Double-Duty Bassing On Kentucky & Barkley Lakes

Double-Duty Bassing On Kentucky & Barkley Lakes

These two huge Commonwealth reservoirs offer excellent largemouth angling along many miles of shoreline. Local experts provide tips on top places to try right now! (June 2007)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt.

If you've watched the professional tournament trail on television lately, probably you already know about the hot bass fishing on Kentucky and Barkley lakes, two giant reservoirs absolutely loaded with bass. They contain the kind of structure that makes a bass angler's heart kick into high gear, with fingers tingling on the reel handle. Both fisheries have built quite a reputation for producing numbers and sizes of bass. Good as these waters are, their overall quality is expected to get even better!

These two lakes' enormous size can be intimidating for anglers not familiar with them. You have thousands of acres of prime bass water to choose from, which can make it hard to single out a starting point.

So let's break down some key areas on both lakes and form a game plan that will let you exploit bass during the late spring and early summer.

On Kentucky and Barkley lakes, those months will generate some explosive bass action. Anglers can take advantage of excellent fishing opportunities, especially during the morning and evening. During these daylight hours, there are so many different ways and techniques to catch bass. Anglers can utilize strategies from the spawn to post-spawn and catch fish on everything from topwater lures to deep-running crankbaits.

A typical daytime trip consists of fishing the morning hours and late evening, when anglers can catch 30 bass or more. This excellent fishing is not uncommon on either lake. On average, anglers on Barkley can expect to catch a lot of bass around the 13- to 14-inch range, with an occasional 5-pound-plus fish being boated.

The average bass you can expect to catch on Kentucky Lake usually ranges around the 15-inch mark, with bass weighing over 5 pounds not uncommon.

With that in mind, let's find out exactly where you need to be on each of these lakes and what lures you'll need to be throwing to break into the hot summer bass action.

KENTUCKY LAKE

Especially during June, Kentucky Lake can be a bass angler's dream come true. The lake itself has a strong forage base consisting of gizzard and threadfin shad, emerald shiners, sunfish, crayfish, and mayflies. The bass definitely don't go hungry on Kentucky Lake, and this plays an integral role in producing solid numbers of lunker fish. The overall number of bass in this lake will blow your mind. Without question, this lake has some of the finest bass fishing the Bluegrass State has to offer.

When it comes to fishing Kentucky Lake, Craig Hipsher of Hipsher Guide Services is hard to beat. He logs in more hours on the water than you can imagine and knows every brushpile, creek channel, dropoff, and deep-water ledge on the lake.

You have to talk with Hipsher just a few minutes to realize that he is completely eaten up with fishing fever and basically stays on the water the year around, under almost any weather conditions. His devotion to both Kentucky and Barkley has let him develop an in-depth knowledge of these lakes, along with the habits and patterns of each lake's bass.

Hipsher strongly feels the bass fishing opportunities during June can be truly outstanding. According to him, anglers on Kentucky Lake can catch bass consistently during June by utilizing a variety of strategies. This transitional period is unique because bass can be caught using spawn and post-spawn techniques.

The enormous sizes of these two lakes can be intimidating for anglers who are not familiar with them.

Basically, some bass can be found in shallow water in the backs of coves, still on the nest or guarding fry. At the same time, bass can be found sticking to a textbook post-spawn pattern, with fish staging in deeper water at the mouths of coves or on deep-water ledges.

"It's really an exciting time to be on the water, and the bass fishing can be explosive," Hipsher explained. "You can consistently catch bass on a variety of patterns, lures, and strategies during June. The topwater action can be hot at times. Crankbaits, flipping jigs, Texas-rigged 10-inch worms, and shaky-head jigs can put a lot of fish in the boat on Kentucky Lake during this period.

"However, knowing when, where, and how to fish these baits can be the difference in an unbelievable day and a mediocre outing. Having a productive game plan in place along with the correct fishing strategy can pay off big at this time of year."

Strategy #1:

FISHING KENTUCKY DAM

One excellent fishing strategy that Hipsher implements during June is targeting bass around the Kentucky Dam portion of the lake. His plan consists of launching from the Kentucky Dam Marina and focuses on structure such as main-lake drops, rock ledges, and riprap.

