UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Lake Sinclair

Is Kentucky Lake the best tournament lake in the country?

FLW Tour pro Tom Redington lands his quarry.

Poor Lake Barkley. It’s as spectacular as the Grand Tetons and nearly as vast and full of wildlife in and around it. With its 58,000 acres of ledges and shoreline cover packed with bass, Barkley would be the top tournament destination in most any other state. Except … there’s Kentucky Lake right next door. It’s always the center of attention, the headliner, and every time the FLW Tour visits the area (often launching in Kentucky Lake a couple miles from a canal leading to Barkley), anglers blow past Barkley like my mom and dad’s station wagon did through the Tetons in the ’80s en route to Yellowstone National Park.

I hope Barkley doesn’t take it personally and develop an inferiority complex, as pros such as Ramie Colson and Jay Yelas consistently score top finishes there. It’s not that Barkley isn’t awesome. It’s just that Kentucky Lake is, well, even awesomer.

The whole Tennessee River chain is known for great ledge fishing, but Kentucky Lake is in a league by itself. Guntersville, Chickamauga and Pickwick are routinely mentioned among the best lakes in the U.S., with winning weights averaging well over 20 pounds per day in three- and four-day events. However, put a big tournament on those lakes with 100 or more boats and the seemingly vast reservoirs get pretty crowded in a hurry. It reminds me of when I was a boy and video games first became popular. The three PAC-MAN, Caterpillar and Asteroids games at the local pizza joint were great when you got to play them, but you got to play them only after the kid in the parachute pants with the 5-pound bag of quarters got done playing them first. Fishing Kentucky Lake, on the other hand, is like the first time they opened a video arcade at the local shopping mall – if there was a line for one game, there were a dozen other cool ones with nobody playing them. Case in point: A few weeks ago at the Rayovac FLW Series, our tournament overlapped another major event, and there were more than 500 boats from one tournament or another on the water Friday. Amazingly, bags weighing in the upper teens and low 20s were routinely brought to the scales in either event, and few anglers had problems finding a spot to fish. How many other lakes could produce those kinds of catches in numbers? 

What makes Kentucky Lake so good? The way I see it, Kentucky Lake has so many of the necessary ingredients that make for an awesome fishery, and in astronomical quantities. Although it’s primarily known as a ledge fishery, Kentucky Lake is lined up and down with giant shallow bays with hard bottoms, so finding a suitable spawning area for a bass is easy. For juvenile bass, flooded weeds and bushes provided excellent cover in high-water springs, while periods of plentiful hydrilla produce bumper crops of bass in the areas blessed with it. Take this ideal bass-producing environment and stretch it 80 miles long and you have possibly the biggest bass hatchery on the planet.

Even better, of its immense 160,000 acres (250 square miles) of water, almost all is prime bass habitat of 30 feet deep or less whose bottom is composed of rolling hills and valleys, with the exception of the old river channel. With literally millions and millions of baby bass born annually and hundreds of square miles for them to reside and prosper, it isn’t hard to figure out why so many fish live in Kentucky Lake.

Small wonder Kentucky Lake seems to be booming now. A couple years ago, the lake had a nearly endless supply of bass from 14 to 16 inches in length. Now, it appears those bass have grown up, with most big schools being dominated by 2 1/2- to 4-pound fish, plus some true bucketmouths mixed in. Given the choice between catching lots of fish or big fish, if  – like me – you’d respond “both,” Kentucky Lake fits the bill.

As I write this on a hot day in Texas, I think back to visiting the cool mountains of Yellowstone as a child with my family a couple of times, later returning with my wife and more recently with my son as well. Whereas I quickly tired of video games after they became repetitious to me, the grandeur of nature in Yellowstone never fails to impress, whether because of her renewal from devastating forest fires or the random up-close-and-personal encounter with a grizzly or bull elk during a hike. And with all due respect to the Grand Tetons and to Lake Barkley, whether I win at Kentucky Lake or finish in last place, there are few places I’d rather be fishing an event at the end of June than this, the Yellowstone of tournament lakes. 

You can follow Tom’s fishing tips and updates on Facebook and Twitter. For fishing articles and videos, check out his website Lake Fork Guide Trips.

Tags: blog  tom-redington 


How to Catch Big Fall Smallmouths

What's the best time of year to catch lots of big smallmouth bass in the northern United States? Well, get ready, because it's going to happen in the next couple of weeks and continue until the lakes freeze solid. And the best part about it is that often times you will have entire lakes to yourself since most anglers switch gears and start their hunting seasons, leaving the lakes almost completely void of pressure. READ MORE »


Weekend Angler: Off the Water Practice

Of all the excuses I hear fisherman use when it comes to fishing tournaments, the one that intrigues me the most is, "I haven't been out that much, so I couldn't practice." There is no substitute for time on the water – that is not debatable – but there are things that can be done to assist you in your weekend efforts if you can’t spend every free moment on the water. Below you’ll find just a few tips to hopefully help you become a more efficient angler. READ MORE »


The Good Ol' Days

It’s hard to believe that the dog days of summer will soon be coming to an end, seen in the shortening of days and frigid mornings. For some, fall means hanging up the rods and picking up the bow or shotgun in preparation for the upcoming hunting seasons – for others, falling water temps signify hungry bass stocking up for the descending metabolism of winter. READ MORE »


Frog fishing 101

People often ask me about what frog I use and when. It’s a good question, because there are many, many frogs available to anglers these days. The answer depends on the situation you expect to encounter. READ MORE »


A Fisherman or Fisher of Men?

