UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Prespawn Throwdown on Tap at KY Lake

Prespawn Throwdown on Tap at KY Lake

Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley are different animals in April than they are in the months of May and June, when most major multi-day tournaments usually visit the region. Instead of droves of postspawn bass piled onto ledges, April is a month of transition – from prespawn to the beds.

Costa FLW Series Central Division pros will find out firsthand this week when they open the season on the expansive waters of the Kentucky/Barkley fishery April 4-6. The tournament is presented by Lowrance and hosted by the Kentucky Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The last time the FLW Series visited Kentucky Lake in April was 2016, but that event was held at the end of the month. The winning fish were spawning up around flooded buck brush way south past New Johnsonville, Tenn. This week’s tournament is not only several weeks earlier, but the water will be at winter pool, and the lakes have changed immensely since 2016.

So far this spring, tournaments on Kentucky have churned out impressive winning stringers of prespawn chunks. There’s a lot of optimism in western Kentucky and Tennessee, but there are still challenges to tackle in the Tennessee Valley.

Here’s a look at what’s going on, and what we can expect in the Central Division opener.

 

A different Kentucky Lake

Blame it on the carp, blame it on the lack of grass or blame it on several years of poor spawning class recruitment, but Kentucky Lake (and Lake Barkley) is not the same lake it was 10 years ago. The consensus among local pros is that there are giants in the lake – and plenty of them – but the swarms of 2- to 3-pounders that used to clobber every crankbait in sight are absent. The fishing isn’t as easy as it used to be.

“If you get a bite it’s a good one,” says former FLW Tour pro Brandon Hunter, who guides and operates instructional electronics classes on Kentucky Lake (brandonhunterfishing.com). “You’re going to see some big bass caught by those guys at the top, but you’re going to also see two-fish bags that weigh 8 or 10 pounds.

“You ought to be able to put a crankbait or a Rat-L-Trap in your hand and just run around and have fun this time of year. The frustrating part is if you’re not getting bites, it’s hard to put anything together. I really think the guys that kind of know the lake are going to do good in this tournament. The guys that come from out of town aren’t going to be able to put an A-rig or a crankbait in their hand and run around and just have fun like you should.”

 

All about April

Kentucky Lake is known for its postspawn ledge bite, but the 162,000-acre reservoir has so much more going for it than idling, graphing and chucking offshore baits.

It’s a tremendous power-fishing lake in the spring, even when the water is low like it is now. There’s also a lot of water for pros to spread out and fish.

It’s likely anglers will be targeting water from Kentucky Dam in Gilbertsville, Ky., clear past New Johnsonville, Tenn., some 70 miles away. Lake Barkley, which connects to Kentucky by a canal up on the north end, will also be a big factor.

“To be honest, I’ve been saying since the schedule came out with the tournament the first week of April that the Barkley guys are going to be a factor in this tournament,” says Hunter. “Sometimes it’s hard to catch them two days in a row over there, but if there’s a month in the calendar year that it could be won on Barkley, April is that month. I think there’s a number of local guys that’ll spend their time over there.”

Strong southerly winds and storms in the forecast for the beginning of the tournament could drive more anglers to Barkley, as the run south on Kentucky Lake can be treacherous when the wind blows from the north or south.

 

Topsy-turvy weather

Spring in western Kentucky and Tennessee has been a mix of lion and lamb. Recently, warm, stable weather has been very welcoming to anglers in the region, and the number of crappie and bass boats in the parking lots has increased about as fast as the number of buds and blossoms opening up on the trees. Then, over the weekend, the temperature dropped below freezing a couple of nights, which set back the water temperature a little bit.

This all comes on the heels of what was a very wet and rainy stretch in late February and early March that caused Kentucky Lake to jump from winter pool at about 354 feet up to 367, which is about 8 feet above summer pool.

Lake managers pulled the plug and let the water out as fast as they could, and it’ll be right back at winter pool for the tournament.

“I figured after a week of the water settling down it would get pretty good,” Hunter says. “I think the biggest problem now is they have shut the water completely off, so they’re not pulling much current at all. What few fish had moved up would typically bite a crankbait or something winding the bank. That stuff has kind of gone away because the water’s still; it’s not moving much.”

Hunter reports that the water clarity is close to normal, with a few areas experiencing very clear water and others still murky. Water temperatures vary from one area to the next, but most are in the mid- to upper 50s already.

