UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

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 

Tougher but Still Santee Cooper

Tougher but Still Santee Cooper

The Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division finale began this morning at Santee Cooper, where even though fishing has been tough, everyone expects to see mega-bags brought to weigh-in. The bass are nearly done spawning, but a strong shad spawn in the mornings offers real potential. READ MORE »

The Miles Burghoff Master Plan

The Miles Burghoff Master Plan

Miles Burghoff is in a rare position. He’s a rookie on the FLW Tour, and he’s leading the 2019 Angler of the Year race with two tournaments left to fish. Traditionally, the AOY frontrunners are veteran pros in the prime of their careers, not rookies who are often still trying to learn their way around a full season of Tour competition. Burghoff, however, isn’t your traditional rookie. READ MORE »

Backlash with Jordan Osborne

Backlash with Jordan Osborne

FLW Tour pro Jordan Osborne discusses life in Texas, the business of running a pawnshop and how, as a self-taught bass angler, he's leaned on his competitive drive to overcome the doubters in his quest to make it at the highest levels of tournament bass fishing. READ MORE »

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 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 »

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 »

Morris Still the Man on Top

Morris Still the Man on Top

Jake Morris of McKee, Ky., didn’t have the outing he wanted today. The tournament leader at the Costa FLW Series Central Division event presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake weighed in just three fish for 13 pounds, 12 ounces. Thankfully, his impressive 24-plus-pound day-one performance helped him hold off local ace Cole Floyd, who moved up a few spots to second. Morris leads Floyd by 7-6 going into the final round.  READ MORE »

Kentucky Lake Midday Update - Day 1

Kentucky Lake Midday Update - Day 1

It looks like the prediction of slim pickings with occasional pots of gold is holding true for day one of the Costa FLW Series Central Division opener on Kentucky Lake. We covered a lot of water and snooped around the usual haunts, as well as some tucked-away spots; but bent rods were rare. READ MORE »

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. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Kentucky Lake – Day 1

Top 5 Patterns from Kentucky Lake – Day 1

Most of the top pros found their best action using moving baits such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jigs to fish shallow water where prespawn bass are starting to slide up and stage for the spawn. READ MORE »

Morris Bags 24-10 on Kentucky

Morris Bags 24-10 on Kentucky

Jake Morris of McKee, Ky., caught 24 pounds, 10 ounces of bass on Kentucky Lake to take the day-one lead at the Costa FLW Series Central Division season opener. He has a 4-9 lead over Jimmy Washam. READ MORE »

Nabe to Use Marshal Winnings for Leg Surgery

Nabe to Use Marshal Winnings for Leg Surgery

When you live a bass-fishing vagabond lifestyle, sleep in a van and have no bank account, every dollar counts out there on the tournament trail. That’s why Hiroyuki Watanabe – better known as Nabe – was very pleased to earn the $2,500 winner’s check for being the top-finishing marshal at the Grand Lake FLW Tour event last week. READ MORE »

Prespawn Throwdown on Tap at KY Lake

Prespawn Throwdown on Tap at KY Lake

The Costa FLW Series Central Division hosts its season opener at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley April 4-6. Instead of a postspawn ledge showdown, like is typical of major multi-day bass-fishing tournaments in the region, this derby should be a prespawn or spawn slugfest, with crankbaits, spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits, umbrella rigs, swimbait and jigs all playing a major role in the outcome. READ MORE »

Bolton’s Real Secret to Success

Bolton’s Real Secret to Success

Kentucky pro Terry Bolton nearly retired from fishing in 2018, but his wife, Dacy, whom he married in the fall, convinced him to stick with it and helped him remember why he loves to fish so much: for the fun of it. Now, he's won an FLW Tour event and is leading the Angler of the Year race. READ MORE »

The Trixie Shark: Get Explosive Strikes

The Trixie Shark: Get Explosive Strikes

Reaction Innovations got the name right when it created the Trixie Shark. The soft-plastic topwater bait has a literal shark-shaped body with side “wings” and two flapping rear legs similar to what you find on a traditional topwater toad, yet with enough differences to make the bait unique. READ MORE »