Kentucky's 2011 Bass Forecast

Kentucky's 2011 Bass Forecast

Regardless of where you turn in Kentucky, there are good bass waters nearby. But these are some of the best for this year.

Anglers come in all shapes and sizes and their interests in fish and fishing methods are almost as varied. If it swims, there's an angler out there somewhere who wants to catch it.

Numerous fish are popular with anglers here in Kentucky, but black bass lead the pack as the most sought-after sport fish in the state. Fortunately, we have lots of opportunity here to satisfy angler appetites.

Largemouth bass are the most popular target, but there is also a heavy contingent of smallmouth enthusiasts. Kentucky or spotted bass round out the big three of our black bass and many of us are happy when any one of them puts a stretch in our line. We have great fisheries here for all three species and both recreational anglers and tournament pros alike find great satisfaction in chasing them throughout the year.

Right now is a very exciting time for bass anglers, because spring is happening and the bass are creeping ever closer toward shallow water and the feeding frenzy prelude to the spawn. Some of the largest fish of the year will be taken in the next few weeks.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources does an excellent job of monitoring our bass fisheries and keeping them in great shape. Sometimes this means regulation changes to ensure certain fisheries are protected. Other times it may mean supplemental stocking, the addition of fertilizer, planting native aquatic plants, or placing brush piles and other fish structure. Whatever it takes to keep things rolling on the positive side, the KDFWR is there to make it happen.

Most all our bass fisheries are thriving across the state. We've got lots of choices of fishing holes ranging from small lakes to streams to huge reservoirs. All offer a unique opportunity for bass anglers to chase their quarry. This year looks to hold great promise for bass fishing Bluegrass style, so let's take a peak at some of the best bets for this year.

KENTUCKY & BARKLEY LAKES

First up in our look at 2011 bass waters are the crown jewels of the Bluegrass State. Kentucky and Barkley lakes are not only two of our largest lakes, but they also are home to two of our best bass fisheries. They are visited each year by thousands of anglers from all over the country and host numerous fishing tournaments from small local bass clubs all the way to prestigious BASSmasters events.

The lakes, although two entirely different water bodies, are often looked at collectively and targeted by anglers on a single fishing excursion. Situated parallel and divided by the Land Between The Lakes, the reservoirs have many similarities and a few differences. Likewise, the bass fisheries are similar.

The largemouth populations at both lakes are in great shape and rated excellent according to the KDFWR assessment methods. There are very good numbers of largemouths in each lake with Kentucky having a slight edge over Barkley. Excellent numbers of 12- to 14-inch fish were in the population last year and many of these fish are keeper size this year. Anglers have also reported good catches of fish longer than 15 inches and many others reaching quality size above 20 inches.

Spotted bass are also present, but not in large numbers nor of quality size. Most are rather small and not often targeted by anglers. The smallmouth population is also not as good as the largemouths, but is much better than the spots.

Largemouth bass move up shallow in the springtime and can be caught with a variety of baits as they congregate and feed along main-lake and secondary points. Later, the fish move even shallower and can be found in the ample brush and woody structure in the bays.

After the spawn when the water becomes warmer, the bass pull out and relate to the many ledges. Fishing ledges is a little difficult to learn at first, but some of the best action of the year is when the fish are on the breaks. Target these areas with crankbaits, soft plastics, and jigs with trailers. Look for bass out on main-lake ledges when there is current, and back on secondary ledges when the water is still.

For the latest fishing information, stop in at The Cabin Bait & Tackle in Kuttawa or call (270) 388-6440.

TAYLORSVILLE LAKE

Bass anglers in central Kentucky should look to Taylorsville Lake for some great action this year. There are very good numbers of bass in the lake right now, due to good reproduction over the past five years. Many of these fish have moved into the keeper-size category by now and many more will follow over the coming year.

Jeff Crosby of the KDFWR said the 2010 spring electrofishing catch rate was the highest recorded since 2000 and that the numbers were comparable to rates in the late 1980s and 1990s. Bass at Taylorsville also exhibit a very good growth rate that is actually above average when compared to many other lakes in the state.

The KDFWR also does fall sampling to gauge the success of spring spawns. Crosby said Taylorsville has had good spawns three out of the last five years. Supplemental stocking was used to offset below average reproduction in the two down years. Some 30,000 bass were stocked in 2007 and another 15,000 were planted the following year.

There was a huge build up of fish just below the legal limit last year. Specifically, there was a large group measuring from 12 to 14 inches. These fish will be bigger this year and provide a lot of action. More and more of these fish will move to keeper size this year and next.