Overall, conditions are pretty good for the season. There’s a front headed for the region on Thursday, but the forecast isn’t calling for a major cooldown. Lows are expected to be in the mid- to upper-50s, with highs climbing from the low-60s to mid-70s throughout the tournament.

It’ll be windy, which will make it tough to travel and fish offshore, but the conditions shouldn’t shut the fish down.

 

What to expect on the water

At the YETI FLW College Fishing Open event in mid-March, the field hit Kentucky Lake at the perfect time. Fish were piled up in staging areas, and the anglers caught a bunch of 20-plus bags, mostly by fishing out off the bank. Hunter expects similar patterns, plus a number of others, to be in play at the Costa FLW Series event.

“There’s a good number of fish still out that can still be caught offshore, and some moving up,” he says. “There’ll be guys out in the middle, up on the bank, back in the creeks, and a good number of guys will go to Barkley to get away from the wind and the pressure.

“I’m excited about it,” Hunter adds. “We get to see it at a different time of year besides June.”

 

Tournament details

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 determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 6:30 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Moors Resort & Marina, 570 Moors Road, Gilbertsville, Ky.

Weigh-In Time: 2:30 p.m. CT

Weigh-In Location: Moors Resort & Marina

Complete details

Tags: kentucky-lake  lake-barkley  prespawn  spawn  swimbait  chatterbait  crankbait  spinnerbait  jig  umbrella-rig  brandon-hunter  curtis-niedermier  pre-tournament  2019-04-04-kentucky-lake 

Cup Bubble Boys with Two to Go

Cup Bubble Boys with Two to Go

The top 40 pros in the 2019 FLW Tour standings qualify to fish the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton Aug. 9-11. For about a dozen pros, the final two events of the season will decide whether they make it in or out. READ MORE »

How to Choose a Swim Jig for Bushes

How to Choose a Swim Jig for Bushes

Allen Boyd’s spinnerbait tactics are featured in the Spring 2019 issue of FLW Bass Fishing magazine. Here’s his advice on choosing and using swim jigs in flooded woody cover. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Cherokee Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Cherokee Lake

Targeting spawning smallmouth bass was by far the dominant pattern when the FLW Tour visited Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee in April. With a few exceptions, the top 10 pros targeted various combinations of rock and gravel banks where the fish were bedding. Finesse baits such as shaky heads, Ned rigs and small swimbaits saw the most work. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Cherokee Lake

Top 10 Baits from Cherokee Lake

The smallmouth bass spawn was on at Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee when the FLW Tour came to town in April. Most of the top pros caught their fish on Ned rigs and shaky heads, as well as swimbaits and jigs. READ MORE »

Cherokee Lake Day 4 Coverage

Cherokee Lake Day 4 Coverage

Andrew Upshaw has a chance to go wire-to-wire for the win at the FLW Tour event presented by Lowrance on Cherokee Lake. The Oklahoma pro has led for three days thanks to his smallmouth pattern. The rest of the pros are catching mixed bags of largemouths and smallmouths. Many of the fish are spawning. READ MORE »

Cherokee Lake Day 3 Coverage

It's a catch-fest at Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee, as the top 30 pros kick off the weekend rounds. Weights are packed together. The fish are spawning and eager to bite. It should be an exciting day of action. READ MORE »

Cherokee Day 3 Coverage

Cherokee Day 3 Coverage

It's a catch-fest at Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee, as the top 30 pros enter the weekend with hopes of catching Andrew Upshaw, who has led for two days. Largemouths and smallmouths are both spawning, and they are eager to bite. READ MORE »

Cherokee Lake Day 2 Coverage

Cherokee Lake Day 2 Coverage

Day one of the FLW Tour event at Cherokee Lake was a doozy. Pros hammered impressive numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass on what was a perfect spring day in east Tennessee. Now, it's cut day, and everyone is hoping to make it into the top 30 and fish again on the weekend. READ MORE »

Cherokee Lake Day 1 Coverage

Cherokee Lake Day 1 Coverage

The FLW Tour visits Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee at the perfect time for a spring showdown. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are ready to spawn, and practice reports suggest a lot of fish will be caught. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for Cherokee Lake

