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Big TN Cypress Recalls Reel Memories & Tips

Posted: January 22nd, 2014 by Bill Dance

Some friends recently sent me a photo of a bald cypress tree growing in the Hatchie River Bottoms near Stanton, Tennessee. The photo of the tree left no doubt, it’s a monster. The cypress is reported to be 130-plus feet tall, 42-plus feet around at chest high, and has limbs that span 63 feet outward. The estimation on the tree’s age is reported at 800 years old! That’s older than our nation, by a long shot, and most certainly older than modern sport of bass fishing.

Through the years, as the water of the Hatchie ebbed and flowed, can you imagine the bass that have hung out around that old tree? And this old monarch of the West Tennessee River bottom made me think of what wonderful fishing cypress trees can provide. I have spent lifetime fishing around these tough timbers that always thrive so well in or around water.

Many river-bottom areas that I fish are literally infested with cypress, from Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee to the many, many oxbow lakes along the Mississippi River.

A few tips on fishing cypress might include these basics:

  • Target those trees that stand alone. In a clump of cypress trees, it might often be hit or miss, but one tree out, alone, and away from the rest may simply be more attractive to bass, because it IS the only cover in an area.
  • Work each tree methodically and thoroughly. Most cypress trees have cypress knees surround the main tree trunks, so there is a lot more bass-holding cover around a cypress than the base of the tree itself. There really are a lot of places a bass can hold around a flooded-timber cypress.
  • One technique when fishing cypress is to cast your bait into the base of the tree and let it fall down the trunk into the water. More natural, a presentation that reveals something falling off the tree into the water. Sometimes this is just the ticket to draw a vicious strike.
  • Finally, don’t forget the fact that cypress trees provide shade, too. I mean if it gets hot enough we all will seek out the famed “shade tree.” But at times, perhaps what cypress trees provide more than shade, could better be termed, “shadow?”  Really, the terms are probably interchangeable. But remember, just as shade provides more comfort to fish in warm water, offering perhaps cooler temps; at the same time it also provides shadows in which predator fish like bass can hide, lurk and await the perfect point of ambush. And remember the clearer the lake, the more important shade or shadows can be. Naturally, it changes as the sun moves throughout the day. Be alert to shadows created by a cypress, even those that are cast out far away from the tree, perhaps in the middle of a lake.  I have seen times when I could cast to the base of a cypress and then turn and cast out into the lake, where the shade from the same tree offers cover, and catch a fish there, too.

As always, catch one for me!

Bill Dance


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