A Local's Guide to Unraveling the Mysteries of Norris Lake Fishing

Nestled among the mountains of East Tennessee, Norris Lake beckons with its pristine waters and abundant fish species. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a novice eager to cast your first line, this blog is your gateway to unlocking the secrets of Norris Lake's fishing realm.


Buckle up your life vest and get ready to dive into the depths of Norris Lake's fishing world. This blog is not just a guide; it's a conversation—a Q&A session with a local who understands the nuances of fishing in these waters. Let's cast off and discover the treasures that await beneath the surface of Norris Lake.

1) Where do you fish on Norris Lake?

Norris is basically separated and fed by two rivers, the Powell and the Clinch. I predominately fish the Clinch side of the lake from Loyston Sea and Lost Creek area, all the way up to the mouth of the Clinch River just past Black Fox.

2) What do you fish for?

I always set out looking for a smallmouth bite but there’s days where they just don’t cooperate. On days like this, especially in tournaments, I will go shallow and try and find some green fish. This has definitely been the trend over the last four to five years. I have friends I fish against, some of the best sticks on the lake, that usually struggle when the smallmouths are not biting and come to the scales with empty bags. You have to be versatile, especially on Norris. I can say that more Largemouths have been weighed in than Smallmouths over the last few years which shows the population is healthier now than ever before. In years past, smallmouth always ruled the scales. One thing I’ve learned and have always said about Norris in regards to Smallmouth, the nastier the weather the better the bite will be.

3) What bait / lures do you recommend?

Every fisherman has their “go to” baits. I know some guys that will throw their “confidence” bait for 8 hours during a tournament without a bite and never switch, even though their partner is slaying them from the front of the boat (trust me I’ve fished with many). I say this to say that everyone has their confidence bait, sometimes you can’t shake them off your hook with “your bait”, and other days they won’t even sniff it.

Every fisherman has their go-to baits which may consist of 1,2,3 different lures (or more). However, you must be willing to adapt based off the conditions, season, and time of year. If I had to pick my confidence bait on Norris, or any local body of water, mine would be a jig. I have more confidence in a jig than any other bait I tie on, hands down. It’s a bait you can flip, drag or swim and for me, it’s the most versatile bait ever made. I gained confidence with a jig early on and have modified it depending on the conditions or lake I’m fishing. Most think that deep clear reservoirs require finesse fishing while downsizing lures and line size. This can sometimes be true depending on conditions but I have made believers out of those who have been in the boat with while using bigger baits. The biggest smallmouths I have caught on Norris were caught using a ½oz jig and bulky trailer on 15-20lb. fluorocarbon. There will never be a day I go fishing where I don’t have at least 1 jig on the deck of my boat.

My second choice on Norris would definitely be a swimbait. I modify the size of the bait and jig-head depending on the shad size and season. I always downsize in the winter with 6-8lb test and go bigger during the pre & post-spawn with 12-15lb. test fluorocarbon. For me, these are my confidence baits year-round. However, I do throw and have confidence with a multitude of other baits throughout the year. During the pre-spawn, it’s hard to beat craw-colored cranks from March through late April. Wind is definitely your friend and if you can find wind-blown mud banks later in the day, it can be lights out. When the bite gets tough, a Ned-Rig might save the day. Topwater baits such as the Zara Spook and Whopper-Plopper can be great as well after the spawn or once the water temp reaches 60 degrees. When the lake reaches full-pool in early pre-spawn, definitely move shallow and target laydowns. I have had great success flipping a jig in the heart of each laydown while my partner runs a Buzzbait on the edges. One of the best days I had on Norris is catching 50 plus largemouth during a tournament running this pattern.

One of my favorite patterns that doesn’t get much pub these days is the Float-n-Fly during the cold winter months. Conditions have to be right and are ideal when the water temperature drops down to the mid 40s. We arrived at the ramp one morning and it was 11 degrees. I’m sure the few cars we passed on the way thought we were idiots (I did too at the time). That day, we caught 12 smallmouths suspended around 12-15’ deep on 6lb test using 10’ crappie rods. Half of these were over 3lbs.. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend you do!

4) What do you normally catch? Size, weight, etc…

Norris has a huge population of 15-17” smallmouth. You can have a blast catching these sizes all day long, unless you’re in a tournament. But like I mentioned earlier, if you can catch them in the right faze that corelates with the right weather conditions, you can get healthy quick!

5) Best place to launch your boat in your opinion?

I usually put in at Hickory Star Marina during the winter months. After the draw-down, Hickory is a great place launch your boat due to the wide ramp and lack of tournaments during that time of year. It is the closest ramp to my house and does require a $10 launch fee but makes it worth it due to the lack of congestion. During the summer peak-season months, I always put in at Brogans which is about 5 miles up from the turn off towards Hickory Star off of highway 33. Brogans is a free launch but usually has tournaments launching early on the weekends. Loyston / Point 19 is very similar and is located in a great spot on the Clinch side of the lake that makes for easy access to the Powell side. Anderson County Park is also a great ramp to launch on the Powell side of the lake. Both Loyston and Anderson County Park are both accessed off of I-75 North from the Norris exit.

6) Any tips or advice for a visitor or new resident fishing here?

After fishing many clubs throughout the years, it has always amazed me that each club only puts Norris on their schedule only once during the year while every other lake is scheduled twice. This happens because most have never had success on Norris, put the time in to be successful, and is intimidated by it. I resent this because it is the best lake I’ve ever fished, in more ways than one. Norris is the most beautiful lake in the state of Tennessee and is where I find my peace. It can get crowded during the summer months and fishing during this time might not be ideal unless you prefer night fishing. However, from October through May, you will not find a spot that offers more solitude and bites than the beautiful clear blue waters of Norris Lake. I suggest that you spend some time on it, and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.