Tim's Ford Reservoir
Tims Ford Reservoir is a 10,600-acre impoundment located in south-central Tennessee with a major portion in Franklin County. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) owns and operates Tims Ford Reservoir. Dam completion occurred in 1970. Full pool elevation is 888 feet-mean sea level and winter pool elevation is 873 feet-mean sea level. Daily water levels can be tracked on the TVA Lake Info website (link) or the TVA app.
Fourteen public boat access sites are available for use with no fees. These sites include Beth Page Bridge (canoe/kayak), Estill Springs Park (canoe/kayak), Rock Creek, Winchester City Park, Devils Step, Pleasant Grove, Turkey Creek, Neals Bridge, Holiday Marina, Tims Ford Marina, Tims Ford State Park, Anderton Branch, Lost Creek, and Tims Ford Dam. Locations and descriptions of each access site are listed on the TWRA website, tnwildlife.org, in the Where to Fish section (link).
Tims Ford State Park, managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, provides cabins, campsites, boat access, and other recreational activities (link).
Fish attractor data for Tims Ford Reservoir is available for you to upload into your fishfinder or other GPS devices, or view in free or online mapping applications (link). Twenty fish attractor sites are maintained on Tims Ford Reservoir by TWRA.
- 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, 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.
- 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.
Species Overviews with Techniques and Fishing Locations
Both Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass contribute significantly to the Tims Ford Reservoir black bass fishery. Bass fishing accounts for 75 percent of the targeted angler effort. The creel limit for Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, and Smallmouth Bass is 5 per day in combination. Size restrictions include a 15-inch minimum length limit for Largemouth Bass and an 18-inch minimum length limit for Smallmouth Bass. No size restriction applies to Spotted Bass.
The Tims Ford Smallmouth Bass fishery is very popular and considered the best reservoir Smallmouth fishery in middle Tennessee. The targeted annual angling effort for Smallmouth Bass exceeds that for Largemouth Bass. The prevalence of cobble/boulder substrate which comprises large areas of the middle and lower reaches of the reservoir coupled with clear water provides ideal habitat for Smallmouth Bass. The average age of an 18-inch Smallmouth Bass in Tims Ford is 7 years.
Late winter and early spring are excellent periods to catch Smallmouth Bass on Tims Ford Reservoir. Three-inch, shad patterned swim baits hooked to ¼” to ½” lead jigs catch the majority of Smallmouth Bass on Tims Ford Reservoir. Popular and productive areas for this fishing technique include the main channel banks of Hurricane, Little Hurricane, and Lost Creeks. Look for cobble substrate on a steady gradual slope. During the fall months, windblown points are successful as well. If swim baits aren’t producing, try a natural or dark-colored plastic crawfish with a jig head. And of course, live minnows and crawfish are always on the menu for a successful catch.
Largemouth Bass abundance, size structure, and condition are all indicative of a population providing good fishing opportunities as well. The 2019 spring electrofishing catch rate of harvestable size ( ≥ 15 inches) Largemouth Bass was high (22/hour) indicative of high relative abundance.
Techniques using similar lures, soft plastics, and live baits for Smallmouth Bass are also productive for Largemouth bass. One addition to the tackle box should be the Tennessee rig which is an umbrella rig with 3 shad colored swim baits. Crankbaits fished across points at the mouths of coves are productive during the summer months.
Both White and Black Crappie contribute to the Tims Ford crappie fishery. Blacknose Black Crappie are stocked annually by Normandy Fish Hatchery to provide a consistently good fishery and 80 percent of the crappie catch. Angler crappie catch rate is high at 1.0/hour. The creel limit for White and Black Crappies is 15 per day in combination, and the minimum size limit is 10-inches.
Productive tackle and baits include 1/32 to 1/8 ounce leadhead jigs tipped with live minnows or soft plastics. Two-inch curly or tiny tail soft plastics are the choice for many Tims Ford anglers. Fishing these baits with a slow, steady retrieve and at various depths until fish are located is a very productive method. Crappie will position most frequently around boat docks with submerged structures. Popular areas include the back of Little Hurricane Creek and in proximity to the Rock Creek boat ramp. Bridge pylons are also successful places to find suspended crappie.
