Open: Weather is the word at Cherokee

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Andy Crawford

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The weather is the word on Thursday at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open at Cherokee Lake. This morning, Tropical Storm Zeta was quickly moving up the eastern slope of the Great Smokey Mountains, or near the borders of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. Takeoff was delayed until 8 a.m. ET, or 15 minutes later than the original time, due to low light conditions.

The National Weather Service forecasts for the storm to pass, along with the rain, by 11 a.m. Behind it will come winds from the south at 15-20 mph. Today’s high will be 78 with the low tonight around 50.

The bigger impact on the fishing comes tomorrow, with classic post-front conditions. The high is expected to be 56, with northeast winds at 5 to 10 mph. The overnight low will be around 40 and the high on Championship Saturday will be 63.

What that means for the anglers on Friday is likely throwing out any game plan they had today. Overall there are two different bites in play. The first is a largemouth game in the upper reaches of the lake and into the Holston River. Shallow flats and creeks, called “run ins,” are the prime habitat and isolated wood and rock are the textbook casting targets. On the opposite end is the smallmouth bite in the lower end. Those fish school over main lake points, following the sloping bottom contour as they adjust to changes in the weather. Call that one a classic run-and-gun game.

The highly anticipated smallmouth bite will not materialize due to the recent warmer than normal weather. Local experts say the smallmouth bite is best with water temperatures in the low 60s, or about 10 degrees cooler than it is now.

“Smallmouth fisheries like here on Cherokee are very dependent on water temperature, and we just never got that cooler water temperature like everyone expected because of the warmer than normal temperatures,” said Scott Martin. “The smallmouth are still deep and relatively inactive.”

Even so, the current leader of the Falcon Rods Eastern Opens Angler of the Year points had a positive outlook for Thursday.

“With all this new water coming in with the storm and low pressure, I think the fishing is going to be good,” he said.