Burghoff Says Chickamauga Giants Can Be Caught in All Depth Ranges

Published on 05-06-2020

Miles “Sonar” Burghoff was raised in California, and went to college in Florida, so he knows big bass country, and when it came time to choose a permanent home, the FLW Tour pro and his bride settled on Lake Chickamauga. The Tennessee River impoundment offers not just patternable fish, but loads of them, including some certifiable giants – and he says that the Big Bass Tour event from May 15 through 17 will intercept them at the optimal time.

“Mid-May is my favorite time of the year to fish Lake Chickamauga because the opportunities are endless,” he said. “No matter what you like to do – fish deep, fish shallow, or somewhere in between – the fish are ready to bite and there are a lot of big ones in any depth range.”

He’s likely start his search shallow, because even though it’s been warm enough to bed for quite a while, he considers this time of year “the prime of the spawning season.” He’s convinced that Chickamauga’s fish wait until the lake stabilizes at summer pool to begin their biggest wave of reproducing and there are lots of spawning flats and coves to explore.

He’d start with a wacky-rigged soft stickbait, throwing it to dark and light spots he can make out, as well as to individual fish he sees guarding an area. In between areas where he’s seeing fish and likely targets, he’d throw a swim jig, either in shad or bluegill colors, as well as a 5-inch swimbait, to cover water.

If the shallow game is not your preference, there will be enough fish leaving spawning areas and headed to their summer haunts to scratch your offshore itch. While Chickamauga might not be a classic “ledge impoundment” like nearby Kentucky Lake, it offers plenty of textbook post-spawn cover for the fish to recuperate on. A deep diving crankbait or a swimbait can cover allow you to hit plenty of prime targets and elicit a reaction bite, but for fish coming off the bed Sonar’s most preferred go-to is a 10-inch plastic worm in Junebug, Redbug or Plum. He’d alternate between a Texas Rig and a magnum shakey head until he found out which presentation the fish preferred on a given day.

Lake Chickamauga has always been a prime producer of magnum-sized tournament winners for the Big Bass Tour, but over the past four Mays we’ve had a front row seat for a lake on the upswing.

In 2016, it took 7.46 pounds to make the top ten, and an 8.98 giant came out on top, but in 2018 and 2019 that winning fish would not have even made the top five. In fact, 2017 was the last time it did not take a 10-pounder to win and a fish over 8 ½ pounds to make the top ten. The past two years in particular have produced an amazing parade of fish to the scales. Last year the winner was a 10.20 pound giant, and there were four more over 9 pounds, plus a near miss at 8.97 pounds. The 2018 event produced a remarkable three fish over 10 pounds, including a 10.62 pound winner, along with three more over 9, and another near miss at 8.96. We expect that hot streak to continue. Don’t expect to win the overall top prize with anything less than a 9, and hourly winners should rest on the high side as well.

“You guys are going to catch a lot of big fish and have a really good opportunity to catch a giant that’s going to take away the Z19,” Burghoff concluded.