Crappie tend to orient to the submerged structures during each of the seasonal periods. TWRA fish attractor sites which include stake beds are very popular fishing spots (link). Fish attractors are most productive for crappie from October through May in 6-12 feet of water using jigs and minnows.
Hybrid Striped Bass and Striped Bass
Hybrid Striped Bass (hybrids) and Striped Bass provide a big fish component to this fishery. The average weight of harvested striped bass was 10 pounds and for hybrids was 9 pounds. Striped Bass in the 20 – 30-pound range are caught each year. Striped Bass and hybrid striped bass fingerlings are stocked annually By TWRA hatcheries to provide these fisheries. The creel limit is 2 per day in combination, and the size restriction for both is a 15- inch minimum length limit.
Sometimes referred to as hybrids, Cherokee Bass, or hybrid striped bass, these fish are produced in Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) fish hatcheries by spawning large Striped Bass females with White Bass males. The result is an aggressive, fast growing, strong fighting fish that can tolerate warmer water temperatures than Striped Bass. These qualities make for a unique fishery in several Tennessee tributary reservoirs like Tims Ford.
TWRA’s fish culturists spawn the hybrids each spring usually during early May and grow them out in hatchery ponds to a 3-inch fingerling. These fingerlings are stocked into the reservoirs during mid to late June. Growth rates are extremely fast reaching the 15” harvestable size as an Age-1 fish. This rapid growth continues with frequent catches of 6 to 8-pound hybrids and the occasional big one that exceeds 10 pounds.
Hybrids and Striped Bass prefer cooler water temperatures and therefore concentrate during the summer months in the lower section of the reservoir from Tims Ford State Park downstream to Lost Creek and Tims Ford Dam. These fish spend most of their time at depths in the coolest water providing adequate dissolved oxygen which is usually around 18 – 19 feet during July and August. They concentrate in schools over submerged humps, points or ledges in close proximity to the main river channel. Once you locate a school, you can hook up on multiple hybrids or Striped Bass providing a great thrill that will not soon be forgotten.
During the early spring, they move upstream and go through the motions to spawn. They concentrate from Estill Springs Park and upstream to the Woods Reservoir Dam. The Rock Creek Public Access site provides a close spot for launching a boat. The Beth Page Bridge Access Site provides small boat access and bank fishing opportunities.
Hybrids and Striped Bass feed primarily on Threadfin Shad, Gizzard shad, and Alewife. These species are therefore one of the most consistently productive baits. Live 4 – 5-inch shad are irresistible to hybrids and Striped Bass. These baits can be caught during the summer in the backs of embayments by throwing a cast net over mudflats. It is important to keep them alive in a circulating live well up to the point they go on to the hook. A Carolina rig using a ½ to ¾ ounce weight, a number 10 barrel swivel, a 12-inch leader, and a 3/0 hook fished as a down-line at 16 – 18 feet depth is a very productive method. Other productive artificial baits include jigging spoons, swim baits, and deep diving crank baits. A sturdy landing net is a necessity as they never stop fighting.
Walleye fingerlings are stocked annually by Normandy Hatchery to provide a fishery. The walleye fishery accounts for 5 percent of the annual targeted angler effort on Tims Ford Reservoir. Growth rates are extremely fast reaching 16 inches during Age-1 and averaging 21 inches during Age-3. The creel limit is 5 walleye per day, and the size restriction is a 16-inch minimum length limit.
Fishing methods for Walleye include trolling the traditional spinner worm harnesses and crank baits, as well as jigging spoons. Bright colors like chartreuse, red, and orange are popular. The summer months, when Tims Ford Reservoir has stratified, provide the most productive fishing period. Walleye will orient to the bottom of the thermocline (metalimnion) which provides the coolest water with acceptable concentrations of dissolved oxygen. This depth range usually occurs between 15 and 18 feet from the dam upstream to Tims Ford State Park and ranges from 12 to 15 feet from Mansford Bridge and upstream. Another popular and productive method during the summer involves night fishing. Lights are used to attract bait fish while fishing over the main river channel in the lower half of the reservoir with live bait such as Threadfin Shad and Gizzard Shad. A popular and productive summer area to fish is from the dam upstream to the mouth of Lost Creek. Walleye will be suspended near the 15 feet depth range.