Printed from:

Welcome to Columbia Magazine  

KY Afield Outdoors: Reservoir smallmouth don't mind cold fronts

This is the fifth installment of a series of articles titled "Fall Fishing Festival" profiling the productive fishing on Kentucky's lakes, rivers and streams in fall.
Click title for complete article with photo(s).

By: Lee McClellan

FRANKFORT, KY - A look at the surface of Lake Cumberland right after dawn reveals a big, calm lake. Although the old Cumberland River now lies under at least 100 feet of water throughout most of the lake, the old river is still churning.

Water quickly finds weakness as anyone with a leaky basement can attest. The water in that long flooded river channel wiggled and shimmied through the porous rock at the base of Wolf Creek Dam for decades, necessitating a drawdown and repair beginning in 2007 and ended last year.

During the drawdown, saplings, bushes and other vegetation sprouted on the former lake bottom. This vegetation is now submerged, providing habitat for young sport fish, food for baitfish and ambush cover for predator fish such as the burgeoning population of smallmouth bass in the lake.

Bruce Johnson, of Richmond, grew up fishing and exploring Lake Cumberland from the back of his grandfather's farm along the West Fork of Indian Creek. Last Saturday near Conley Bottom, he caught a 22-inch smallmouth bass, his largest ever.

"We were fishing live shiners on the bottom on a gently sloping bank with cover," Johnson said. "The bank had saplings on it from when the lake was down. The fish was really fat, it had gorged on shad."

John Williams, southeastern fishery district biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the lake now holds more smallmouths longer than 20 inches, the minimum length to qualify in Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's Trophy Fish Program.

"The drawdown put the smallmouths in close approximation with the baitfish," Williams explained. "They are in excellent condition now. I predict a boom for all black bass in the next few years in the lake."

Fall, winter and early spring are the best times to fish Lake Cumberland or any of Kentucky's other world class smallmouth lakes such as Laurel River Lake and Dale Hollow Lake. Some of the largest specimens in the world swim in these lakes.

Although Dale Hollow is one of the crown jewels of the smallmouth world, Williams said he would choose Laurel River Lake for smallmouth larger than 6 pounds. "We hear increasing reports of smallmouths in the 7-pound range coming from Laurel," he said. "It seems to improve each year."

Sloping banks, like the one that produced Johnson's fish, are the places to fish now with water temperatures on these lakes hovering around 60 degrees. Live alewives, shad or shiners bottom fished on a slip sinker rig with a 1/0 circle hook work well. Shiners rigged through the nose on a size 1 octopus style hook and cast onto these banks produces many fish. Place two BB-sized split shots about 18 inches above the hook.

Circle hooks are fine for still fishing, but for casting live bait, the octopus style hook works much better.

Long sloping points also hold big smallmouth bass in fall and winter on these lakes. Trophy smallmouth suspend over these points, waiting for schools of shad or alewives to cruise by and provide dinner. A 3-inch pearl Slider grub fished hook exposed on a

This story was posted on 2014-11-13 17:33:30
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.

To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Bruce Johnson's 22-inch Smallmouth Bass

2014-11-13 - Lake Cumberland - Photo by Lee McClellan. Bruce Johnson of Richmond holds a 22-inch smallmouth he caught last Saturday near Conley Bottom on Lake Cumberland. The cold winds of this past week usher in the reservoir smallmouth bass fishing season on Kentucky's world class smallmouth waters. Lake Cumberland, Laurel River Lake and Dale Hollow Lake hold some of largest smallmouth bass in the world.
Read More... | Comments? | Click here to share, print, or bookmark this photo.


Quick Links to Popular Features content is available as an RSS/XML feed for your RSS reader or other news aggregator.
Use the following link:

Contact us: Columbia Magazine and are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.
Phone: 270-250-2730 Fax: 270-751-0401

Please use our contact page, or send questions about technical issues with this site to All logos and trademarks used on this site are property of their respective owners. All comments remain the property and responsibility of their posters, all articles and photos remain the property of their creators, and all the rest is copyright 1995-Present by Columbia! Magazine and D'Zine, Ltd. Privacy policy: use of this site requires no sharing of information. Voluntarily shared information may be published and made available to the public on this site and/or stored electronically. Anonymous submissions will be subject to additional verification. Cookies are not required to use our site. However, if you have cookies enabled in your web browser, some of our advertisers may use cookies for interest-based advertising across multiple domains. For more information about third-party advertising, visit the NAI web privacy site.