UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Clear Lake

Everything’s in Play on Kentucky Lake

Everything’s in Play on Kentucky Lake

A squad of 147 boaters and their co-anglers partners enjoyed a pleasant spring morning in western Kentucky for the start of the Costa FLW Series Central Division tournament presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. They better all be packing rain gear, though, because the forecast calls for showers with possible thunder to roll through the Purchase Region of Kentucky sometime before lunch and lasting long into the evening.

A little rain never hurt anybody, and it probably won’t impact the fishing much either. The bass are well on the way through their transition from prespawn spots to the shallows on the Kentucky/Barkley system, and while overall conditions are challenging right now, the fishery has been churning out some serious bags this spring.

Tournament details

 

About the fishery

Kentucky Lake is the premier fishery in western Kentucky and Tennessee. At summer pool, it covers more than 160,000 acres. Right now, the lake level is 354 feet, which is winter pool, but even with less surface acreage in play, Kentucky is still plenty large enough for 147 boats to spread far and wide. Add in Lake Barkley, which connects to Kentucky by a canal and stretches clear into Tennessee, and this bass-fishing playground has a lot to offer.

Water levels really play a major role this time of year. With the water down, little of the shoreline brush and other cover will be wet, and those are the areas where bass love to spawn. Navigation can also be tricky at winter pool, as there are countless shallow bars on both of these lowland, riverine lakes to dodge when the water isn’t up.

Primary target areas for staging fish will be creek channels, points and bank transitions, while the shallow-water specialists will be hunting for submerged stumps, pea gravel banks, docks and flats where bass should be in the final throes of their prespawn prep time and possibly starting to think about spawning before this derby is over.

 

Current conditions

As mentioned, the water level is still at winter pool. In a month or so, depending on rainfall and management needs, the lakes will rise a half-dozen or so feet and look like an entirely new fishery.

According to Todd Hollowell, a competitor in this tournament and former FLW Tour pro who’s helping to host the FLW Live program this season, conditions right now are unusual, even for spring.

“This has just been a really weird spring,” Hollowell says. “We’ve had a ton of rain in this region and the places that feed this particular body of water on the Tennessee River. It came up 10 or 15 feet [in mid-March], and now we’re back to 354.

“This is always a really fickle time of year on Kentucky Lake traditionally anyway – the end of March, first of April. It’s when the water level starts changing and the fish start moving. They’re likely going to want to spawn here in the next few weeks. I think we’ve had kind of a late spring, too. The water temperatures when I got here were still low to mid-50s. I’m assuming it’s mid- to upper 50s, probably pushing 60 now. We may even see low 60s. There’s just a lot changing, and it makes for a very challenging event.”

 

Tactics in play

Hollowell says this is the time of year when a spot that didn’t produce a nibble in practice could cough up a whole wad of bruisers in the tournament, as little pods or clusters of “new” bass start sliding up toward the bank.

The recent, sudden water-level drop that followed mid-March’s flood also sucked a lot of bass away from the banks, causing them to suspend, and it also caused the water to really mix and roil in ways that have created a lot of variation in the water clarity.

“I think a lot of the fish have just had to kind of pull out off the bank,” Hollowell explains. “We’ve not had enough warm days all week for them to want to get back up on the bank. I think the clarity is really what’s making this even harder this week because typically this time of year you’ve got clear water, at least in sections of the lake, where you can target suspended fish with a jerkbait, A-rig or swimbait – your traditional suspending baits. But I haven’t been able to make that work this week. At most of the places I’ve fished I’ve not seen but a foot or two of visibility.”

Some pros will still target fish out with those classic prespawn baits, while others will power fish their way through shallower water with crankbaits and lipless baits in an effort to cover water and intercept some fish. Certainly, any shallow cover that’s wet that might draw a bass to spawn will get fished, as will shallow ditches or any other transition areas bass use to get to the bank.

“It’s springtime, so it’s not like the fish are really ganged up in certain places,” Hollowell adds,  “at least I’ve not found that. You can run a bunch of different pockets and creeks and catch one here and one there, and that’s traditional this time of year anyway. But sometimes you just pull up on that one place and catch two or three. And you really only need that to happen twice here to have a nice day.”

