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Ledge Battle Begins on Kentucky Lake

Ledge Battle Begins on Kentucky Lake

Day one of the Costa FLW Series Central Division event presented by Lowrance on Kentucky and Barkley lakes kicked off this morning out of Kentucky Dam State Park. The 210 pros and co-anglers in the field will take to one of the nation’s top summertime lakes, but one that’ll likely see competitors clustering on key areas where bass are schooled up on popular river ledges.

Pros will compete for a top award of up to $50,000 in cash and a new Ranger Z518C boat with a 200-hp Evinrude outboard. Co-anglers will cast for a Ranger Z175 boat with a 90-hp Evinrude outboard, and an additional $5,000 if Ranger Cup qualified. The tournament is being hosted by the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau.

 

About the fishery

Adjacent lakes separated by the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area, Kentucky and Barkley are linked by a canal at their north ends. While both lakes present viable options, it’s likely that Kentucky will see the majority of the fishing effort.

Completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1944, 22 miles upstream from the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers, Kentucky Dam is the longest in the Tennessee Valley Authority system (8,422 feet). Its reservoir, which stretches for 184 miles across Kentucky and Tennessee, is the largest in the eastern U.S., with 2,064 miles of shoreline and 160,300 surface acres.

Lake Barkley runs roughly parallel to Kentucky Lake and was created by its namesake dam on the Cumberland River. It stretches 134.2 miles and covers roughly 58,000 acres.

Both lakes offer a mix of coves and pockets, docks, shoreline wood and grass. All have their times, but June is ledge-fishing time, so most pros will keep their boats in deep water this week.

 

Current conditions

Kentucky and Barkley lakes are hovering right around 360 feet – a foot above summer pool. Kentucky Dam ran about 62,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday, and Thursday’s release schedule calls for flow around 63,000 CFS.

Current from dam releases is typically considered favorable, as it positions fish and bait for predictable meal times. Illinois pro Derek “Duke” Jenkel says there’s an upside and a downside to this week’s projection for a robust release schedule.

“With Kentucky Lake being a foot above summer pool, I don’t suspect they [the TVA] are going to let up; they’re not going to get a foot out of it tomorrow,” Jenkel says. “That’s mostly a positive, but typically the TVA will run the generators during the high demand periods. Now, they’re running them all day.

“This can be a drawback because there are not those periods of, ‘Hey, the current kicked on, they’re going to feed.’ But, as a whole, this is way better than no current.”

 

Tactics in play

For the early summer ledge game, local pro Brandon Hunter says it’s all about moving baits. He’ll have a good selection of baits handy, in case the bite gets tough (often due to intense fishing pressure), but if he can keep a crankbait or a swimbait rod in his hand, he’ll be happy.

“I’m not a dragger. I want to hit as many schools as I can and put my bait in front of as many big fish as possible in an eight-hour day,” Hunter says. “I have enough confidence in my electronics that I can go out there and scan and find fish. It will be just like a practice day, only I’ll actually stand up and fish when I see something.”

Jenkel also recognizes the seasonal value of reaction baits, but he’s gambling that bucking the trend and investing most of his time into “dragging” will pay off. He’ll spend most of his time fishing a football jig, a Carolina rig and a Texas-rigged big worm.

“The thing for me is to keep a deck full of rods,” Hunter adds. “I love to power fish, but sometimes you have to slow down just to get some bites. Whether it’s a drop-shot or a jig or a worm, you have to trigger those bites and then get them going.

“That’s the key – rotating baits and seeing what works. Every school is different. You may catch them on a crankbait on one spot, and then you go to the next spot and they won’t touch it.”

Notably, Hunter recalls that in last year’s FLW Tour event on Kentucky Lake, some of the top-20 finishers made the cut by running south and flipping shallow cover. More of a fallback than a primary game plan, this scenario might look even better, given the slightly higher water.

“When you get down to where it really narrows on the south end of the lake, it fishes more like a river,” Hunter says. “The fish get up on shallow bars. I can see the possibility of a couple of good bags coming from down there.

“I’ve been saying for a few years now that because of the fishing pressure on the north end of Kentucky Lake, you’re going to start seeing more tournaments won by a guy who just pulls up and throws a worm on a stump flat or a shell bed — something you wouldn’t scan.”

Also, it wouldn’t be completely shocking to hear of someone running over to Barkley and flipping flooded bushes, which is a popular tactic on the smaller of the two sister lakes nearly all year. This would likely be a desperation move if the Kentucky Lake ledges become too crowded, but it remains a lower-tier option in the eyes of most pros.

 

Critical Factors

1. Avoiding crowds – The safest assumption this week is that Kentucky Lake’s ledges will be crowded. Sure, this is a big lake with lots of bottom contour, but anglers have spent a lot of time “riding and looking” (graphing) bottom. That means sweet spots have been identified, and often by multiple competitors.

Even if everyone plays nice, the almost certain proximity of boats crowding hot areas will create mutual limitations. That’s why Hunter believes the ones who dial in their own little nuggets of opportunity will have a distinct advantage.

“Last year, I got lucky and had a couple of places to myself, but this year, I don’t feel like I have anything at all to myself,” Hunter says. “I haven’t found that off-the-wall place I was looking for. That’s a biggie in this event. There’s a lot of pressure; everyone’s going to be piled on top of each other.”

2. The flow – Current will also play a role in this event. As Jenkel pointed out, the absence of well-defined feeding periods will keep anglers on their toes. The fish could turn on just about anytime, and you don’t want to miss that moment when a school fires up and starts chewing.

Ultimately, much of this event’s outcome might be linked, as least partially, to timing. Whoever gets a shot at the right school at the right time could sack up a lot of weight in not a lot of time.

 

                             

Dock talk

On the subject of weight, expect some impressive stuff this week. High teens will be competitive, but this is truly one of those fisheries where a monster sack is well within everyone’s reach.

“Your goal always needs to be 20 pounds a day on this lake,” Hunter says. “I think somewhere around 65 to 68 pounds will be the winning weight.”

Jenkel expects the final round’s top-10 cut will be somewhere around 36 to 37 pounds. For the win, he’s actually looking for some pretty big numbers.

“It would not surprise me to see 70 pounds,” Jenkel says. “They’re biting. Man, they are biting. The fish are fresh. They just got out there, and they’re ready to feed. This field is going to blister them.”

 

Tournament details

Dates: June 8-10, 2017

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner in each category determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 6:30 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Kentucky Dam State Park, 7792 US Highway 641 North, Gilbertsville, KY

Weigh-In Time: 2:30 p.m. CT

Weigh-In Location: Kentucky Dam State Park

Tournament details page

Roster/results

Tags: david-a-brown  headline-story  2017-06-08-kentucky-lake 

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