From north to south and east to west, here are some of our very best places to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass this coming. (February 2008).
Photo by Keith Sutton
As the winter chill begins to subside across the Bluegrass State, stronger rays of sunshine are now warming up lakes and reservoirs. Kentucky anglers are getting their gear and dusting off their boats in preparation for one of the biggest events of the year: spring fishing for big bass!
If last year's bass fishing is a good indicator of the upcoming season, the big bass are out there. But if similar weather patterns settle in during the spring and summer, the fishing could get a little challenging at times. Hot, dry weather during the prime fishing months of 2007 resulted in somewhat sluggish bass fishing in many areas of the state.
"Nothing about the spring and summer (of 2007) was normal," said Paul Rister, fisheries biologist-program coordinator, for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). "The winter weather that lingered into spring definitely had some effect on spring fishing. The drought -- which has led to low water, low flow, temperature and dissolved oxygen issues and increased density of aquatic vegetation in Kentucky Lake -- had an effect on the summer fishing."
Even with the abnormal weather conditions, Rister notes that this past year's bass tournament results were still good. Within tournament competition, most of the anglers were taking 15 to 20 pounds (with a five-fish limit) to win. "I have not heard any complaints from sport anglers about their bass catches," Rister said.
As for the effects on the future of bass fishing after an extremely dry year, the long-term forecast is extremely good.
"One thing we are seeing from our sampling is a great year-class from this past spring," Rister said. "If history repeats itself, when we had an increase of vegetation during the early 1990s, we also saw increased numbers of small bass. Then during the middle to late 1990s, the numbers of keeper-size bass were up."
As for the short-term forecast covering the upcoming 2008 season, anglers and biologists agree that the big bass can still be caught in lakes all across Kentucky.
The prerequisites for successful fishing are the same regardless of weather conditions. First, collar a good bass fisherman (one of those 10 percent who catch 90 percent of the fish), and obtain as much information as possible on when, where and how to catch big bass. Second, and most important, get out on the water at every available opportunity.
The following is a selection of top-rated bass lakes from one end of the Bluegrass State to the other.
Yatesville Lake, with a summer pool of over 2,200 acres, is a well-known eastern Kentucky bass fishery. This Lawrence County lake lies within a 208-mile watershed and has nearly 94 miles of shoreline. A maximum depth of 60 feet and an average depth of 18 feet give the bass plenty of room to grow to trophy-size proportions. (Continued)
"There weren't any exceptional catches by anglers during the 2007 creel survey," said Kevin Frey, fisheries biologist for the KDFWR, referring to Yatesville Lake. "But anglers always seemed to have several catches to report per outing or trip. Sizes reported for largemouth bass ranged up to 20 inches. Largemouths above 20 inches have been in the catch, but to a much lesser degree."
Frey notes that from sampling data, the largemouth assessment ratings were "Excellent" in 2005, "Good" in 2006, and "Good" in 2007. For the 2008 season, Frey expects the assessment for largemouth bass should also be "Good."
For anglers traveling to Yatesville Lake for the first time, the best access is via U.S. Route 23. Near the town of Louisa, turn west on state Route (SR) 32 and travel for a short distance to the lake. Year-round boat ramps can be accessed at Barkers Marina, Twin Branch and Pleasant Ridge.
Specific locations on Yatesville Lake to check out for early-season bass include Daniels Creek, Blaine Creek, Rich Creek, Right Fork, Greenbrier Creek and Upper Twin Branch.
A large portion of the lake has a no-wake rule. Be on the lookout for signs telling where to slow your boat.
Yatesville Lake also provides ample recreational opportunities for the family. Hiking trails, horseback riding, camping, bicycling and picnicking areas are available, along with some of the best bass fishing to be found anywhere in this region.
Cave Run Lake
Huge, sprawling Cave Run Lake covers over 8,200 acres during summer pool in the eastern Kentucky counties of Bath, Menifee, Rowan and Morgan. Managed primarily for muskies, this lake is also a topnotch bass lake as well. With a maximum depth of 60 feet, it provides premier largemouth bass habitat.
"This past spring, we found good numbers of largemouth bass within the slot size group, which is 13 to 16 inches. (You cannot keep largemouth bass of this size in Cave Run Lake)," said fisheries biologist Lew Kornman. "And there were also good numbers of largemouth bass longer than 16 inches. Most of the larger bass were found in the upper reaches of the lake where it is more fertile."
