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Bassmaster Open slated for Chickamauga Lake

About 400 anglers and co-anglers will take on Chickamauga Lake during the second Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, held out of Dayton, Tenn., April 20-22. (Photo: Contributed)

If you've been on or near Chickamauga Lake recently, chances are you've seen a large number of "wrapped bass boats." Those are the fancy boats typically owned by professional bass anglers with lots of sponsors they want to show off to the world.

There's a reason they're here.

The Bassmaster Southern Open is being held on April 20-22 on Chickamauga. Anglers expect to see some huge weights come to the scale in Dayton, Tenn. each day.

“Chick is on fire right now,” according to Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Coulter.

Coulter isn't fishing the event this time, but is envious of the approximate 400 anglers who are.

“My dad called me when I was at Toledo Bend and said he and my uncle went out and caught two 5-pounders and a 9-4,” Coulter said. “And before the Classic (on Texas’ Lake Conroe in March) a buddy and I went to Chickamauga, and we had five fish that weighed 34 pounds, 4 ounces. On our Tennessee Team Trail tournament there back in February, we had a guy catch a 10-2, and that wasn’t ‘Big Bass.’ It wasn’t even second place. Two other guys caught an 11-even and a 10-8.”

The hundreds of anglers and co-anglers all hope to replicate any of the fantastic catches Coulter mentioned. Each angler can weigh their five largest bass each day. The pro with the most weight after three days of action will earn a berth into the famous 2018 Bassmaster Classic which will be held on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina — provided the winner fishes all other Opens in the Southern Division.

Competitors next week should expect a heavy dose of shoreline fishing, Coulter said. The spawn on Chickamauga was about to begin in early April, but a cold front that week lowered water temperatures and may have delayed the bedding season.

Anglers couldn’t ask for a more well-timed weather system, Coulter said.

“That cold front put everything on pause for a few days,” he said. “So now, if the weather holds, almost all of the bass are going to be spawning. I would figure almost all the fish will be up on the banks. It could be a sight fisherman’s dream; just an absolute heyday for them to be pitching and flipping for big bites.”

The first Southern Open of the 2017 season was held on the Harris Chain of Lakes in central Florida. Elite Series rookie Jesse Wiggins won that tournament and locked up a berth in the 2018 Classic. He’ll fish on Chickamauga Lake too, and he’s hoping to continue his recent hot streak. Not only did he win Southern Open No. 1, but he’s also leading the Toyota Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year standings and is eighth in the Angler of the Year standings.

“I expect to see all stages of the spawn (on Chickamauga Lake),” Wiggins said. “I’d prefer to see postspawn conditions because they’d be out deep, which is what I like. But however they are, I think we’re going to be spread out enough with everyone looking at different things. It should be a good one.”

Jacob Wheeler won the last B.A.S.S. event on Chickamauga Lake – the 2014 BASSFest. The 1986 Bassmaster Classic also was held there, and the lake ranked third in the southeastern division of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Lakes for 2016.

The Rhea Economic and Tourism Council is hosting the tournament.

The Bassmaster Southern Open No. 2 will begin each day with take off at 6:45 a.m. ET from the Dayton Boat Dock, 175 Lakeshore St. Weigh-in for Thursday and Friday will begin at 2:45 p.m. ET at the same location. Saturday’s weigh-in will begin at 3:45 p.m. ET at Bass Pro Shops, 1000 Bass Pro Drive, in East Ridge, Tenn.

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