Chickamauga Lake’s Big Bass Showing
Chickamauga Lake, a 59-mile long impoundment on the Tennessee River, runs through Chattanooga, Hixson, Soddy-Daisy, Cleveland, Graysville and, more specifically, Dayton.
Big Bass Success
Chickamauga Lake contains many fish species but the chief species anglers cast for are largemouth bass, crappies, shellcrackers (redear sunfish) and catfish.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) experimented with stocking the Florida strain of largemouth bass 14 years ago with the hopes that their genes for a heavier fish would be passed on to our indigenous strain of Northern largemouth bass.
Well, it worked! Anglers are catching more bass in the nine- to 13-pound range with astounding frequency. TWRA is very excited with the results of introducing the Florida strain, said Chief of Fisheries Bobby Wilson. It’s very rare for so many large bass to be caught in any of the state’s reservoirs.
TWRA’s studies show that 90 percent of Chickamauga’s bass carry some of the Florida strain’s genes. This percentage of bass enjoys “hybrid vigor”. They express more strength and a better growth rate than either of the Northern or Florida strains. Bass tournament anglers love these hybrids that may soon break the state record of 14 pounds, eight ounces established in 1954.
And it’s the bass that get us to Dayton.
BASSFest will be the first of its kind – a week-long celebration through June 15 that combines Bassmaster Elite Tournament Series with a big hoopla atmosphere where excitement over catching big bass is contagious and people who love the outdoors are catching it across the country. Pro and amateur anglers as well as bass fans will gather to witness what may be the record-breaking contest in the state.
“Dayton is beautiful and we’re certainly excited to bring one of our most unique tournaments to Dayton,” said Helen Northcutt, B.A.S.S. Communications Director.
The heart of BASSfest is the tournament on Chickamauga Lake. Besides the Elite Series pros, the top 20 anglers from each of the three Bassmaster Open tours will be invited to compete against the likes of Kevin VanDam, Edwin Evers and Aaron Martens. There will also be a Bassmaster Collegiate Tournament on Watts Bar Lake. Festival goers can attend Bassmaster University for free seminars on the latest bass fishing techniques.
“Other than the Bassmaster Classic, this could be the biggest tournament there has ever been,” said Jerry McKinnis, B.A.S.S. co-owner. “It is truly a festival around our sport.”
More Ways to Enjoy Dayton Outdoors
The Cumberland Trail is an ambitious hiking trail project under development in East Tennessee. When completed, Cumberland Trail will extend more than 300 miles from its northern terminus in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park to its southern terminus at the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park located on Signal Mountain just outside Chattanooga.
This scenic footpath follows a line of high ridges and deep gorges lying along or near the rugged, eastern edge of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau offering an exceptional wilderness experience with many scenic views of waterfalls, landscapes, gorges, wildlife and widely varying flora.
This backcountry trail meanders through 11 counties, primarily on public lands. These lands are managed by Tennessee’s Departments of Environment and Conservation, Wildlife Resources Agency and Forestry. The trail connects two national parks and passes through a national wild and scenic river area.
In 1998, the land the trail passes through was designated the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, Tennessee’s first linear state park. The Cumberland Trail is an official component of the Tennessee Recreational Trails System and a designated State Scenic Trail. It’s also a part of the Great Eastern Trail, which is under development and will extend from Alabama to New York when completed.
Under the leadership and management of the Cumberland Trail Conference, 190 miles of the trail have been constructed and are maintained. These trail miles are divided into 15 segments.
Scope out the Scopes Trial Site
I’d be remiss not to mention the national sensation created by the Scopes Trial. The courtroom is on the second floor of the restored Romanesque-Revival, Italian-villa style courthouse built in 1891. The building acquired the designation of a National Historic Landmark in 1977. The courtroom contains the original judge’s bench, four tables, railing, jury chairs and spectator seats. It’s open to the public Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in downtown Dayton.
The Scopes Trial was also called the “Monkey Trial” that occurred in the spring of 1925. John Thomas Scopes was a science teacher at Rhea County High School in Dayton. Among the discussions in the wake of the Tennessee evolution law were those that took place in Dayton at Robinson’s Drugstore on Market Street, a favorite gathering place for local citizens.
A small group headed by Earle Robinson and George Rappleyea conspired with young Scopes to violate the Tennessee statute to provide a court test case. The original plan appears to have been a publicity stunt. Worldwide publicity quickly developed, surprising the conspirators.
Learn more about it at The Scopes Museum located in the Rhea County Courthouse.