas in coves or sloughs.  Look for signs of panfish bedding areas. You will see groups of round depressions on the lake bottom with gravel or shells lining the bottoms. These are some of the best areas to target during the spawning season.  As spring transitions to summer, focus on rock/riprap banks along the river channel and deep secondary areas.  In the fall and winter, bluegill and redear sunfish can be caught below the Nickajack Dam and along the bottom in the coves and sloughs.  Split shot or slip sinker rigs with small hooks and worms work great when targeting panfish this time of year.  Remember to use smaller lines (4-8 Ib. test line) and hooks (#10 or #12) when targeting panfish.


Sauger are not stocked in Guntersville Reservoir at the current time nor have they been in many years. However, sauger are native to the TN River and do exist in Guntersville. Sauger also migrates via dam passage between reservoirs. Due to the proven necessity of stocking sauger to sustain sauger populations, fishing success for sauger in Guntersville Reservoir will be limited and totally dependent upon natural spawning success.

Target areas and techniques (Sauger)

Late winter through early spring is the best time to target sauger.  Fishing vertically or drifting with bright-colored jigs and minnows are good techniques to use.  Trolling or casting crankbaits is another great option. Sauger are not readily found in tailwater areas during the summer months.


Guntersville Reservoir boasts great opportunities for catfishing due to the river-type environment and ample supplies of forage bases like shad. Angler reports offer great evaluations of the catfish fishery at Guntersville Reservoir. Several guides and anglers can be observed in pursuit of catfish on Guntersville, typically utilizing the river current in the main river channel or fishing humps and deep holes down river from Nickajack Dam. Blue, channel, and flathead catfish all call Guntersville Reservoir home. As with other Tennessee reservoirs in this region of the state, fishing success for catfish and angler pursuit is expected to remain favorable. The headwaters of Guntersville Reservoir are typically very productive for catfishing. Peak catfish spawning time occurs in June and so does fishing activity.

Target areas and techniques (Catfish)

Guntersville Reservoir supports some great catfish fisheries.  Anglers can catch both large numbers of fish, as well as trophy fish.  Anglers typically have the most success fishing with meaty baits, such as shad, bluegill, shrimp, and chicken parts.  During the spring months, drift these types of baits in the main river channel. This can be done anywhere on the reservoir, but the current usually creates better fishing conditions.  Around late May to early June, the catfish move shallow to spawn.  This is a great time to target shallow rocky banks and should produce great bank fishing action.  During the summer catfish can still be found while drifting meaty baits in the main river, but there is more success fishing below Nickajack Dam.  These same areas and techniques continue to be produced throughout the fall and winter.

Striped bass

Opportunities to catch striped bass exist at Guntersville Reservoir even though they are not stocked there. Migration of striped bass through dams from reservoirs that have striped bass stocking programs can explain this existence (i.e. Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs upstream). There is the possibility that a limited amount of natural reproduction may occur during years with appropriate river flow within Guntersville’s long riverine system, which striped bass need for successful spawning. Ample forage bases of shad (gizzard and threadfin) and skipjack herring, especially in the headwater section of Guntersville, help nourish and sustain striped bass that is present there. Success regarding angling for striped bass is expected at Guntersville Reservoir but is not expected to be as productive as those reservoirs that are stocked with striped bass.

Target areas and techniques (Striped bass)

Anglers who pursue striped bass typically have the most success fishing the upper ends of Guntersville Reservoir.  The tailwater below Nickajack Dam is a great area for anglers to target striped bass year-round.  A variety of artificial lures and live bait options will catch fish.  Tennessee rigs, crankbaits, and jigs are great options.  Many anglers also find success drifting or trolling live shad with planer boards below the Nickajack Dam and in the river channel downstream from the dam. Having the right current in place will increase the chances of striped bass fishing success.

Contact Information

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

Interactive Map of Guntersville Reservoir
Fishing Regulations
Buy a license link
View the Weekly Fishing Forecast