Whether you are a fly angler or spin fisherman, you’ll love fishing for smallmouth bass on the Holston River. Like many of the rivers in this part of the United States, bronzebacks grow fat and happy, even in skinny water.
The Holston River is a major river system of southwestern Virginia and east Tennessee. The three major forks of the Holston (its North, Middle and South Forks) rise in southwestern Virginia and have their confluence near Kingsport, Tennessee. The North Fork flows 138 miles (222 km) southwest from Sharon Springs in Bland County, Virginia. The Middle Fork flows 56.5 miles (90.9 km) from near the western border of Wythe County, Virginia, joining the South Fork in Washington County southeast of Abingdon. The South Fork rises near Sugar Grove in Smyth County and flows 112 miles (180 km) southwest to join the North Fork at Kingsport. From there the main stem of the Holston River flows 136 miles (219 km) roughly southwestward, just north of Bays Mountain, until it reaches its confluence with the French Broad River just east of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. This confluence is considered to be the start of the Tennessee River.
Holston River Smallmouth Fishing
Several reservoirs have been built along the Holston, and most of the fishing opportunities in east Tennessee are on tailwater stretches beneath the hydroelectric dams between lakes. The Cherokee Dam tailwater runs a little over 50 miles from Jefferson City, TN through Blaine and Mascot, TN before finally winding all the way down to Knoxville.
This stretch is touted to be some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the state, and, arguably, even the country. It can’t be argued, though, that this river puts up great numbers of respectable to trophy smallmouth bass in any given year. This is a direct product of careful management, stocking, a fortified forage base, and great natural recruitment by the spawning smallies.
A recent fishing report from the Holston had the smallies feeding aggressively even in December:
Unseasonably warm days following cold nights have resulted in excellent conditions for smallmouth fishing in the Holston River in Kingsport, local guide Randy Ratliff said.
Water temperatures in the river have ranged from 56 degrees to as warm as 58 degrees later in the afternoon. Smallmouth bass in the river are feeding aggressively, fattening themselves for the winter.
If you live in Tennessee or Virginia, put smallmouth fishing on your bucket list.