Once a major bend in the Mississippi River, Arkansas Lake Chicot began forming when the big river shifted its course and has fully been separated from the Mighty Mississippi’s flow since the 1300s. It was discovered by Hernando Desoto in the 1500s and later named by French explorers. Chicot means “stumpy,” presumably in reference to cypress knees.

Covering 5,300 acres and extending 20 miles, Lake Chicot is the largest oxbow lake in the United States and Arkansas’ largest natural lake. A dam built in 1948 to isolate the upper end of the lake and aid with siltation problems separates the lake into two sections. The upper lake covers 1300 acres; the lower lake, 4000 acres. The water is generally shallow, with a maximum depth of 25 feet.

Located in the southeastern corner of Arkansas, Lake Chicot warms early in the spring, and as its water heats up, so does spring fishing. Fertile, forage rich and offering plentiful fish habitat in the form of woody cover, Lake Chicot supports excellent fishing, with largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, hybrid striped bass and catfish all providing good prospects. It also offer outstanding scenery and a very remote feel.

Like most oxbows, Lake Chicot has few distinctive bottom contour features. The inside of the old river channel is shallow and the outside deep, with a gradual taper from the shallow side to the deep side. Cover, however, is plentiful in places. Broad stands of cypress trees provide extensive cover on the lake’s shallow side, as do willows and buckbrush in places. Cypress trees, boat docks and riprap provide cover along Chicot’s edges on both sides.

Fishing Approaches

Lake Chicot’s sportfish mostly relate to visible cover along the lake’s edges and throughout the shallow side. That’s makes it an excellent destination to fish as a visitor because the fish tend to be where it looks like they should be. Whether you’re targeting bass, crappie or bluegills, you often can find good success simply by fishing the stuff that “looks fishy.”

Bass fishermen do well flipping and pitching jigs and soft-plastic baits around woody cover and docks and fishing the same kinds of cover with spinnerbaits and square-billed crankbaits. Topwater lures also work well for calling bass out of the trees and up from riprap banks and seawall edges. Early in the spring, bass tend to be tight to the lake’s edges and high on the main sandbar. After the spawn, many move to the deep sides of the trees and to docks on the deep side of the lake.

Excellent options for Lake Chicot crappie including fishing a Lindy Fuzz-E Grub or a Live Bait Jig rigged with a minnow with a single long pole next to cypress trees and dock supports and suspending jigs and minnows beneath floats around cover. Target the shallowest willows, buckbrush and cypress knees during the spring and then gradually move out to the deeper edges of the trees.

From mid-spring through early summer, it’s tough to top a cricket fished a few feet beneath a float for bluegills and their kin. From mid-summer through fall, casting a Crickhopper close to the bank or tight to a cypress tree and twitching it on top can produce explosive surface action from bluegills and at times plenty of bass.

Hybrids are the oddballs in the Lake Chicot mix because they don’t relate to cover. They follow baitfish around the lake’s main body. The most dependable way to find these hard fighters is to watch for schooling activity. When you see fish busting or seagulls diving, the hybrids are probably feeding. Throw a topwater lure or a small shad imitation toward the breaking fish, work it quickly and hang on tight!

Lake Chicot Planning


Lake Chicot State Park offers boating access to the upper lake and fishing boat rentals, plus shoreline access and a fishing pier. Five ramps provide access to different parts of the lower lake. There are also fishing piers on the lower lake at Chicot County Park and in the town of Lake Village.

Lodging & Camping

Lake Chicot State Park has 14 cabins and offers a nice basecamp for a fishing vacation. Camping is available both at the state park and at the county park.

Lurenet Favorites

Heddon Zara Spook, Baby Bass

Rebel Crickhopper, Fire Tiger

YUM Christie Critter, Green Pumpkin Purple Flake 

Cotton Cordell Big O, Bluegill

Thill America’s Favorite Float