By Vernon Summerlin
Upper Kentucky Lake, from New Johnsonville to the state line, have two distinct bank types. The eastern bank has clear water feeder creeks with rock and gravel bottoms – good for smallmouth bass. The western bank is lowland mud. These creeks feeding the lake are shallow, stumpy, and humpy, have a lot of ledges, are off-color and provide great places for largemouth bass. Franklin’s pro angler Danny Dodd knows these waters well. He says, “My favorite lure is the 1-ounce spinnerbait with a #7 silver willow leaf followed by a #4 gold one. I like to see my bait at all times because I’m a sight fisherman. I cast to cover I can see and I love to see when the fish hits my bait.” Many of the creeks along the western bank are similar but Danny favors Harmon Creek. “I would just as soon stay in Harmon Creek all day long. It’s got humps and ledges all over the place.” It also has plenty of visible stumps and stake beds, his favorite targets. (TWRA has stocked Harmon Creek with Florida strain bass for the last three years. The first stockers should be keeper size next year.)
Machine Gunning with A Spinnerbait
When Danny fishes the ledges and humps, his spinnerbait may drop from sight for a little while but not long. He only knows one retrieve, fast. He works a bank like a machine gun spraying lead. Rapid fire casts to the edge of the shoreline with a slight pause at the drop, back to the boat and, bang, it’s back to shoreline.
Other Early Spring Baits & Techniques
“I like to fish the Slug-Go from early spring into June, from pre-spawn through post spawn. I fish the Slug-go faster than most folks,” he says. “I keep it visible all the time. I keep it on top of the water and I throw it into the thickest stuff around. Log jams, weed beds – the thicker the better. It’s rigged weedless and it’s not going to hang up.” Danny savors the Slug-Go’s erratic action. “I can fish the Slug-Go where I can’t fish other baits. I’ll cast it, then let it sink a little, about six inches depending on the cover, then jerk it and make it do its little dance. You can see the bass when they come to get it.” He warns us not to set the hook too soon, let the bass have it for a second. Set the hook when you feel the fish. “During pre-spawn I flip a lot too,” he says. “Most people use a jig, but I use a six-inch Zoom lizard.” Danny pegs the slip sinker with a toothpick pushed into the hole and breaks it off. This holds the weight in place while casting. The pumpkin pepper lizard is rigged weedless, Texas style. He uses a seven-foot flippin’ stick with 17-pound test line. When asked which reel he uses, he asks, “Is there anything else but an Ambassaduer?” He fishes the shallow bedding banks in early spring where the water is warmer. Kentucky Lake doesn’t reach full pool until April. “I flip close to deep water. I know where the creek channel is in Harmon and I stay on the edge of it – hitting all the cover I see.” Danny says, “Some people use small crankbaits in March and April and do real good. Crawfish crankbaits catch a lot of bass off the slick banks and points. I can’t fish a bank without something to throw at, but bass move up on those banks on sunny days. Later in the season he’ll hit the same places. “There are always some bass that are going to be shallow no matter how hot it gets,” says Danny. “You always can find a few fish that stay in 1 to 3 feet of water. When the sun gets up, they just back underneath some heavy cover, under grass, or around logs and stumps.” When he fishes the spinnerbait or Slug-Go he says, “I’m fishing the banks, casting to the same thing everybody else is fishing.” The backs of pockets and stump fields get a thorough going over too. “If I catch a bass on the bank I’ll go back over it, but not if I don’t catch anything on the first pass.” One of Danny’s best days was when he caught seven bass weighing 29 pounds. One was 8 pounds, 10 ounces and several were over five. That just goes to show you that machine gun action can load the boat. Danny says Sulfur, Cane and Whiteoak are good bass creeks too. Other areas worth casting are Big Sandy, it’s loaded with stumps, Ross Branch, Grannys Branch, Lick Creek, Crooked Creek and Cypress Creek.
Spring Fishing Conditions
Kentucky Lake tends to have high water in the spring after storms move through. Bass move up with rising water. They follow shad into flooded areas and they scatter among the new cover available to them. Danny’s machine gun spinnerbait technique is appropriate for this condition. You cover a lot of water in a hurry. Cast to the very backs of coves and as far up the creeks as you can get. Bass are taking advantage of new food sources – you can take advantage of active bass. Flippin’ is a good technique when you need to work heavy cover. This is an efficient method of getting bass out of limbs and bushes. When the water falls, bass move deeper to the channels and creek mouths. Techniques for fishing falling water include casting jigs or worms to drops and ledges along a steep bank or creek channel. The points on creek junctions are hot spots. Bass tend to bunch up during falling water conditions and when you locate them you can usually catch several. Often there is current in Kentucky Lake. This is the time to fish the bends in the channel, coves and pocket. The best places to fish are the creeks. Cast upstream and retrieve your bait with the flow of water. When the water is low in March before the pool fills, fish are easier to catch. They are concentrated at the end of points and along the edges of the channel. Jig with a pork frog is a good bait. Casting crankbaits upstream and counting them down is another way to entice pre-spawn bass on Kentucky Lake.
The following launching ramps will give you access to the creeks mentioned in the text.
Indian and Cypress Creeks at New Johnsonville on Highway 70 west and east of the bridge, respectively.Harmon and Sulphur Creeks at end of Clydeton Road from Waverly. From Camden, take Beaverdam Road then Pilot Knob Road to Harmon Creek. Grannys Branch, Ross Branch, Whiteoak, Cane and Crooked and Lick Creeks go west of McKinnon on Route 147 to Cane Creek. From the community of Big Sandy go east on Danville Road to Crooked Creek or to Lick Creek on Lick Creek Road. Big Sandy River has many access points; from the communities of Big Sandy and West Sandy, and from various ramps south of Highway 79 west of the Scott Fitzhugh Bridge.