Fishing in Tupelo, MS
Every weekend, anglers in northeast Mississippi confront what some might say is a good problem to have.
When they grab their poles and head for the water, they have to choose one of more than 20 lakes within an hour-and-a-half drive of Tupelo. It’s tempting to head out to Enid Reservoir to try and best the white crappie world record that was set there in 1957, but then all those prize smallmouth bass swirling around in Pickwick Lake might get jealous. Is the day more suited for an afternoon jaunt up to Lake Lamar Bruce, just nine miles north of town or a day trip 50 miles out to Sardis Lake? That’s not to mention Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, Elvis Presley Lake or the dozens of ponds dotting the region.
“I tell people all the time that my problem in Tupelo is not when to fish, it’s which lake do I want to try and go to,” says Larry Pugh, assistant director of the Fisheries Bureau for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Tupelo is really the center, the hub, that would provide access to all these other places [for fishing].” The Tupelo area is known far and wide as a hotbed for anglers, hosting tournaments and attracting biologists and fishermen from across the country. In addition to abundant crappie and smallmouth bass, the region has a reputation for largemouth bass, catfish and bream.
What really cements Tupelo’s reputation in the fishing world, though, is that you can hardly throw a rock in any direction without hitting a pond, lake or river. “When daylight savings time starts, you can get off work, hook the boat up and be on the water in 10-15 minutes at Trace, Tombigbee, Elvis Presley, Lake Lamar Bruce,” Pugh says. “In 10 to 15 minutes, you can be fishing, and you can fish for three hours. And there’s not a lot of places throughout the state – and trust me, I’ve looked at them all – that can say that.”
Tupelo Bass Club
Pugh isn’t just blowing smoke. The former president of the Tupelo Bass Club was transferred to work in Jackson nearly 200 miles away but chooses to commute instead of moving from Tupelo and its waterways.
That kind of dedication doesn’t seem odd to Mark Gwin, another member of the Tupelo Bass Club. Other than a few weeks when he was off his feet for health reasons, Gwin hasn’t missed a week on the water in roughly 16 years.
“I go every weekend,” he says. “We are so blessed in Tupelo with so many different kinds of water to fish. Just the father with his kid and a cane pole can fish farm ponds, and there’s public access on all our public waters. The state’s done well; the government’s done well on supplying fishable places.”
Despite Tupelo’s recognition nationwide as an angler’s paradise, Gwin says there are still some watering holes that only the locals know. “We’d rather … keep [those places] a secret,” Gwin says, laughing. “But that’s okay because I do believe in ‘share and share alike.’ And maybe they’ll give us some of their secrets, too.”
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