Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Trophy largemouth bass from smaller lakes
– Dale Wilson cast a black spinner bait
embellished with a split-tail pork eel trailer into Wood Creek Lake and started
working it back to the boat with lifts and drops.
Lurking in about 5 feet of water near the base of a
boulder, a largemouth bass found the lure and presentation irresistible. It
struck. Wilson set the hook.
The 13-pound, 10.4-ounce lunker pulled from the Laurel
County lake that April morning became the new Kentucky state record. Its status
remains intact three decades later.
Kentucky boasts plenty of lakes known for producing high
quality largemouth bass. Foremost in many anglers’ minds are Kentucky Lake and
Lake Barkley, but it wouldn’t surprise Gerry Buynak to see the next state
record largemouth bass come from one of the state’s smaller lakes.
“Our last three state records came from either Greenbo Lake
or Wood Creek Lake,” said Buynak, assistant fisheries director for the Kentucky
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “My gut tells me Fishpond Lake,
Greenbo, Wood Creek and potentially Cedar Creek Lake.”
Spring is an optimal time to pursue a hefty largemouth bass
from bank or boat.
The lengthening periods of daylight and water temperatures
warming into the 60s trigger an instinct to move shallow and spawn.
Buynak’s experience has taught him that largemouth bass
like banks that receive the most sunlight in spring. The warmer water also
attracts bait fish.
“It’s the most vulnerable time for the bass because they’re
up on the bank where everybody fishes,” he said. “The big females always tend
to spawn first. So, if you find a lake where spawning is just starting, that’s
when the big fish are going to be near the bank.”
With water temperatures slow to warm after the long winter,
largemouth bass are still in pre-spawn mode in many lakes.
That’s good news for anglers.
“This pre-spawn period is probably your best bet, and there
are some big bass out there,” said Chris Hickey, black bass biologist with
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “They’re going to be pretty voracious right now to
regain that energy, those reserves that they lost over the winter.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s 2014
Fishing Forecast classifies more than a dozen
lakes under 1,000 acres as good to excellent for largemouth bass.
Fishpond Lake in Letcher County falls into that category.
The 32-acre lake averages about a dozen fish over 20 inches
during a one-hour population sampling, but the lake’s clear water can make
daytime fishing challenging.
Largemouth bass will cozy up to Fishpond’s steeper
shorelines in 6- to 8-feet of water in spring, Eastern District Fisheries
Biologist Kevin Frey said.
“As the spring progresses, sometimes the algae near the
shorelines can get really thick and create mats,” he said. “Casting to the edge
of those algae mats or underneath them can be good for bass.”
Bullock Pen Lake in Grant County and 183-acre Kincaid Lake
in Pendleton County offer anglers the potential to catch a largemouth bass over
“They’re almost identical to a degree, other than I think
Kincaid is a little bit better,” said Jeff Crosby, central fisheries district
biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “There are just incredible numbers
of fish over 15 inches at Kincaid, so your chances of catching a quality fish
A population sampling trip Monday evening on 134-acre
Bullock Pen Lake turned up good numbers of 18-inch fish and quite a few 2- to
4-pound fish, Crosby said. He suggests working water willow beds and submerged
timber with jerk baits, soft plastics and jig-n-pig combos for the bigger fish.
Shad-imitating lures worked along the edges of water willow
and lily pads can be productive this time of year at 760-acre Lake Beshear in
Caldwell and Christian counties. Lake Malone in Muhlenberg, Todd and Logan
counties boasts good numbers of 15-to-20-inch fish in its 767 acres. Soft
plastic baits fished near water willow along with spinner baits and jigs fished
near submerged timber and brush also make good bets in spring.
The “Where to Fish” feature on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s
website fw.ky.gov offers anglers mapping of the location of fish attractors
in many Kentucky water bodies.
Ample numbers of big largemouth bass were observed during
saugeye sampling last week on Guist Creek Lake in Shelby County. Then there is
Cedar Creek; the 784-acre lake in Lincoln County managed by Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife for its trophy largemouth bass potential.
“Every year we keep catching more and more over that
20-inch limit,” Hickey said.
Smaller lakes and big largemouth bass go hand-in-hand in
spring. Now is the time to give them a try, but make sure to have a valid
Kentucky fishing license. The new license year started March 1.
“This time of year,” Buynak said, “I’d be up shallow after
those bigger fish.”