John's Journal...

Dam Tailraces for Stripers with Tommy Akin

Look for the Grooves

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Tommy Akin of Greenfield, Tennessee, has fished for saltwater stripers for 14 years. On any day, after office hours, you’ll find Akin in a tailrace at Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee/Mississippi/Alabama border, catching those drag-stripping, rod-bending, muscle-straining saltwater striped bass. Akin’s strategies will catch stripers in any tailrace.

Question: Tommy, where exactly do you fish in a tailrace, and is one area of a tailrace generally better than another?
Akin: Yes, the best place to fish in any tailrace is the seams, which is where two colliding currents crash together. When two currents hit each other, the place where they collide creates slacker water than is on either side of the seam. The stripers are holding in that less-slack water, darting out into the edge of the current to catch and eating their bait. Even though the water in the seam isn’t as fast as the water on either side of the seam, it’s still really fast-moving water.

Question: What’s another secret to catching stripers?Click to enlarge
Akin: Remember, we’re fishing in turbulent water on the edges of boils and fast-moving current. If wind and rain are added to this mix, you really have rough elements for fishing. To be able to feel the bite, set the hook and catch the fish, you must have an extremely-stable boat that can handle rough water, like my War Eagle 756 Tomahawk Bass Series. You need wide sides and a really-good trolling motor that can buck the current and get you to the place you want to fish, hold you there and then take you back to the same spot after you drift down and catch fish. You can get into trouble really quickly if you don’t know how to deal with the tremendous amount of current coming out of the dam.

One of the worst problems you can have if you’re fishing between the dam and where the water boils-up coming out of the hydroelectric plant is if the power plant increases the current from the generator producing the boil you’re fishing behind. Then that boil can throw your boat in many-different directions. The increased power and the more-eClick to enlargexplosive boil can push you back up against the dam and skin-up your boat. I’ve seen novice fishermen get between the boils and the back of the dam, and when the power company has increased the flow from one boil causing the water to come up to the surface fast, their boat has filled with water. So, be very aware of the current and how much water is coming up from the boil at all times. This problem isn’t just for novice fishermen. The last time I fished at Pickwick, I fished the boils for severaClick to enlargel hours with no problems. Then suddenly, TVA kicked-up the power on one generator, and that boil erupted bigger, faster and higher. I had to crank-up my big engine and quickly get out from behind the boil. If you’ll be fishing these areas, you must understand how to fish the water. I strongly recommend you fish with a guide who knows the water, until you learn how to read the current.

Question: What effect does an increase in power and current have on striper fishing below most dams?
Akin: As soon as additional power or turbines are activated, the fishing slows-down for about 15 minutes. Then, the increase in current increases the number of stripers that come up closer to the dam. We generally catch more stripers when there’s an increase in current. It’s a chain reaction. The more current coming out of the dam, the more baitfish that come up to the dam from the river below, and the more stripers that will follow the baitfish to the dam.

For more information on Pickwick Lake, contact the Hardin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at, or call 731-925-8181 or 800-552-3866, or visit

Tomorrow: Baits for Stripers

Check back each day this week for more about "Dam Tailraces for Stripers with Tommy Akin"

Day 1: Best Bet for Stripers
Day 2: Look for Grooves
Day 3: Baits for Stripers
Day 4: The Striper Fight
Day 5: Putting a Striper in the Boat


Entry 473, Day 2