UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Norman

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2017 Lake Cumberland Preview

Lake Cumberland

Lake Cumberland

Burnside, Ky.

April 6-9, 2017

Hosted by Somerset Tourist and Convention Commission

 

About the Fishery

Located on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains in central Kentucky, Lake Cumberland is a deep mountain reservoir that was created in 1950 with the completion of the Wolf Creek Dam. Water levels within the steep-sided reservoir fluctuate greatly due to water needs in the downstream reservoirs and power generation throughout the river system. At summer pool of 723 feet above sea level, Cumberland’s average depth is 90 feet deep, and its deepest point is about 200 feet, though throughout the year (including a winter drawdown) the lake can drop upward of 50 feet. These fluctuations can also happen quite quickly in spring following heavy rains. Local pro Bill Day says he’s seen the lake rise 13 feet overnight, and smaller – though still significant – fluctuations are common.

Cumberland is a vast reservoir. From the FLW Tour takeoff site at General Burnside Island State Park to the dam is 56 miles by water, and the lake covers more than 50,000 acres when at summer pool.

Cumberland is mostly a clear reservoir, though water clarity at one time can vary from 10 feet in the lower end to quite stained in the creeks and upstream areas.

Finally, Cumberland underwent an extended drawdown period from 2006 to 2013 so that the dam could be reinforced to prevent seepage. During that time, significant woody growth developed along the shoreline, and that cover has helped improve game fish recruitment and provided anglers with more shoreline cover to fish.

 

The TV cameras are on Clark Wendlandt as he weighs in on day one.

Last Time

Cumberland hasn’t hosted a major FLW event since 2006, when the FLW Series Eastern Division visited the lake in early May. Texan Mike Hawkes won the tournament with a four-day total of 46 pounds, 15 ounces by fishing the lower end of the reservoir for spawning smallmouths.

Brent Ehrler won a much tougher tournament at the November 2004 Costa FLW Series Championship at Cumberland. No one in that event weighed more than 31 pounds in four days, and not a single top-10 finisher landed a limit every day.

Spring seems to be prime time on Cumberland, however. A four-day Costa FLW Series event held there in early April 2000 produced a winning stringer of 44-5. More recent springtime tournament weights are more impressive. T-H Marine Bass Fishing League events held at Cumberland in early May each of the last three seasons were won with one-day limits in the mid- to upper teens, primarily with finesse presentations. 

 

What to Expect this Time

Day says that most pros on Tour will be surprised by the quality of the fishing when they get to Cumberland, but the lake should remind them of some frequent FLW tournament sites.

“Cumberland is probably a lot like Beaver Lake, Lake of the Ozarks or Smith Lake, in that it’s very ‘vertical,’” Day says. “There are not many flat areas on the lake anywhere. But when they drew the lake down and all these trees grew up – these saplings in the backs of all the pockets and down the shoreline – once the water came back up, those trees just made a great place for young of the year to get refuge. It’s really picked up the population of good keeper-size fish.”

Day believes we could see several bags of more than 20 pounds comprised of largemouths, smallmouths or a mix. Of note is an 18-inch minimum on smallmouths.

“To me, April is the prime time on that lake to catch the biggest sacks,” he adds. “I think it’ll take 10 pounds a day to get paid. As for the winning weight, I would not be shocked if it takes 18 pounds a day to win.”

The tournament should fall right on the prime prespawn period on the lake, “right before they go on the bed, when they’re the heaviest, most aggressive and they’re eating,” says Day. Tactics should run the gamut and allow anglers to fish to their strengths throughout the reservoir.

 

Baits and Techniques

Jerkbaiting – It’s prespawn season, and jerkbaits will be in play for largemouths and smallmouths.

Flipping – Depending on the water level, there could be a solid flipping bite in the newly flooded cover along the shoreline.

Finesse – Cumberland is a clear-water reservoir, so finesse will play no matter what.

Cranking – The crankbait bite can be red-hot, and for multiple species.

 

3 Critical Factors

1. Rain and water level – According to Day, this is the biggest factor. A sudden rise could flood shallow cover in the creeks and bays, and that could really turn on a flipping bite. Unfortunately, a major influx of water could also wash dangerous debris into the lake and make it challenging to navigate from the takeoff site to the lower end, where Day expects many anglers to fish. Not to mention that sudden water level changes – up or down – can quickly force bass to relocate and, in the process, wash away a productive pattern.

2. Spring’s timing – Who knows what Mother Nature has in store for the region this winter and spring? If spring comes early, there just might be a few fish spawning – particularly smallmouths – though Day believes that won’t be the case. Mostly, short-term weather patterns will impact the bite and dictate how far along bass are in their prespawn transition.

3. The unknown – Few Tour anglers have experience with Lake Cumberland, so there are many unknowns at this tournament. Locals should have an advantage, but so should anyone who frequents Ozark reservoirs, Dale Hollow, Smith Lake and other clear mountain reservoirs.

 

Fantasy Fishing Picks

It’s tough not to pick the locals, including Bill Day, John Devere and Rex Huff. Day is a Ranger Boats dealer in the area and knows just about anyone who’s anyone in the fishing scene near Cumberland. Devere has four top 10s in BFL competition on Cumberland and is about guaranteed to find a prespawn pattern with his beloved Zorro Booza Bug jig. Huff, meanwhile, has six BFL top 10s at Cumberland.

As for outsiders, consider Bryan Thrift and Anthony Gagliardi, who’ve won before with a jerkbait, and Tennesseans Brad Knight and Wesley Strader, because they’re familiar with this type of mixed-bag mountain reservoir.

Tags: pre-tournament  2017-04-06-lake-cumberland 

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