What makes this strategy so productive is that a number of tournaments are held on this end of the lake and at the conclusions of the weigh-ins, a ton of bass are routinely released. During the summer months, anglers can usually find large numbers of newly released bass hanging around this section of the lake.

According to Hipsher, keying in with a buzzbait on riprap and shallow-water cover in the backs of coves can be deadly during the early morning and late evening hours or on an overcast day.

"A buzzbait allows you to cover a great deal of water in a short period of time and catch aggressive or feeding bass. Basically, you can still catch a lot of bass in the backs of the bays. These bass may be guarding fry or are fish that have spawned late. These areas can be very productive in June during the early morning hours when fishing topwater baits like the Spook or chuggers.

"Usually, I will pick up several fish using this technique early in the morning until the sun is up, which causes the bass to shut off," said Hipsher. "When this happens, I will switch gears and concentrate more on the mouths of the bays and hit the ledges and dropoffs. It's important to use your fish finder to locate this type of structure and determine to where the bass are staging. I like to throw crankbaits if the fish are positioned or holding on top of the ledges. Once again, I can cover a great deal of water and catch a lot of bass in a short amount of time."

For bass staging on ledges, another high-impact strategy that Hipsher likes to use involves slowing down a bit and hitting the fish with a football head jig, 10-inch Texas-rigged worm or Carolina jig. Typically he

'll turn to these baits if the bass are holding in water deeper than 12 feet or holding off to the sides of ledges. Favorite lure colors range from green pumpkin, plum, and June bug.

"One important step in making this plan work is taking the time to pinpoint the baitfish. A lot of bass are coming off beds and are holding or staging around these areas to rest and feed. I will idle around with my fish finder until I find large schools of baitfish before picking an area to fish," commented Hipsher.

"I really like to focus on locations where two channels meet or where a secondary channel makes a point. The size of the baitfish will determine what size worm I use on a particular day. For example, if I am finding 6- to 7-inch hickory shad, then I will go with a 10-inch worm Texas-rigged with a 1/2-ounce weight or 3/4-ounce spinnerbait."

Strategy #2:

FISHING BIG BEAR

Another highly effective strategy is to launch at Moors Resort and take advantage of some of the best drop-offs to be found on the entire lake.

The mouth of Big Bear is an excellent starting point. You can focus on prime cover like the dropoffs, roadbeds and old house foundations. Largemouths will gravitate to this type of cover in June. You can absolutely sink the boat with bass.

Over the years, Hipsher has caught a ton of bass from this area during the late spring and early summer months. Once again, there are also a lot of bass tournaments on this end of the lake, which provides the area with solid numbers of released fish.

On this section of the lake, the structure and cover are ideal for Carolina rigging in June. Hipsher prefers to go with a 6-inch Zoom Brush Hog with his rig and typically turns to colors like green pumpkin, watermelon seed, and watermelon candy.

If he is looking to catch numbers, he switches to a 6-inch lizard in the same color combinations. According to Hipsher, the Carolina rig is his confidence bait when he faces tough conditions or windy days on Kentucky Lake. He is confident that the Carolina rig will produce when bass stubbornly ignore most other lures and presentations.

Strategy #3:

FISHING BLOOD RIVER<br.

Without a doubt, the Blood River portion of the lake can produce some phenomenal bassing in late spring and early summer. In fact, it's one of Craig Hipsher's honeyholes when the main-lake ledges and dropoffs are being beat to death by other anglers:

"I love to hit the shallow water of the Blood River section of the lake during June. This section of the lake is where Dean Rojas almost took first place in a major professional tournament by concentrating on shallow-water cover with a SPRO Frog," he added.

Around Blood River, Hipsher prefers to target willow trees, buck brush, and other shallow-water cover. Generally, a lot of bass live in these shallow-water sanctuaries throughout the summer months.

Hipsher catches a lot of bass on square-bill crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures like the Spook and Frog around wood cover. Anglers should definitely not overlook this section of the lake this summer.

Fishermen looking for action-packed trips on Kentucky or Barkley Lake need to give Craig Hipsher a call at (270) 354-5221. Or find him at craighipshersguideservice.com.