Spring bass are often vulnerable to topwater baits such as the Rebel Pop-R early in the morning. Then switch to flat-sided or traditional crankbaits and work the rocky points and ledges. Topwater action continues to be good on into the summer, but the morning window of action gets shorter. Anglers should switch to jigs, soft plastics, and finesse baits after the lake gets busy. Night fishing is also very popular here.

For more information on fishing, stop in the Taylorsville Lake Marina and talk to Brent Adcock, or give him a call at (502) 477-8766.

YATESVILLE LAKE

Bouncing over to eastern Kentucky, bass anglers should expect another great year at Yatesville Lake, according to Kevin Frey, who is the KDFWR biologist for the area. He said the numbers and size structure at the lake have held about the same since 2005.

"There are very good numbers of fish from 15 to 19 inches and the numbers of fish over 20 inches is slightly above average for eastern Kentucky," the biologist noted.

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ce 2005, all of the young-of-the-year classes have been above average excluding 2006 and 2009. However, the KDFWR used supplemental stockings during those years to raise the numbers back to average or above average. There were 23,405 bass fingerlings added in 2006 and another 22,457 stocked in 2009.

There is a good amount of standing timber in the coves off the main lake. Good habitat areas on the main lake are points, humps, and submerged roadbeds. Roadbeds are very consistent for holding fish. Woody structure in the Little Blaine, Twin Branch, and Greenbrier arms also are good places to target. Spinnerbaits or jigs with trailers are favorites with the locals.

Also, the KDFWR initiated work in 2010 to supplement main-lake areas with submerged cedar tree brush piles. This work will continue in 2011 and GPS coordinates for these sites can be found on the department Web site at www.fw.ky.gov, then go to the link for Search for Fishing and Boating Access Sites.

Before fishing Yatesville, stop in and talk to Brad Taylor at Borders Sporting Goods in Ashland.

GREEN RIVER LAKE

One of the things that makes Green River Lake so appealing is the diversity and quality of the bass fishery there. There is an excellent population of largemouths, as well as a decent spotted bass fishery. Smallies are also present, although in fewer numbers.

Biologist Eric Cummins said the largemouths look really good for 2011, but the opportunity for fish over 6 pounds is starting to diminish a little. There were a couple of really good year-classes in 2004 and 2005, but some of those bigger fish are starting to fall out of the population. So, this is the year to fish while the action is still strong.

Numbers are still excellent for largemouths due to very good spawns. Sampling was not done last spring due to flooding, but fall surveys yielded the highest number of young-of-the-year bass since the 2004-2005 spike.

"Spring sampling from 2009 yielded the best numbers of largemouth greater than 15 inches we've ever noted," Cummins said.

The upper end of the lake holds the most largemouths and has the most productive fishing. The Smith Ridge and Holmes Bend areas are favorites among the locals.

Check with Holmes Bend General Store at (270) 380-1077 or Holmes Bend Marina at (800) 801-8154 for up-to-date fishing information on these areas.

Lots of people launch from the Green Lake State Park ramp and fish the rocky areas near Goat Island. This is a good place for not only largemouths, but also for spots. Some anglers use live shiners along the rock walls and let them drift down the tapering ledge to entice bites from the spotted bass.

Crazy Horse Archery & Tackle outside Campbellsville can supply you with bait or additional fishing details. The telephone number is (270) 789-3776.

LAKE MALONE

This lake in Muhlenberg and Logan counties is not large by Kentucky standards, but the largemouth population doesn't care. There are no spotted bass in the fishery, but the largemouth action is tops in the area and one of the best in the state considering the size of the impoundment. There are good numbers of fish and the potential for big fish is excellent.

"During spring sampling," Biologist Rob Rold said, "we routinely catch good numbers of bass up to 21 inches, with an occasional one or two larger fish. Taking into account annual sampling variability and the cyclical nature of most populations, the bass at Malone have been stable the last several years and our numbers have been pretty consistent."

Anglers regularly catch largemouths up to 8 pounds at Malone and bait shoptalk of even larger fish up to 10 pounds occurs from time to time.

The mid to upper area of the lake is generally the most productive for largemouths. Also, the larger coves hold good numbers of fish. Bass congregate near any of the scattered structure in the lake and can also be taken by fishing the edges of the water willow growing along the shoreline. With structure being limited, most any submerged tree or bottom irregularity found holds fish.

There is a free boat ramp located at the Lake Malone State Park. Call the park at (270) 657-2111 for more information.

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