It was a series of ups, downs and way downs, though I ended my season with a nice check at the Potomac River. I thought squaring off against a prehistoric reptile in its own backyard was tough, but I have to tell you that fishing against these FLW guys was tougher than dealing with alligators back home. READ MORE »


Rhinos, Bass and Great White Sharks

Tournament fishing in South Africa is pretty solid, with about 500 serious tournament anglers in the country. There are many more recreational anglers in the region too. READ MORE »


Getting Whipped by the Young Bucks

It really goes against all logic, but logic flew out the window again at the recent Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Take the example of Brandon Cobb and Dion Hibdon. Cobb, at the tender age of 25, not only qualified for the Cup (the most difficult championship in the world to qualify for, much less win), but he finished in the top five. READ MORE »


SOAR Derby a Success

Be it children or adults, we all want others to be able to experience the pure joy that we feel when hooked up and battling a fish that we have worked so hard for. READ MORE »


Shifting Gears

I am stripping the big line off the Halos and re-spooling with 6- and 8-pound-test Berkley flouro, and reflecting on how much fun it was catching all those fish with all these relatively new baits, how hard some of the strikes were and how easy it was catching fish on baits that they haven't seen before. Well, that's all over now – back to smallmouth fishing. READ MORE »


Do You Really Need So Much Stuff?

Lures and clothes have a lot in common. Just like clothing evolves and new styles come out and old styles come back, so goes fishing lures. The difference between the two, however, is that you can outgrow your old jeans, but you can never get rid of your old baits. READ MORE »


Fishing Flooded Trees

Lakes that don’t have much current develop thermoclines in the summer where the water temperatures differ and form layers. Depending on water clarity and other factors, the top of the thermocline might be 20 to 30 feet from the surface, and a lot of times you can spot it on your fishing electronics. READ MORE »


Never Miss a Bass Again

Do you ever listen at the weigh-in at how many guys talk about all the fish they missed? I can’t accept that it’s part of the job at hand. It’s one of my pet peeves. Most of us would do much better if we would just ask the simple question “why?” In prefishing we have already done most of the hard work. During the tournament, a missed fish can’t be accepted. I consider it a good tournament when I come back to the ramp with no missed fish, regardless of my finish. How does that happen? It starts way before the tournament. READ MORE »


A Bass is a Bass, But Not Always

Amigos, as you may remember, we left the past blog with a big question mark on the well-known saying, “A bass is a bass, no matter what.” Well, it’s time to give you a different point of view. A lot of you, while reading these lines, might start questioning my ideas. READ MORE »


From Kayak to Bass Boat

Like many anglers, I am a fanatic about my equipment for the things I do. For example, I’m a four-time world champion whitewater kayaker and have won three of them in a boat of my design. I started Jackson Kayak to take kayak design to the next level and to do things that the bigger company I was working for wasn’t willing to do. I am also a long-time bass fisherman, which led me to fishing 2015 Walmart FLW Tour as a co-angler. READ MORE »


More Than a Fisherman

The competitive fishing world is a small one, and when narrowed down to the competitive bass fishing world, it is even smaller in the grand scheme of things. This, of course, isn’t to say that this small group doesn’t have an absolutely huge impact. It does. READ MORE »


The "No Excuse" Guide

Chatter can be dock talk, personal abusive talk, hater talk, fan talk and everything in between. The list goes on. I truly believe tournament fishing is all a mental game. I feel that the most successful anglers know how to tune it all out and fish in the zone. It is crucial to know how to tune out all the chatter and shut up and fish. READ MORE »


Missed Chances at the Finale

The final Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac River was a tough event for me. After one of the strongest practices I’ve ever had there, or anywhere, really, I drove home scratching my head. READ MORE »


My Lost-Fish Troubles Continue

Lake Chickamauga is loaded with big bass, and for the first time in three previous visits I felt really good after the practice period was over. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out for me, and I ended the event after day two by missing the top-20 cut by a mere 4 ounces. READ MORE »


Blaukat on Climate Change

As many of you know, for years I’ve been an outspoken voice on environmental issues. As a result, I’ve been celebrated by some and ostracized by others. But what some think of me being the messenger is irrelevant. It’s not about the messenger – as much as detractors try to make it out to be – it’s about getting the message out. I want to start by saying that the debate of whether or not climate change is man-made is over. It’s real, and it’s right here in our faces. READ MORE »


Running a College Club

The sport of college bass fishing is growing at an incredible pace. During my freshman year (2011-2012), tournament fields were limited to 50 anglers, and boats were supplied by Rayovac FLW Series volunteer competitors. During the end of my senior year this season, field sizes grew larger at every tournament, and we saw more colleges providing boats for student anglers – signs of growth for sure. READ MORE »