It’s no secret that bass run big and plentiful in the Knoxville area, or that the local residents welcome anglers. The 49th Annual Bassmaster Classic was held here in March of 2019 and fans turned out in droves to watch the competition. In fact, they broke the all-time Classic attendance record as the entire community welcomed visiting fans from every state in the U.S.A.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Hobie Tournament of Champions to these East Tennessee waters,” said Chad Culver, Senior Director of the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission. “We know these anglers and their families will be appreciated in Knoxville, a place where big bass and southern hospitality await. We’re expecting a super tournament and a great turnout as well.”
This fall’s TOC will provide competitors the opportunity to work within the same basic boundaries as last year’s Classic event, focusing on the headwaters of the Tennessee River, the Holston River below Douglas, French Broad River below Cherokee, Fort Loudon Lake and Tellico Reservoir.
“That’s a lot of water to cover,” says Eric Thomason, 47, a BOS competitor and Knoxville native, “so be sure to bring your full bassin’ arsenal because you never know what patterns will develop here. Although it’s likely to still be warm, it can get cold in these parts during November and fishing conditions can change from hour-to-hour. I plan on packing my Hobie Pro Angler 14 to the max.”
Thomason finished 7th in last year’s inaugural TOC at Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita and is working hard to get back in the mix this year. “I’m pumped already,” he revealed. “It would be so sweet to qualify again for the TOC on familiar waters. I think I can put some quality numbers on the board if I get the chance - and I’d love to do it in front of a hometown crowd.”
In terms of where to fish, Thomason stresses that every stretch within the tournament boundaries has potential to produce a winning haul. Still, he’ll probably focus on the two big lakes. The waters of Fort Loudon Lake, he noted, offer abundant grass, timber, laydowns, islands and creeks to probe but tend to be a bit on the greenish side. “Expect 3- to 4-foot visibility here and a nice mix of bigmouths and bronzebacks,” he advises. “Throw big topwater lures like a Whopper Plopper, Buzz Bait, Pompadour, Spook or Lucky Craft Sammy. Large swimbaits, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and crankbaits produce well, too, but you’ll want to go with bright colors to help the bass spot these offerings.”