May is a great month to catch a trophy striped bass from the upper end of Old Hickory Reservoir near Carthage, Tennessee. Striped bass are concentrated from Cordell Hull Dam downstream to the mouth of the Caney Fork River.
They are also abundant in the Caney Fork River and are usually found within two river miles from its confluence to the Cumberland River.
Striped bass in Old Hickory Reservoir move upstream to spawn during May and are drawn to Cordell Hull Dam which provides an upstream barrier. Water temperatures in the lower to middle 60⁰ F range, photoperiod and water current are the natural spawning cues. Although the striped bass go through the spawning motions, the eggs never hatch. They settle to the bottom of the river and are silted over during incubation. This fishery is totally dependent on annual stockings provided by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fish hatcheries.
The Class A state record striped bass weighed 65 pounds and 6 ounces and was caught just upstream of Cordell Hull Dam. Striped bass exceeding 50 pounds are observed every year by TWRA biologists collecting striped bass brood fish from this tailwater to be spawned at their hatcheries. These big ones are too hard to handle and remain in the reservoir to be potentially caught and possibly even provide a new state record fish.
Baits and methods vary but drifting live skipjack herring or gizzard shad with planer boards is a preferred method for the big ones.
The bigger the bait the better!
Large artificial lures such as Redfins and top water baits such as the Zara Spook can also be productive. Guides are available to anglers looking for experience or a head start on learning the tactics. Regulations include a daily creel limit of 2 striped bass and a minimum length limit of 15 inches.