FLW Live Schedule for Cherokee Lake

FLW Live is back for 2019 FLW Tour stop No. 5 at beautiful Cherokee Lake. The event, which is presented by Lowrance and hosted by the Jefferson County Economic Development Alliance, runs Thursday, April 11 through Sunday, April 14. READ MORE »

Get to Know Cherokee Lake

Get to Know Cherokee Lake

The fifth stop of the FLW Tour is presented by Lowrance and sure to be fun if you like east Tennessee, smallmouths and good fishing (who doesn’t?). Cherokee Lake plays host and promises to both challenge and delight anglers. READ MORE »

Beavers Breaks Down Cherokee

Beavers Breaks Down Cherokee

Beavers started the year off about as badly as he could, finishing 121st at Rayburn, but he’s been on a tear ever since, finishing 54th at Toho before banking back-to-back top 10s at Seminole and Grand. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Kentucky Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Kentucky Lake

Power-fishing tactics with spinnerbaits, jigs, Texas rigs and ChatterBaits on prespawn cover and structure dominated the top 10 at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in April. READ MORE »

Scouting Cherokee with LeBrun

Scouting Cherokee with LeBrun

Now in the second half of the Tour season, LeBrun is up against another new lake, and sort of a new species. He says he’s never seen a smallmouth on a bed in his life, and has spent just two days on Cherokee in pre-practice. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Kentucky Lake

Top 10 Baits from Kentucky Lake

April is transition time in the Tennessee Valley, when bass make their push from prespawn staging areas toward spawning grounds. They set up on rocky banks, shallow points and any kind of wood cover near shore in areas adjacent to spawning pockets. As we saw at the Costa FLW Series Central Division opener presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, some of the best baits for catching bass this time of year are old-school springtime classics: spinnerbaits, jigs, shallow-running crankbaits and Texas rigs. Add in vibrating jigs and wobble-head jigs, and you have about all you need. READ MORE »

Co-angler Bickers Wins by Ounces

Co-angler Bickers Wins by Ounces

One fish is unlikely to win a three-day tournament, but the right one can help an angler dig out of a hole. Just ask co-angler Troy Bickers, who rebounded from the dreaded day-one goose egg to go worst-to-first in the Costa FLW Series Central Division opener presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake with a winning weight of 20 pounds, 14 ounces. READ MORE »

Morris Closes it Out on Barkley

Morris Closes it Out on Barkley

With just two fish in the bag, Jake Morris was noticeably nervous at the final weigh-in of the Costa FLW Series Central Division event presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake. Fortunately for him, he didn’t need either one of them, as Morris caught enough the first two days to top the next closest finisher. Catching 5-12 today punctuated the wire-to-wire victory for Morris, who brought in 44-2 in three days. He caught almost every fish on a spinnerbait from one key stretch on Lake Barkley. READ MORE »

McKee's Morris Goes Wire-To-Wire, Wins Costa FLW Series on Kentucky/Barkley Lakes presented by Lowrance

McKee's Morris Goes Wire-To-Wire, Wins Costa FLW Series on Kentucky/Barkley Lakes presented by Lowrance

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – Pro Jake Morris of McKee, Kentucky, brought just two bass weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces, to the scale Saturday, but as it turned out he could have took the day off. Morris’ big 24-pound, 10-ounce Day One limit on Thursday was enough to propel him into the early lead and go wire-to wire to win the Costa FLW Series at Kentucky Lake presented by Lowrance.... READ MORE »

Kentucky Lake Midday Update – Day 3

Kentucky Lake Midday Update – Day 3

Question marks are about the only certainty for day three of the Costa FLW Series Central Division event presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake, as the top 10 pros scattered and left us lean on details on a day where changing weather could see changing fortunes. After two dreary days of cloudy, dim conditions, the final round brought lots of the bright, sunny stuff that pushes fish tighter to cover and makes them easier to target. Also, considerably more warmth may very well put the giddy-up on seasonal progression. No one’s getting too crazy with visions of heavy bed-fishing, but accelerated prespawn movement is certainly possible. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Kentucky Lake – Day 2

Top 5 Patterns from Kentucky Lake – Day 2

Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and vibrating jigs fished on rocky staging areas has been the primary pattern for catching big prespawn largemouth bass on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley at the Costa FLW Series Central Division event presented by Lawrence. READ MORE »