Big Bass From Kentucky'™s Small Lakes

Big Bass From Kentucky'™s Small Lakes

Though these waters don't compare to Lake Barkley, Cumberland or Dale Hollow, these smaller watersheds do produce their share of big bucketmouths nonetheless.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Good things sometimes come in small packages. That old cliché can, in many cases, be very true about fishing. Sure, there are huge reservoirs with an abundance of bass-fishing opportunities, but that's true on many of our state's smaller lakes as well.

Lots of our small lakes have excellent populations of bass and provide great opportunities to catch respectable fish away from some of the more crowded and noisy conditions often found on the big lakes. Some overlooked lakes actually have the potential to produce some really trophy-sized largemouths. Let's take a look at five of those smaller lakes, which can be excellent fishing choices this month.


WOOD CREEK LAKE


The largest of our five featured waters is Laurel County's Wood Creek Lake at 672 acres. The lake is nearby to the town of London. Wood Creek Lake has a good population of largemouth bass with decent numbers of quality-sized fish in the 12- to 15-inch range. Biologists regularly sample fish in the 3- to 5-pound range, so catching fish of this size or larger is very likely. The lake has a 15-inch minimum size restriction on harvesting bass.


The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) fisheries biologists have sampled Wood Creek Lake each spring for some time. In 2004, the KDFWR began sampling the lake in the fall. Biologists complete their fishing survey on bass in the fall to get an indication of the spring's year-class.


It will take at least two to three years of fall shocking before biologists can get an index of bass at the lake. They will be attempting to predict the strength of year-classes and other factors. Wood Creek Lake is being looked at as a possible candidate for future supplemental bass stockings. By developing an index, fisheries personnel will be able to make informed decisions regarding size distribution, strength of individual year-classes, and potential stocking needs.

Spring and fall sampling so far indicate similar numbers of fish throughout the lake. Spring sampling will sometimes indicate larger bass toward the lower end of the lake. In late summer, anglers may want to concentrate on the upper end of the lake.


There are two arms at the upper end of Wood Creek Lake. One starts near the boat dock. There is a lot of timber in these arms and bass can usually be found close to this and other woody structure.

Largemouth bass really relate to the thermocline during summer and will usually hover just above it. Anglers can have the best success by fishing right above the thermocline, which probably will be somewhere around 15 feet deep at this time of year.

Anglers can usually find bass much shallower during the early-morning hours. As the sun intensifies and penetrates the water, bass will move deeper. Many anglers switch to night-fishing at Wood Creek Lake during the hottest time of the year.

Spinnerbaits and plastic worms are favorite choices in and around the timber and woody structure. Deep- water anglers will often throw crankbaits that resemble shad. The main forage base for largemouth bass at Wood Creek is gizzard shad.

Although largemouth bass are the most prevalent, there is also a small population of smallmouths in the lake as well. The density of smallmouths at Wood Creek is fairly low, but usually those fish caught are of decent size. It's not uncommon for seasoned anglers to hook smallmouths here in the 18- to 20-inch range.

GUIST CREEK LAKE

Shelby County is home to Guist Creek Lake, which covers some 317 acres. The latest KDFWR fishing report indicates there are good numbers of bass over the 12-inch size limit with many that are 15 inches or larger. Biologists have sampled as many as 50 bass per hour that exceeded 15 inches. There is excellent potential at this lake to catch trophy-sized largemouths. There are also a few smallmouth bass caught occasionally at Guist Creek Lake.

The lake is close to Shelbyville and subsequently receives a lot of fishing pressure. Additionally, there are a lot of fishing tournaments held here. Notwithstanding, the bass fishery holds up well and provides plenty of opportunity even for the casual angler.

This lake has an excellent population of largemouths despite low spawns between 1996 and 1998 due to flooding. The lake also experienced a very low water level in 1999. Some stocking of bass has been implemented at the lake to help with the recovery from those poor year-class years.

Guist Creek Lake has good growth rate for bass, but not as good as some areas of the state. There are many quality fish in the 3- to 5-pound range and many more that are true trophies. A biologist with the KDFWR recently saw a bass caught during a tournament that was in the 10-pound range.

There are some areas of the lake that have better structure than others. Water willow is present in certain locations and is a good attractor for largemouths. Timber and other woody structure is an angler's best bet, though.