The best way to get to Cave Run Lake from an eastern or western approach is from Interstate 64. Just south of Morehead, take SR 801 south to obtain access to the lake. Year-round boat ramps include the Cave Run Tailwater Recreation Area, and the High Bank, Scotts Creek, Clay Lick Boat-in Campground and Blackwater access areas.
At Cave Run Lake, recommended largemouth hotspots include the Licking River just below the dam, near the main river channel in Leatherwood Creek, Beaver Creek and in the brushpiles on the corners of the main lake area.
As for the effects on the future of bass fishing after an extremely dry year, the long-term forecast
is extremely good.
Taylorsville Lake covers portions of Spencer, Anderson and Nelson counties. It's a top-rated central Kentucky bass fishery. Covering over 3,000 acres during summer pool, this lake has an average maximum depth of around 70 feet.
"With a 15-inch size limit, Taylorsville Lake showed good available numbers of bass through 21 inches," said fisheries biologist Kerry Prather. "There is a large number of bass moving in the harvestable range this year (11- to 14-inch fish).
Prather also notes how weather trends play a major role in bass spawning success, as well as fishing pressure by anglers. "Dry weather usually means good conditions for bass habitat and fishing," he said.
"All our bass management lakes in central Kentucky can produce good catches of bass, whether in size or numbers, if you are there at the right time, day, season and conditions."
Taylorsville Lake lies about 25 miles southeast of Louisville. Follow Interstate 64 to SR 55 south. Follow SR 55 through the town of Taylorsville. Access roads are southeast of Taylorsville. From the Lexington area, follow the Bluegrass Parkway to SR 55 and turn north to reach the southern end of Taylorsville Lake.
Several sites marked "no-wake" are located around the lake, but primarily around access sites and obstructions. Buoys mark areas of stickups and downed wood in the lake as well.
Recommended locations for largemouth bass at Taylorsville include the no-wake area in front of the dam, the waters around Mitchell Branch, Jacks Creek and Little Beech Creek.
Another good spot is the Candy Branch section just below Big Island.
Access ramps include Settlers Trace, Chowning Lane, Van Buren and the Possum Ridge State Park ramp. Uplake from the Van Buren boat ramp, a portion of Taylorsville Lake (marked by signs) is closed to the public from Nov. 1 through the last day of February as a waterfowl refuge.
Many anglers consider Herrington Lake to be a central Kentucky trophy bass lake. Herrington comes highly recommended, especially in the early season months of February and March. Built way back in 1926, this lake covers over 1,800 acres, and is Kentucky's oldest major reservoir. Narrow and winding, with a maximum depth of nearly 250 feet, this is definitely one bass lake to place on your schedule for 2008.
"With a 12-inch size limit, Herrington Lake also has a large number of bass ready to recruit in the harvestable range (7 to 11 inches)," said Prather. "This lake also has a good number of 12- to 21-inch fish available."
For anglers traveling to Herrington Lake for the first time, expect to find what many describe as a flooded river. Most of the fish are caught along the original channel, and anglers are advised that floating debris can sometimes be a problem.
There are also many submerged logs and stumps that can present problems to boaters who are not familiar with the water.
Herrington Lake covers parts of Mercer, Boyle and Garrard counties near Harrodsburg and Danville. From the Lexington area, follow U.S. Route 27 south; from the Frankfort area, take U.S. Route 127 south. Access ramps are widely available with ramps at Dix Dam, Cane Run, Sunset Marina, Pandora, Herrington Marina, Keys Landing, Kings Mill and Clifton's Dock, as well as several others.
Good bass locations at Herrington include in front of the dam, the flooded channel of the first creek on the west side of the main channel, Swinn Island and along the shoreline of the flooded creek just east of the dam.
Prather notes that several other good bass lakes are to be found in this central Kentucky region. Lakes such as Guist Creek in Shelby County, Kincaid in Pendleton County, Bullock Pen in Grant and Boone Counties and Sympson Lake in Nelson County are all top-quality bass fishing waters. He also recommends the main stem of the Kentucky River, after extended drought conditions, as a top bass fishery.
