By mid-September, Kentucky Lake can be absolutely lights-out when you find a big school up on its many shallow bars. This week, during the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open, that’s probably not going to be the case – instead of locking a topwater in their hands, college teams are likely to take a much more varied approach.
Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open
September 16-17, 2020
Takeoff: 7:00 a.m. CT
Weigh-in: 3:00 p.m. CT
A different Kentucky Lake
Cole Floyd, who boasts Angler of the Year titles in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine LBL Division each of the last three seasons, calls Kentucky Lake home these days, and he fished it recently enough to have some valuable insight on how it’s fishing right now.
“A lot of bass aren’t really are where I thought they’d be,” he explains. “Late summer, they get back in those creeks. Then, they’ll start moving their way out to the river. I guess a lot of them are still in them creeks around wood and stuff. That junk fishing pattern – instead of getting out there on those bars, which is what Kentucky Lake’s known for; that bar fishing with a Spook, big schools and all that – isn’t happening.”
That’s probably in part due to the warm weather the area has experienced all year to this point, but the biggest curveball this week in terms of how fish are positioning is the high water.
“We’ve had a wet August and September,” Floyd says. “When I go over the bridge at Paris Landing, there’s some places that stick out of the water and they’re underwater. That’s really weird. I can’t say I’ve ever really faced that this time of year.
“There’s really not a whole bunch of flow, either. I’ve lived down here for five years, and I can’t remember a time this time of year that the water’s come up like this. It’s not going to come up in the bushes or anything, but it’s at 357.5 feet and it should be about 355 feet right now. It’s definitely going to be weird. You just don’t know.”
Scattered so far
Because the water is higher than usual for this time of year, Floyd thinks it has fish scattered, which is one of the reasons they’re not schooling up out on the river. Instead, they’re pulling up to the bank with the high water, meaning junk fishing up shallow is probably going to be the deal this week.
“Shallow junk fishing is probably how it’ll be won,” Floyd posits. “It’ll be won off of structure. They’re going to win it off stake beds or brush piles. I don’t think anyone’s going to catch a limit throwing a Spook each day. I don’t see that happening.”
Of course, Floyd admits it’s the right time of year that fish could start grouping up on the bars – he just hasn’t seen it yet. If that happens, he believes it could take 32 or 33 pounds over two days to get the job done.
As it stands, though, Floyd is a little less optimistic.
“I’m going to say, two days, 28 pounds,” he says. “That’s really what I think. I might say 29. I think someone might catch 16 one day and 13 the next, or 15 and 14. Junk fishing, 15 pounds is strong, if you can back it up. Most people might catch 13 or 14 [pounds] one day and catch 5 or 6 the next.”
As for what Kentucky Lake is also known for – ledge fishing – Floyd thinks it’s too late in the year to find a winning concentration of fish out on those ledges, but there might be an offshore pattern that still contributes to a winning bag.
“I could really see it being won on brush,” he explains. “Anywhere from that 7- to 11-foot range. I’m not a brush pile guy, but this is place is getting to the point where you’ve got to start figuring that out.”
Kentucky on the upswing
Launching from Moors Resort and Marina near the upper end of Kentucky Lake, anglers won’t have to go very far to find the sweet spots. According to Floyd, Moors down to Paris is where the biggest concentration of quality fish reside.
“I think most of the fish in the lake live from Moors to the Paris and Sandy area – the northern end’s a lot better,” he says. “I don’t feel like guys will have to go real far to find good water. If you’re anywhere from Paris to Moors you can’t go wrong. That’s the hottest area of the lake. That Blood River area’s pretty hot, too.”
When Floyd says “hottest,” he doesn’t just mean “hot for Kentucky Lake,” either. As much as the lake has gotten negative reviews the last few years, Floyd says Kentucky is chock-full of bass and threadfin shad right now, thanks in big part to a good spawn last year and “an even better spawn” this year. They just happen to be smaller than what most anglers are after.
“It gets dogged a lot, but this place has a ton of bass in it right now,” he says. “They’re all like 12 or 13 inches, which is good. It’s piled with threadfin and little bass right now. It might have a little comeback. You need grass more than anything, but it looks good right now. If we can have grass this coming spring, it’ll be amazing.”
A lot at stake
While the teams in the Open may not set record catches, that’s not really the point of the event. The Open is an awesome way to solidify a National Championship berth – and a great way to do it before many of the divisions conclude the season. Add in the fact that the winning team earns a new Phoenix boat and that only sweetens the deal. So, even though Kentucky Lake in the fall isn’t a guaranteed slugfest like it used to be, there’s still a lot on the line for the anglers this week.