The KDFWR creates artificial structure to help supplement what occurs naturally. Discarded Christmas trees are sunk around main-lake points to attract both baitfish and bass. These are superb locations for anglers to fish.

The main forage fish for largemouth bass at Guist Creek is shad. Anglers usually prefer shad-imitating baits, such as shad-colored crankbaits or spinnerbaits.

There is a lot of night-fishing that occurs at Guist Creek Lake during July and August. Anglers will usually throw worms. A prime spot is where the channel pushes up against the bank with deep-water access and wood or fallen trees nearby.

Creeks with fallen trees or woody structure are another good choice. The lower end of the lake also has some stumpfields. Bass will often congregate in this area of the lake and provide some excellent action, especially early in the morning and just before dark.

There is a paved ramp to provide boat access to the lake. However, it is located at the Guist Creek Marina and there is a launching fee. For more information, contact the marina at (502) 647-5359.

KINCAID LAKE

Largemouth bass "do very well" in Pendleton County's 175-acre Kincaid Lake, according to biologist Jeff Crosby. In fact, Crosby considers it one of the prime spots for largemouths in the area. Kincaid Lake offers one of the highest catch rates of bass

over 15 inches in the district and maybe even the state. At Kincaid, biologists typically sample from 75 to 100 bass per hour that are over 15 inches. This is a very high number.

Kincaid has an excellent largemouth population and it is a "pretty impressive lake," according to Crosby, despite its diminutive size. He said it has some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the area. There are many bass in the 3- to 5-pound range with others in the 7- to 9-pound range. The KDFWR sampled two largemouth bass in the spring of 2004 that were over 23 inches.

One reason for the number of large fish is due to good longevity. Biologists have noted bass from the lake as much as 15 to 16 years old. This longer lifespan obviously translates to more growth.

There is quite a bit of structure at Kincaid. Much of it is present in the form of standing timber, submerged woody debris and fallen trees. There are also a lot of submerged plants and vegetation, such as coontail.

Kincaid is a fairly shallow lake. There is a lot of woody habitat along the bank. In July, bass will often come shallow into prime habitat sections, especially early and late in the day.

The main forage base is shad. Bluegills are pretty much stunted out in the lake, so they make up only a small part of the bass population's diet. Anglers have great success at Kincaid using shad-imitating lures.

Spinnerbaits fished in and around fallen and standing timber are good starting choices. White seems to be a predominant color for spinnerbaits at the lake. The weedlines at the edge of timber can be very productive.

Other anglers will throw worms or jigs around the woody structure and vegetation. Surface baits work well around the coontail. Night-fishing also becomes very popular and productive, as summer's heat gets more intense.

There is a state park and campground at the lake. Near the beach at the park there is a good section of coontail. This can be a prime spot to target largemouths. However, according to biologist Crosby, there are good bass all over the lake. He said anglers can locate good fish "from the dam all the way to the upper end."

The lake is very easy to fish and even provides a good bit of bank access for shore-bound anglers. It does receive a lot of fishing pressure, but not as much as some of the other lakes that are closer and more accessible to more populated areas.

ELMER DAVIS LAKE

Elmer Davis Lake's 149 acres are in Owen County. This lake is located in the same fisheries district as both Kincaid and Guist Creek lakes. Jeff Crosby helps oversee all three lakes and said there are probably twice as many bass in Elmer Davis as in the other two waters. However, the majority of these fish are less than 12 inches long.

Bass reproduction is very high at Elmer Davis, according to Crosby. This has caused bass less than 12 inches to become the predominant size. Therefore, the KDFWR has implemented a 12- to 15-inch slot limit to help remove some of the fish under 12 inches to protect those above 12 inches.


A lot of anglers will use bluegill- or redear-imitating baits at Elmer Davis. Other popular baits are those that resemble crayfish. Crankbaits and plastic worms are always good choices as well.
 

Although the number of bass over 12 inches is not high, Crosby does say that Elmer Davis has the potential to produce some lunker largemouths. Biologists and anglers regularly see some really big bass there, especially during spring samplings done by the KDFWR. Many folks consider the trophy potential of the lake excellent.

