Fishing in Pickwick Lake and Wilson Tailwaters

Located in northwest Alabama on the Tennessee River, Pickwick Reservoir runs 50 miles from Pickwick Landing Dam in Tennessee to the "Shoals" area below Wilson Dam. The total surface area at full summer pool is 47,500 acres. McFarland Park at Florence can host major fishing tournaments.

According to the 2012 BAIT Report, Pickwick Reservoir ranked among the top four Alabama reservoirs for “Average Bass Weight,” “Pounds per Angler-Day,” and “Hours per Bass Larger than 5 pounds.” It ranked 3rd overall for reservoirs reporting five or more tournaments.

Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are the most sought after species by anglers, although some nice spotted bass exist in the Reservoir too. Pickwick Reservoir is Alabama’s best location for that angler trying to catch a black bass “Grand Slam:" largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass.  Pickwick Reservoir's greatest reputation is its superb smallmouth bass fishing. 

One of the most popular smallmouth fishing areas is the "Shoals" section directly downstream of Wilson Dam to the end of Seven-Mile Island. Generation discharge from Wilson Dam creates a strong current in this area that smallmouth bass love. The middle to lower reaches of Pickwick provide excellent habitat for both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass habitat in Pickwick Lake is so good that several line class records have been certified by the International Game Fish Association.

Crappie are another favorite fish species sought by Pickwick anglers. The majority of the crappie angling in Alabama occurs during the spring on Bear Creek and Second Creek embayments. Most of the successful anglers drift jigs and minnows along the creek channels to find concentrations of crappie.

The tailwaters of Wilson Dam provide excellent opportunities to catch sauger during the winter months when they migrate upstream to spawn. Blue catfish and channel catfish are also found in high numbers during the summer. Bank access is available on the south side at Sheffield and Muscle Shoals. Florence (McFarland Park) and Waterloo provide fishing on the north side. Boaters may use TVA's locks to go downstream to Kentucky Lake or upstream to Wilson Lake: Wilson Lock 256-764-5226, Pickwick Lock 731-925-2334.

9-1/2 pound bassSampling: Electrofishing during April, 2012, revealed a population of largemouth bass that were fatter than the Alabama statewide average. A high percentage of the largemouth bass population consists of fish less than 15 inches and yet the percentage of largemouth bass over 15 inches is the highest it has been in more than 15 years. Annual recruitment to larger sizes appears good, and the outlook is for tournament anglers to expect good catches of "keeper" sized bass. That “kicker” may be a little more difficult to find, but chances are as good as they have ever been on Pickwick Reservoir.  

Lake Pickwick Sunset by Jerry Foster of FlorenceFishing: Anglers should fish deeper in the riverine stretches of the reservoir where larger bass reside. Aquatic weeds (milfoil and hydrilla) have become established in the lower end of the reservoir. Anglers fishing deep humps and aquatic weed margins have been successful in catching their limit. Traditional baits remain good for catching bass on Pickwick Lake, but anglers are encouraged to throw shad-colored grubs, fish-head spin rigs, shaky-head finesse rigs, spoons, and 5-inch swim baits to be more competitive. Live bait angling remains popular, and is one of the most successful methods of catching smallmouth bass. Current is the key to catching bass on Pickwick, so anglers need to be in the best locations when TVA opens the turbines to begin generating electricity.

When fishing the reciprocal waters of Pickwick Reservoir, refer to Regulation 220-2-.122 in the regulation book for more information.

eleven pound largemouth bass from Pickwick Lake


Contact the Fisheries Section's District I office for specific questions about Pickwick Lake.