BARKLEY LAKE

Barkley Lake is another Bluegrass State bass-fishing hotspot during the late spring and early summer. Like Kentucky Lake, Barkley is also enormous in size and can be quite intimidating for bass anglers at first glance. However, having inside information about the lake and implementing the right game plan can pay huge dividends during June. Pay close attention to the following key areas on the lake and make a mental note of what lures and presentations work best during this time of year.

Most people know Harold Knight, of Knight & Hale Game Calls, as a hunting and calling sensation. Calling turkeys in the spring woods or chasing whitetails in the fall, Harold is pretty darn hard to beat. However, he's also a remarkable angler. In fact, recently Harold Knight placed in the top five of the BASS Northern Tournament Tour on Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

Knight grew up fishing the river and hunting the area long before it became a lake. He has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about both lakes, but is extremely tough to beat on Barkley.

Strategy #1:

LAUNCHING AT LAKE BARKLEY STATE PARK MARINA

Harold Knight lives only a few minutes from the State Park Marina and during June, he loves to fish this section of the lake. He likes to focus on the topwater bite early in the morning, before the sun is out, fishing around shallow-water cover.

"Sometimes in June, we have high-water conditions, creating a situation where there are flooded bushes," commented Knight. "I like to target this type of cover with the SPRO Frog, buzzbaits, and Zara Spooks. The topwater action can be explosive during the early morning hours or under overcast conditions."

Knight utilizes his depthfinder to find schools of baitfish and bass on ledges and dropoffs. He feels strongly that finding baitfish is key to fishing at this time of year.

Like Craig Hipsher, Knight also likes to target suspending bass in the post-spawn pattern, especially when the topwater bite shuts off. These bass will be away from the bank. In fact, Knight uses his depthfinder to find schools of baitfish and bass on ledges and dropoffs.

He feels strongly that finding baitfish is key to fishing at this time of year. He prefers to fish a 3/8-ounce jig around the rock cover and ledges. In recent years, he's been catching more and more smallmouths on Barkley around this type of cover. Focusing on ledges and drops can pay off big during June on Barkley.

Strategy #2:

FISHING U.S. ROUTE 68

BRIDGE -- DEVILS ELBOW

Another area in which Knight has a great deal of confidence is the section of the lake around the U.S. Route 68 bridge. Harold will launch at the Devils Elbow boat ramp and target bass along the shallow flats where the river turns, focusing on the logs and treetops.

Fishing this type of cover with a spinnerbait, square-billed crankbait, and 6-inch worm with a 1/8-ounce sinker can be a lethal strategy. A high-impact technique is to cast the Texas-rigged worm past the cover and let the current carry the worm into the wooded structure.

Generally, large schools of fry and baitfish will be holding around the wood cover, the best of which is found along the shallow flats where the river narrows. These prime locations are loaded with bass during June.

Many anglers who are busy focusing on the main lake dropoffs and ledges often overlook this section of the lake. However, this shallow-water pattern can generate some intense action-packed trips during late-spring and early-summer months.

Strategy #3:

FISHING EDDIE CREEK MARINA

Harold Knight also catches a lot of bass on the main lake after launching from Eddie Creek Marina. There are a number of good points, dropoffs, and roadbeds on this section of the lake. Fishing this type of structure with crankbaits, Carolina-rigged Brush Hogs or lizards, and a shaky-head worm can be all it takes to fill your boat with lunker bass.

Once again, the best colors will be green pumpkin and watermelon. Without question, these are Harold Knight's go-to baits throughout June.

He will also flip a jig around flooded wooded cover during the first of June. Another high-impact strategy he utilizes at this time of year is to fish a single-blade spinnerbait around the ledges and dropoffs. A 3/8-ounce spinnerbait with a green and white skirt can trigger a lot of strikes around this cover.

Harold will also fish a 10-inch worm with a 5/16-ounce sinker around deep-water structure, if the bass seem to like the bait on the fall. However, if the bass want the worm on the bottom, he will switch to a 1/2-ounce sinker. Knight will pull his rod sideways and try to keep to keep the worm on the bottom. All of these tactics can be lethal on Lake Barkley during the summer months.

This summer, don't overlook the phenomenal fishing on both of these lakes. Double-duty bassing on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes can generate some of the hottest action in the state, especially during June.

Good luck and good fishing!

Find more about Kentucky fishing and hunting at: KentuckyGameandFish.com

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