There are no shad at Elmer Davis. The KDFWR conducted a shad eradication that eliminated them from the lake. Bluegills and redear sunfish are the primary forage base for largemouths here.

The shad eradication has helped increase the amount of aquatic vegetation at the lake. Grass carp were killed during the eradication as well and that subsequently allowed more vegetation to flourish. Anglers can find many decent weedbeds to fish in and around on the lake these days. Water willows provide excellent places to target largemouths.

A lot of anglers will use bluegill- or redear-imitating baits at Elmer Davis. Other popular baits are those that resemble crayfish. Crankbaits and plastic worms are always good choices as well.

There is a small minnow known as Brook Silverside that survived the shad eradication. This fish will often school near the surface and will be seen jumping. Bass will often feed "in the jumps" and anglers can have great success using artificial baits that resemble these small fish.

Biologist Crosby said Elmer Davis Lake is a superb place to teach young anglers how to fish. It is a great place to take kids or others who want to learn how to bass fish. The bass there are so numerous and easy to catch, it makes for a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

There is not too much bank access at Elmer Davis. Most fishing is done from boats. There are two ramps at the lake. The one at the dam is free, while the boat dock ramp charges a fee.

FAGAN BRANCH LAKE

The smallest lake of our five picks is only 140 acres in size. Located in Marion County, Fagan Branch Lake has a good rating for largemouths and has good numbers of bass in the 13- to 15-inch range. This is partially due to a protective slot limit imposed on the lake. No fish from 12 to 15 inches may be harvested at Fagan Branch.

The slot limit was imposed to help protect some of the larger fish and allow them to utilize available food sources. Fagan Branch is nutrient poor. So it is not very fertile. Fagan Branch is a water-supply lake on high ground and does not receive a lot of run-off.

The lake does not have a large population of largemouths and usually sees low reproduction rates. It can incur population swings due to recruitment issues and water level. Bass grow much slower at Fagan Branch compared to many other state lakes, but the fish enjoy good longevity and do reach decent size over time.

Fishing at Fagan Branch Lake can be challenging during the summer. The lake level and water condition can vary according to water usage. Anglers must adapt to changes in the water level and the effects it has on bass to be successful.

There is not much structure at the lake. There are a few fallen trees, but artificial fish attractors and supplemental woody structure, such as Christmas trees, are not placed in the lake. Because it is a water-supply lake, anything foreign that might be drawn into the water inlets is unwanted.


There is quite

a bit of structure at Kincaid. Much of it is present in the form of standing timber, submerged woody debris and fallen trees. There are also a lot of submerged plants and vegetation, such as coontail.

 

There is a creek channel, but it is poorly defined. With diligence, anglers can find some dropoffs along the old channel. Bass will often relate to these subtle changes in depth.

There is a lot of submerged vegetation in the lake. Growth and development of the vegetation increases throughout the summer, which makes it difficult to fish near the bottom. However, anglers can find good success by fishing just above the top of the submerged weedbeds. Crankbaits run just above the tops of these sunken beds can be highly productive at times. Topwater lures are also often good choices during early-morning hours and again just before dark.

If one were standing on the dam and facing the lake, the side of the lake on the right is the deepest. During the heat of summer, bass will seek out deeper water to find not only cooler temperatures, but also to escape the sun's rays. Good electronics can really be helpful to locate deeper drops near prime feeding areas.

The lake also has some decent smallmouth fishing, but they suffer from some of the same problems as the largemouths. Most smallmouths are confined to the lower end near the dam and the few fingers nearby. Smallmouths caught will usually average between 12 and 18 inches. Not bad for a lake not known for these scrappy game fish!

FINAL NOTES

The trick is not to underestimate a lake just because of its size. These lakes and others across the state have good bass populations and are managed to provide the most fishing opportunities possible. Many record-sized fish are pulled from farm ponds, so don't overlook a potential bass hotspot just because it's small.

Remember that many of our smaller lakes have special regulations to help protect and enhance the fisheries. Anglers should always obtain the most current regulations before fishing. Most of this information is available in the annual Sport Fishing and Boating Guide. Other information can be obtained by contacting the KDFWR or the individual biologists directly. Call the toll-free information line at (800) 858-1549 or visit the Web site at

www.kdfwr.state.ky.us.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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