 

Critical factors

  • Barkley and south Kentucky – April is arguably the best month to fish Lake Barkley, though high water would probably be more attractive to anglers who want to fish that lake. The far southern reaches of Kentucky Lake beyond New Johnsonville, Tenn., are also great this time of year. That’s where the last April Costa event on Kentucky Lake was won. How far pros are willing to run to get to their fish and the localized conditions in faraway waters will certainly be factors.
  • The big-fish, small-fish situation – Kentucky Lake has churned out some whopper five-fish stringers this spring, but if you dig into most of the tournament results from the last couple seasons, you’ll see a precipitous drop-off once you get below the top few spots. That’s because the lake is home to a nice population of 4- to 7-pound bass, but the average-sized keepers that used to be prevalent now seem to be absent. Getting five of those big girls to bite isn’t easy right now. Expect to see some anglers crush it one day and bomb the next, while others mount impressive comebacks.
  • What’s up? – When the water is up on Kentucky Lake in the spring, just about anyone can run into five keepers. Right now, it’s a little tougher. If someone can find a wad of female bass that’s already pulled up and figure out how to catch them, those would likely be some of the bigger fish brought to weigh-in. Likewise, a legit school of prespawn fish that lasts a couple days could be worth a lot of cash.

 

Todd Hollowell

Dock talk

Most of the pre-tournament chatter has been about how tough the lakes are fishing, but there will be big bags caught this week. Hollowell expects to see some mid-20s or better stringers, but he doesn’t expect the winning average to be anywhere near that. He figures three days of mid-teens weights will have a pro in the hunt for the W.

 

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: curtis-niedermier  morning-story  2019-04-04-kentucky-lake 

Plains Division Kicks Off on Dardanelle

Plains Division Kicks Off on Dardanelle

All the major bass tournaments Lake Dardanelle has hosted since 2004 have followed different scripts, and the Toyota Series Plains Division event that kicks off today will be no different. With a schedule full of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first event of the Plains Division season, and it’s the last division to kick off in 2020. READ MORE »

High Water on Tap for College Open

High Water on Tap for College Open

By mid-September, Kentucky Lake can be absolutely lights-out when you find a big school up on its many shallow bars. This week, during the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open, that’s probably not going to be the case – instead of locking a topwater in their hands, college teams are likely to take a much more varied approach. READ MORE »

Southwestern Division Hits Fort Gibson

Southwestern Division Hits Fort Gibson

The Toyota Series Southwestern Division rolls on with the Toyota Series at Fort Gibson Lake. Hosted by the Wagoner Area Chamber of Commerce, the three-day tournament will feature the region’s best bass-fishing pros and co-anglers casting for a top prize of up to $65,000, plus a $35,000 bonus if the winner is a qualified Phoenix Boat owner. READ MORE »

Southeastern Div. Wraps on Neely Henry

Southeastern Div. Wraps on Neely Henry

The Toyota Series Southeastern Division is wrapping its 2020 season with the third and final stop at Neely Henry Lake out of Gadsden, Ala., this week. While Neely Henry is often a perennial stop on Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine schedules, this is the first time the Toyota Series has visited the winding reservoir along the Coosa River in northeast Alabama. READ MORE »

Curveballs Ahead for Cal Delta Field

Curveballs Ahead for Cal Delta Field

The California Delta is a frequent stop for anglers in the Toyota Series Western Division. The storied fishery has hosted countless FLW tournaments over the years, but this year is different, as the event was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of the traditional May or late-September dates for the stop, the rescheduled date is this week, right in the middle of August. The new time of year will surely make things different than previous years. READ MORE »

Another Erie Battle Begins

Another Erie Battle Begins

The Toyota Series Northern Division is going out of Sandusky Bay on Lake Erie once again. This week’s event takes place on August 18-20, and it is the second stop of the Northern Division. Like the last event out of Sandusky, Erie is in play, as well as the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, with all Canadian waters being off-limits to fishing. READ MORE »

Dog days at Wheeler Lake

Dog days at Wheeler Lake

The second event of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division is off and running this morning on Wheeler Lake out of Ingalls Harbor. Many pros fishing the Southeastern Division this season agree that Wheeler will be the most challenging of the three events in 2020 due to the timing of the tournament. READ MORE »

Ready to Rock on Erie

Ready to Rock on Erie

The Toyota Series Northern Division has undergone more than its share of schedule shuffling this year, but the kickoff is finally here. Taking off out of Sandusky, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie, the time to chase smallmouths has arrived. READ MORE »

