UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - 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 

Be Aggressive to Catch Big Spots Now

Be Aggressive to Catch Big Spots Now

When FLW pro Alex Davis isn’t hunting trophy bucks in the fall, he spends a lot of days fishing for big bass that are binging on shad in the reservoirs of north Alabama. In particular, fall is a killer time to fish jerkbaits with high-speed, aggressive tactics in clear-water reservoirs for spotted bass – for both size and numbers. READ MORE »

Why You Should Crank Current Breaks Now

Why You Should Crank Current Breaks Now

“It’s almost like a wintertime pattern already,” Salzman says. “It’s kind of interesting. Because it’s been so hot and then so cold, the fish kind of got into the mouths of the creeks this year and never fully pushed into them. The majority of the bait is on the main lake on every lake in Alabama. The water temp was falling so quickly that the back bays were too cold, so the most stable water is on the main lake.” READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Cumberland

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Cumberland

Smallmouths dominated at the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland. Oklahoma’s Andrew Upshaw led the way with brown bass caught on a jig and a Ned rig on bluff bank transitions in the reservoir’s lower end. Behind him, only a couple of pros hedged their bets on targeting largemouths. The rest fished for smallies and considered green bass to be bonus fish and spotted bass to be limit fillers on the tough days. READ MORE »

Lake Cumberland Top 10 Baits

Lake Cumberland Top 10 Baits

In classic Southern smallmouth fashion, crankbaits and jigs dominated the top 10 at Lake Cumberland during the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship. The only exceptions were a few finesse baits and the tackle used by two pros who targeted largemouths. Here’s what worked. READ MORE »

Allison Comes from Behind on Cumberland

Allison Comes from Behind on Cumberland

By catching four quality smallmouth bass on the final day of the Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland, Missourian Chad Allison was able to come back from 10th place and win the co-angler division, earning more than $30,000. READ MORE »

Upshaw Closes on Cumberland

Upshaw Closes on Cumberland

For the second time this season, Andrew Upshaw is an FLW champion thanks to consistent days spent targeting big Southern smallmouths. The Tulsa, Okla., pro won the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland in Burnside, Ky., with a three-day total weight of 42 pounds, 15 ounces. The win comes less than seven months after Upshaw won the FLW Tour event on Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee. READ MORE »

Upshaw Moves Ahead at Cumberland

Upshaw Moves Ahead at Cumberland

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland was a bit tougher for some, given the post-frontal conditions featuring lighter winds, sun and cold temperatures. As projected, consistency has been the key and Andrew Upshaw continued to dial in his program adding 15 pounds, 1 ounce to his day-one bag of 14-15 for a total of 30 pounds even. READ MORE »

Zimbabwe’s Cousens Grabs Lead

Zimbabwe’s Cousens Grabs Lead

The FLW International Division is well represented in the Costa FLW Series Championship, and perhaps none represented the division better than Roger Cousens of Zimbabwe, who didn’t seem bothered by the stingy conditions of Lake Cumberland on day one. With the only bag that topped 17 pounds for the day (17-2), Cousens enters day two with a 3-ounce lead over Robert Nakatomi, who qualified from the Western Division. READ MORE »

How to Find Big-Water Smallmouth in Fall

How to Find Big-Water Smallmouth in Fall

The key to finding smallmouth bass on big water in the fall is to know where they’re coming from and where they’re heading, then connecting the dots in between. Swimbaits, blade baits, ChatterBaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, drop-shots and Ned rigs all put bass in the boat. READ MORE »

New Dominates Seminole Regional

New Dominates Seminole Regional

Belmont, N.C., angler Bryan New, who’s regularly one of FLW’s top performers in the grassroots ranks, had established a dominant pace. New weighed in 22 pounds, 9 ounces on day one and added 20-2 on day two to carry a lead of 6 pounds, 15 ounces into the finals. A roughly 7-pound margin isn’t necessarily a sure thing on Seminole, but the fall bite was a bit slower than what the lake can produce, and it was obvious New was cruising. READ MORE »

Lake of the Ozarks Midday Update – Day 1

Lake of the Ozarks Midday Update – Day 1

All the talk leading up the final leg of the Costa FLW Series Central Division presented by Evinrude on Lake of the Ozarks was about the weather. And Mother Nature did not disappoint. READ MORE »

Stormy Start at Lake of the Ozarks

Stormy Start at Lake of the Ozarks

The final leg of the Costa FLW Series Central Division presented by Evinrude on Lake of the Ozarks will launch right as a massive cold front arrives. How massive? The forecast has been calling for heavy rain and a high of 74 today, and so far hasn’t been wrong. A major thunderstorm greeted anglers this morning and delayed takeoff by an hour and fifteen minutes thanks to abundant lightning. Tomorrow? A high in the mid 40s. READ MORE »

Grand Lake Midday Update – Day 3

Grand Lake Midday Update – Day 3

Typically, the first day or two following a cold front put bass in a bad mood, and today, Grand Lake’s fish are following the script. This has created a challenging scenario for the top-10 finalists in the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, presented by T-H Marine. READ MORE »

Grand Lake Midday Update – Day 2

Grand Lake Midday Update – Day 2

You know fishing’s tough when the most common greeting we receive is the goose egg hand signal. No question, day two of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, presented by T-H Marine, had a lot of anglers scratching for bites and scratching their heads. READ MORE »

Changes Afoot at Grand Lake

Changes Afoot at Grand Lake

Fall is a time of change and movement; two notions bound to impact the outcome of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, presented by T-H Marine, on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. Typical fall migrations are underway, but an approaching cold front will likely complicate the already challenging nature of autumn’s transition. READ MORE »

Valdivia is Best in the West

Valdivia is Best in the West

California pro David Valdivia has consistently finished near the top of the standings in the Costa FLW Series Western Division. This year he finally won his first Strike King Angler of the Year award, and he did it by just one point in the standings. READ MORE »

How to Find the Best Docks in Early Fall

How to Find the Best Docks in Early Fall

While there’s almost no bad time of year to find a dock pattern, early fall is a prime season for it. The catch is that as shad transition throughout a reservoir in the fall, some bass go on the move with them. So dialing in a key stretch of docks or a dock pattern can at times be challenging, particularly on lakes with a lot of docks. READ MORE »

Underway on the Delta

Underway on the Delta

No matter the weather, no matter the environmental concerns, no matter the fishing pressure, the California Delta remains one of the nation’s most diverse and fertile freshwater fisheries — a truth that should play out in dramatic form during the Costa FLW Series Western Division event. READ MORE »

How to Choose the Right ChatterBait

How to Choose the Right ChatterBait

If you were going to carry just one bladed jig, the ChatterBait Jack Hammer would be a great choice. But to say it’s the perfect ChatterBait for every scenario would be like saying ketchup is the perfect condiment for every food, or fluorocarbon is the only line you should use. Sometimes you need to opt for something just a little different to tackle a niche situation. As far as ChatterBaits go, there are a number of good options. READ MORE »

St. Lawrence Midday Update – Day 3

St. Lawrence Midday Update – Day 3

Weights were already tight going into the final day of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division finale on the St. Lawrence River, which is presented by Gajo Baits. Little more than a pound separated leader Jonathan Kelley from Casey Smith in fifth place. READ MORE »