UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2021 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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 

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