UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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Ledge Bite Awaits at Barkley and Kentucky

Ledge Bite Awaits at Barkley and Kentucky

Bass anglers of every stripe smile when they think of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, the sprawling twin reservoirs that, respectively, mark the lower impoundments on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. All bass anglers, including the field of pros and co-anglers who have converged on Lake Barkley State Park for the Costa FLW Series Central Division tournament hosted by Cadiz-Trigg County Tourism and presented by T-H Marine today through Saturday, know what the big lakes can do.

Jason Lambert knows what they can do. Last month the Tennessee-based pro hauled a four-day total of 101 pounds 9 ounces from Kentucky to win the FLW Tour event and earn his third major win on the lake in as many years. “The fish are there,” says Lambert.

It’s no secret where the bass are. By early June the majority have moved toward the ledges that dominate and define both lowland lakes, which spill across the Kentucky-Tennessee state line and, combined, flood nearly 220,000 acres.

 

About the fishery

Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake are man-made reservoirs. Kentucky Lake was impounded on the Tennessee River in 1944 and is the largest artificial lake east of the Mississippi River in terms of surface area. Barkley was impounded in 1966. The lakes are separated by a 40-mile long and 10-mile wide peninsula that forms the core of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The lakes are connected by a canal on the north end, and it is about a 26-mile run to go from takeoff in Barkley to the canal to Kentucky. 

Numerous creeks feed the lakes. Grassy, gravel and rocky cover dominate much of the shore cover but ledges marking the many creeks are typically the focus of post spawn, warm weather bass action. Ledge depths can range from 10 to 25 feet.

Kentucky Lake, which is the larger of the two, receives the most fishing pressure and generally attracts more tournament action. “I think at least half the field will fish it,” Lambert says of Kentucky. “It will be won over there, for sure.”

Barkley is managed by the U. S. Corps of Engineers. The Tennessee Valley Authority oversees and manages Kentucky Lake. Summer pool on both lakes is 359 feet, and they’re sitting within an inch or so of that line. Both impoundments have been invaded by Asian carp. What long-term affects the carp will have on the sport fishery is unknown.

 

Current conditions

The lakes are currently a little more stained than normal, and both the Corps and TVA are moving water through the systems. Earlier this week Kentucky Lake had been flowing at an hourly average of 90,000 CFS at the dam. Lake Barkley recorded an average hourly flow of 40,200 CFS. The surface water temperature is around 80 degrees. 

Consistently high flow is not necessarily good news for tournament anglers, according to Lambert.

“It’s actually a little tougher now than when we were here for the Tour,” he says. “There’s a lot of current and a lot of mud, which doesn’t seem to help offshore fishing at all.”

“Offshore” at Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake is a relative term. Here, offshore means ledge cover. A combo of off-colored water and current can be tricky.

“There’s not a lot you can do,” Lambert says. “This time of year these fish just want to be deep. They want to live offshore and it’s going to be hard to find them in that mud. They’re going to move around and push around as the stained water moves.”

 

Tactics in play

Though some anglers could find success shallow, especially south on Barkley, the majority of the action will probably be typical ledge fishing. Even with a little dirtier water than normal, jigs and spoons and swimbaits and the ultra-famous Castaic Jerky J will all work. One bait that Lambert thinks might play more than usual will be a deep crankbait – dingier water means a more aggressive presentation could be clutch.

 

Critical factors

  • Water clarity – “Kentucky has some stained water, but there’s no rain in the forecast so it should clear up some,” says guide and tournament angler Scott Patton. “The water has been a little high and the bluegill and redear are spawning, and there’s been a some (bass) shallow. But these bass are moving out to the ledges. I’d probably just fish the ledges all the way.”
  • Getting a spot – Kentucky Lake still isn’t fishing like it has in year past. Actually getting a place to yourself could be at a premium.
  • Weather – “Sunshine helps the ledge bite,” Patton notes. “I think the ledge bite is just going to get better as the tournament goes along. Saturday should be exciting.”

 

Dock talk

There’s a general feeling – often unspoken – that the twin lakes aren’t quite the bass factories they once were. The lakes’ ages are coming into play – especially Kentucky, which was impounded more than 70 years ago. The influx of Asian carp has also affected the fishery. But just when you think the lakes have seen their best days a guy like Lambert comes along and boats an average of 25 pounds a day for four straight days. No one complains about that.

Lambert predicts it will take an average of 24 to 25 pounds a day to win this week’s event.

“I still think it’s going to take more than 70 pounds for three days to win it,” he says. “I caught more than a 100 pounds in four days two weeks ago. So they live here.”

Patton understands that fishermen are always hungry for local information but cautions against info overload.

“Kentucky and Barkley fish differently than any other lakes in the country,” says Patton. “A lot of guys listen to too much bad talk about the lakes. The bass are here. You have to forget about all that Asian carp stuff and just go fishing.”

 

Tournament details

Date: June 7-9

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete on day 1 and day 2. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight will advance to the Day 3 third and final round. The winner in each category will be determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff time: 6:00 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Lake Barkley State Resort Park, 3500 State Park Road, Cadiz, Ky. 42211

Weigh-in time: 2:00 p.m. CT

Weigh-in location: Lake Barkley State Resort Park

Complete details

 

Tags: gary-garth  morning-story  2018-06-07-lake-barkley 

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