Barkley Lake is rated as one of the top lakes in Kentucky for largemouth bass fishing. And huge Barkley Lake covers approximately 58,000 acres at summer pool.
Built in 1966 by damming the Cumberland River, this huge southwestern Kentucky waterway takes in portions of Lyon and Trigg counties in Kentucky and Stewart County in Tennessee.
With over 1,000 miles of shoreline and nearly 134 miles in length, Barkley provides anglers with an abundance of bass habitat. The lake's maximum depths can reach 68 feet, but the average depth is only 12 feet. The shoreline is irregular, and fish cover comes not only from flooded trees and stumps common to impoundments, but also from brush-piles placed in the water by the state and private groups.
The 2008 outlook for
Kentucky bass fishermen
looks to be better than ever. Weather conditions will dictate fishing conditions, and no one knows for sure what Mother Nature has in store.
From the Louisville-Lexington areas, head west and access the Western Kentucky Parkway, which leads to the northern end of the lake. From the southern region of the state, U.S. Route 68 crosses Lake Barkley more toward its southern end. Numerous ramps provide good access at various points along the length of the lake.
Nearly 60 such ramps are available. These include Barkley Dam Tailwater Access Area, Nickell Branch Recreation Area, Boyds Landing, Poplar Creek, Eddyville Recreation Area, Cravens' Bay, Rock Castle Point and numerous others.
Recommended locations for bass include near the mouth of Demumbers Creek, near McNabb Creek and around the stumps of Fulton Creek. A few other good bass locations include Terrapin Creek and near the mouth of Dry Creek.
Kentucky Lake's surface area covers more than 160,000 acres in portions of five Kentucky counties and eight counties in Tennessee. The Bluegrass counties include Livingston, Marshall, Calloway, Lyon and Trigg.
With approximately 2,400 miles of shoreline and 184 miles in total length, this is one huge body of premier bass habitat available to anglers to explore in the extreme western end of Kentucky.
Kentucky Lake was formed when a dam was built on the Kentucky side of the Tennessee River. And since there is no reciprocal agreement between Kentucky and Tennessee, your Kentucky fishing license is good only on the Kentucky side of the lake.
The lake has a maximum depth of approximately 120 feet and an average depth of around 15 feet. The size limit for both largemouths and smallmouths is 15 inches.
Kentucky Lake forms the western boundary of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, with Lake Barkley forming the eastern boundary. Directions to Kentucky Lake are the same as for Barkley: follow the Western Kentucky Parkway across the state from urban regions such as Louisville and Lexington. Approaching from the southern regions of the state, follow U. S. Route 68.
Kentucky Lake also provides numerous boat ramp accesses. These include Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, Kentucky Dam Marina, Little Bear Access Area, Birmingham Ferry Recreational Area, Big Bear Resort and Marina, Barge Island Recreation Area, Sugar Bay Access Area, Kenlake State Resort Park and Kentucky Beach Resort -- to name just a few.
Reports of trophy bass have come from all sections of Kentucky Lake. Some recommended places include Smith Bay, Olive Branch Creek, Rushing Creek and Shannon Creek.
As all bass anglers know, the vicinity of nearly any feeder stream, point, stumpfield or brushy area has the potential of holding trophy bass. A good detailed map of Kentucky Lake will provide focus points for quality bass habitat.
The 2008 outlook for Kentucky bass fishermen looks to be better than ever. Weather conditions will dictate fishing conditions, and no one knows for sure what Mother Nature has in store. But at nearly any time during the fishing season, early morning and late evening are almost always sure bets for the best bass action.
When boat-fishing unfamiliar waters, anglers are advised to obtain a map of the lake they plan to fish and become familiar with the waterway.
Reservoirs are notorious for hidden stumps and trees. During times of dry weather, obstacles ordinarily under several feet of water could become hazards due to lower water levels.
As for fishing presentations, ask a dozen anglers what their most productive lure is, and usually you'll get nearly a dozen different viewpoints. Then, taking into account that most successful bass anglers are reluctant to share their secrets, what you're told may or may not be a trustworthy approach in any specific locale.
So the best overall approach to bass presentation is trial and error. What the big boys will hit one day, they may pass by the next. But this, of course, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport. When you are on the right lake at the right time and it results in a severely bowed rod, you become just as hooked as the big fish on the other end of the line.