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I’ve paddled glacier lakes, farm ponds, large bodies of water, natural and manmade but a favorite destination for decades has been Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee. The only natural lake in the volunteer state, post card pretty and absolutely loaded with fish, Reelfoot is both epic and historic.

Formed as the result of the great earthquake in 1811 – 1812, described as the New Madrid Fault earthquakes, the power of the quakes actually caused the might Mississippi River to flow backwards! This phenomenon formed Reelfoot also known as “Quake Lake.” Sprawling over 18,000 acres and with an average depth of a surprising five feet and 18 feet deep at its deepest spot. Also a unique characteristic is the landscape in and around this fertile body of water. Ancient cypress trees along the shoreline and located all throughout the lake, watery fields of lily pads are the hiding spot for many species of fish. The lake covers two counties, Obion and Lake Counties. A diverse haven for wildlife, a wintering spot for bald eagles and a migratory waterfowl bonanza for hunters, the lake is loaded with fish.

There is always something biting at Reelfoot. From winter through late spring crappie fishermen flock to the shallow stump filled waters for the “slabs” the lake continues to produce. As spring arrives the legendary bluegill bite begins. Spawning beds cover the lake and coolers full of “bull gills” are taken throughout the summer. As the hand size bluegill bite slows the largemouth bass are looking for love in the tannic acid stained waters. Pick a bass bait and the Reelfoot fish will hot it. Soft plastics around the pads and the base of the ever-present cypress will produce bass for several months. With the approach of fall as the bass are packing it on for winter the crappie again take center stage. Channel catfish can be caught by the bucket full and are just another reason locals and out of state anglers visit Reelfoot.

The subsurface cypress stumps make negotiating the lake a little difficult. Kayaks and canoes can easily glide through the waters for fishing, photography or fun. * Life jackets 100% of the time. A note of caution when the wind picks up this place can be treacherous. Resorts like Blue Bank Resort (877-258-3226) have traditional aluminum boats for rent and if your goal is to find fish and limit out the guides are almost guaranteed to put you on your fish of choice. Billy Blakey has been guiding since his teen years (several decades) and knows the lake and the “honey holes” all over the lake. Jeff Riddle is a world class crappie fisherman and also knows the lake, the fish and the patterns seasonally. Live bait, a license, some assorted tackle and free advice are easily accessed at Blue Bank. Rooms, a top notch restaurant, a bar and entertainment are all located close by.

There are a few launch ramps around the lake, restaurants some shopping. While crappie are often the target kayakers can paddle the shoreline for bass and bluegill. Sunrises and an eye popping sunsets greet you at this Volunteer state jewel. Natural beauty and waters teeming with fish are all part of the magic that is Reelfoot Lake.