Dewey Lake's Hot Summer Bassing

Dewey Lake's Hot Summer Bassing

This 1,100-acre Floyd County water continues to provide super largemouth fishing. Here's where you should try!

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

For a fairly small Corps of Engineers impoundment in Floyd County, reports on bass-fishing success on 1,100-acre Dewey Lake are standing up pretty large these days. Over the last two years, local largemouth chasers have been finding a noticeable upswing in bass catching on this somewhat inconspicuous reservoir near Prestonsburg at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.

Recent information from surveys and studies done by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) supports the improved fishing anglers are finding these days. What's best, it looks like this trend is going to last for some time into the future.

For those anglers who've yet to ply the waters of Dewey, you will find this reservoir quite a bit different from other waters found in eastern Kentucky. The most apparent difference is the reservoir's average depth. Dewey, at its deepest in the channel near the dam, is only about 60 feet. Go to Paintsville or Carr Creek Lake, and elsewhere in the east, and many spots on these lakes fall off the map in terms of maximum depths.

Dewey also has fewer steep banks and more sloping dropoffs than many other lakes in the region. Its natural habitat is better suited for largemouth reproduction than waters with sheer bluff walls. Those type waters are less likely to hold shoreline cover out to medium-range water depths.

Why is that significant? Because the simple truth is that most anglers are more comfortable fishing shallow water than deep water. In Dewey, much of the middle and upper portions of the lake are less than 20 feet deep. Not so with most other area reservoirs. So right off the bat, Dewey anglers should have a better chance taking bass because most of the fishing near the bank and even out in the channel calls for relatively shallow-water fishing techniques.

According to district fishery biologist Kevin Frey, news from some of Dewey's faithful is although last year's fishing conditions were very poor much of the spring and summer season, bass fishing has gotten quite a bit better overall than in previous years. Frey credits, ironically, the higher water levels from spring flooding for launching two excellent spawning years for largemouths, which are now responsible for producing more catchable size fish. He expects this summer to be very good for bass, assuming normal weather conditions allow good fishing conditions.

"Dewey is the oldest reservoir in this region," Frey said. "It has more fill-in and siltation than other lakes around here, which have provided bass with a great deal more flat habitat for spawning, as well as feeding.

"Other reservoirs with very steep bluffs and banks and less shallow- water habitat have less potential as bass nesting sites, and they are tougher to fish, too. The two good year-classes moving through the population right now have created a well-balanced bass population with good size distribution and a good number of fish heading into the quality-size range of 12 to 15 inches," the biologist said. Dewey sports a 15-inch minimum size limit.

"Anglers had a pretty tough time hooking up with bass last season because the lake stayed so muddy, but our research shows quality bass are there, and with any luck, anglers ought to do quite well there this summer," Frey said.

Some of the best habitat to fish in this lake is right along its shoreline. Banks create two types of habitat that bass take advantage of. One is a fallen tree where bass can find shade and forage. When rocks and earth wash down and pile up, series of underwater humps and mini-ledges develop that attract largemouths, especially at night or during low-light periods.

Fishermen who watch for bank erosion spots, perhaps close to an extended flat area in the upper end of the lake, will have located a potentially good place to find bass. Recent flooding has dropped quite a bit of what Frey calls new shoreline habitat into the lake. These trees, logs and debris are visible most of the time, and bass are quick to get on the new cover. Most any types of changes in bottom contour, even subtle ones or isolated areas, serve as temporary stations for bass to feed from or rest in. Frey also suggests anglers should spend a little time locating some of the old building foundations in the upper end of the lake, out from the bank, which were flooded over when the lake was created.

He believes that this structure, some of which is now surrounded by sediment, give bass cover to orient to while keeping an eye out for passing gizzard shad or bluegills. He also notes that anglers should be careful not to knock off a lower unit when they venture outside the marked channel because some areas get shallow very quickly.

"Some of the fishermen experiencing good success on bass tell me that they catch a lot of fish around the top ends of trees that have dropped off into the lake, or around submerged timber found several yards off the bank," Frey said.

"In summer, bass may tend to stay closer to the deeper water access side of cover, even though the depth may only be down to 10 feet or so toward the outer edge."

Frey said that fishing techniques used on Dewey to catch bass are nothing out of the ordinary. Anglers tell him that plastic worms, crankbaits and spinnerbaits seem to be the most effective lures for largemouths in the latter part of summer.

"Some anglers are searching out structure or cover on the flats and fishing them with crankbaits so they can cover a lot of territory," Frey said.

"Since the depth of many of these flats and long points is medium range, crankbaits that run 3 to 8 feet deep will put the lure in the strike zone much of the time. I think guys fishing the mid and upper part sometimes do better because the water tends to stay murky even when low rain periods come. Bright-colored crankbaits seem to attract bass better in stained water conditions," the biologist said.

Another approach is to use plastic worms and grubs around submerged timber or fish them on the bottom along some of the longer points that run out close to the main river channel. Darker colors, such as red, purple or black, have been particularly good for some anglers. Frey said fishing prior to a weather front moving in seems to increase the bite, so stay tuned to the weather.

Anglers who prefer the cool of the night should try spinnerbaits around the banks in against debris and downed timber. Dewey is a narrow reservoir, which means bass don't have to travel too far from the security of deeper water to get to the bank cover and feed. They will d

o much of that at night during the summertime for nothing more than comfort's sake. Points that extend out into the lake at spots where the distance from one side to the other is closer are good bets. Also, look for dropoffs that are a little more drastic, which sometimes are hot places to find larger bass.

Plastic worms and jig-and-pig combinations can be effective when slowly dropped down a 3- or 4-foot ledge where the point meets the channel. Big bass are often lazier than small fish, so they will take up residence on the first good-looking ambush spot they come to when they venture out of the deeper water areas.

"I believe anglers will be pleased with their bass trips to Dewey this summer, and for the next few to follow," Frey said.

"We've seen an increase in tournament interest on Dewey because the word is getting out better bass fishing is occurring, so that seems to bear out what our data is telling us.

"We think there's a big group of bass coming on that should provide good opportunity, and once anglers get familiar with Dewey, they can hook up with some nice bass on a regular basis. For an eastern Kentucky reservoir, it's one of the better choices if largemouths are your favorite," Frey said.

There are five launch ramps on Dewey, four in the lake itself that are suitable for bass boats. Anglers will be charged a launch fee by the Department of Parks to use any of the ramps located at Brandy Keg at Jenny Wiley Park, Stratton Branch, Goble Branch near the campground and Terry's Branch.

For other information about Dewey Lake, Jenny Wiley State Park and Marina services, visit on the Web. For ramp locations, boating and fishing regulations, go to the KDFWR's Web site at

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