Several Patterns in Play at Ouachita BFL

Several Patterns in Play at Ouachita BFL

FLW has a long history of hosting multiple-day summertime tournaments on Lake Ouachita, where pros have to grind it out for three days in what are usually tough conditions. On June 27, when the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Arkie Division takes to Ouachita, the Natural State’s best bass anglers will need to game plan a little differently. With only one day to fish and a three-bass limit, they’ll have to swing for the fences with big-bass patterns to have a shot at winning. READ MORE »

HS Championship Will be a Frog-Fest

HS Championship Will be a Frog-Fest

If you wanted to design the perfect frog-fishing tournament, you might host it at Guntersville or the Cal Delta, but you could also copy the agenda for the Student Angler Federation High School Fishing National Championship on the Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wis. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Eufaula

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Eufaula

Josh Stracner won the 2020 Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Lake Eufaula by fishing offshore. He targeted deep ledges in the mid-lake area for two days before switching to brush piles in 12 to 15 feet on the final day when a front moved through and replaced still, sunny conditions with wind and overcast skies. The rest of the top 10, with one exception, also fished offshore in what turned out to be a pretty typical June ledge-fishing tournament.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Eufaula

Top 10 Baits from Lake Eufaula

June on Eufaula is ledge season. Well, mostly. Nine of the top 10 in the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event at Eufaula fished offshore, but targets included ledges, brush piles, standing timber and some “in-between” offshore structure where bass stopped in transition from the bank to out deep. One pro even fished exclusively shallow. Here are the baits they used to make the cut. READ MORE »

Co-angler Lewis Wins at Eufaula

Co-angler Lewis Wins at Eufaula

Co-angler Blake Lewis followed the lead of pro Josh Stracner at Lake Eufaula today, coming from behind to earn the Toyota Series Southeastern Division tournament win. Lewis, of Pace, Fla., caught a three-day total weight of 44 pounds, 4 ounces to win by just 11 ounces. He came into the final day in fourth place. READ MORE »

Stracner Shifts to Brush for Eufaula Win

Stracner Shifts to Brush for Eufaula Win

What started as Michael Smith’s week turned into Josh Stracner’s day today, as Stracner came back from third place to win the Toyota Series Southeastern Division season opener at Lake Eufaula. READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 3

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 3

For the first two days of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event at Lake Eufaula, the early morning bite was key for many of the top pros. It was almost common to hear comments from the top 10 anglers about catching 15 to 20 pounds within the first hour. Today, that’s changed. The first two hours of the day were actually pretty tough. There were some limits caught, but nobody lit up the leaderboard. READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

It’s not like we didn’t already know it, but today the top 10 anglers drove home the point: To win at Lake Eufaula right now, you have to be fishing offshore. Among the ledge anglers this week is Michael Smith, who maintains his lead at the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event with a two-day total of 50 pounds. Here’s how the rest of the top performers made it to Saturday. READ MORE »

Smith Leads at Eufaula with 50 Pounds

Smith Leads at Eufaula with 50 Pounds

Competing in the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event at Lake Eufaula this week, Michael Smith weighed in 25 pounds, 7 ounces yesterday to take the lead and backed it up with 24-9 today. His 50-pound two-day total has Smith ahead of second-place pro Scott Montgomery by 5 pounds, 9 ounces.  READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 2

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 2

Fishing is good, but it’s not easy today at Lake Eufaula on the second day of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event. Well, that’s only part of the story. READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Michael Smith established the pace at the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Lake Eufaula with a five-bass first-day limit that weighed 25 pounds, 7 ounces. He leads a crew of mostly offshore sticks that are mining Eufaula’s brush piles and ledges for some seriously big bass. Though, it’s worth pointing out that several in the top 10 did catch some or all of their keepers up shallow today. Here’s a rundown of the top five after one day of fishing. READ MORE »

Smith Smacks 25-7 at Eufaula

Smith Smacks 25-7 at Eufaula

It’s a 90-minute drive from Michael Smith’s Andalusia, Ala., home to Lakepoint Resort State Park where the Toyota Series Southeastern Division kicked off its season today on Lake Eufaula. That’s just close enough, says Smith, that he fishes here more than anywhere else. His understanding of how Eufaula’s bass transition from the bank to postspawn ares to the main lake really showed today while Smith put together an impressive 25-pound, 7-ounce limit to gain the day-one tournament lead. READ MORE »