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Kentucky Lake Crappie Fishing
TVA BEGINS WINTER DRAWDOWN…CURRENT STIMULATES BITE
Each summer Tennessee Valley Authority begins its annual winter drawdown
immediately after the Fourth of July holiday on Kentucky Lake.
Lake levels began falling at midweek, which means a pretty steady
current for anglers targeting catfish on the main river channel or
perhaps bass fishermen stalking main lake ledges. Both type anglers
should benefit from the slow drawdown as should some crappie anglers.
Current usually stimulates baitfish movement, triggering activity
throughout the food chain. When zooplankton movement occurs it triggers
schools of shad to head out on their nomadic journeys in search of food.
Once that happens pretty much all species put on the feed bag, which
means more aggressive movement from gamefish such as crappie and bass as
well as sluggish catfish. The end result is better fishing!
TVA’s curve for lake levels sees the reservoir level out at summer pool
elevation of 359 on May 1 each spring and stay there until just after
the Fourth of July holiday when the annual drawdown begins.
For the next few months a slow but gradual lowering of lake levels will
be underway, barring any heavy rains throughout the TVA valley, which
could alter the drawdown’s schedule. The objective of the annual
drawdown is to create more storage capacity for Kentucky Lake as fall
and winter months draw near.
Elevation by this weekend is projected to be in the 358.7 range around
the Kentucky Dam sector. Upstream around New Johnsonville the elevation
is forecast to be in the 358.6 range.
There have been some heavy thunderstorms across the region this week
that dumped lots of water and caused localized flooding but the
reservoir has been able to absorb the runoff.
Surface temperatures this week are in the 83 to 84 degree range.
Humidity has been a factor some days for fishermen but getting out early
helps combat that. Water color is clear across most of the reservoir.
Summer crappie fishermen are finding a few more fish playing their game
lately. Some decent catches were taken this week by anglers stalking
midrange depths of 12 to 14 feet.
Most anglers are fishing jigs tipped with either a minnow or Berkley
Power Bait in the chartreuse or white colors. Productive jig color
combos have been blue/chartreuse, black/chartreuse and red/black just to
name a few. Some anglers are scoring decent stringers using just a plain
Other popular techniques such as slow trolling deep diving crankbaits
over main lake ledges are producing a few fish as are long-line
techniques pulling Road Runner style jigs but both presentations have
been fair producers at best. Seems the fish are opting for a slow,
vertical presentation with the bait right in their face.
Some boats were trying deeper ledges with jigs and bottom bumping rigs
but success rates were also mediocre.
Several small fish are part of the outing so anglers can expect to
measure several but there are some dandies showing up too. A few nice
slabs in the 1 ½ pound range are biting at times but numbers of big fish
are a bit below the summer norm.
Bass action is holding up pretty good with decent stringers coming in on
a regular basis from fishermen stalking main lake ledges. The bite has
been consistent for those working 10 to 14 foot depths.
Finding structure in that depth range has paid dividends and with the
increased current fish should be even more structure oriented. Decent
size bass are relating well to midrange crappie beds or stumps and
Popular choices continue to be shaky head and Texas rigged worms in the
9 to 10-inch length. Effect colors have ranged from green pumpkin pepper
to black/blue with glitter. Jig and pig combos are working too as are
Always in the summer arsenal of bass anglers on Kentucky Lake are the
tackle boxes full of deep diving crankbaits. Most are shad colored
variations such as Strike King’s 6XD series, Rapala’s DT14, Bandit’s 300
series and Norman’s DD22 are just a few popular ones found in the trays
waiting for action.
Also tied on the rods of summer bass fishermen are Carolina and Alabama
rigs. There hasn’t been much, if any, schooling action reported but most
anglers use several different lures in their attempt to find and trick
finicky fish into hitting one they find baitfish or structure on their
sophisticated sonar equipment.
Boats working shallow shoreline habitat are still picking up several
small fish. Tossing spinnerbaits, Texas rigged worms and some topwater
has still produced at times if schools of pin minnows can be located.
Catfishing took a step in the right direction lately with the addition
of current plus warmer surface temperatures pulling fish back out to
main river channel venues.
Depths of 30 feet have been effective lately where boats are using
nightcrawlers and chicken livers as baits of choice. The catfish bite
should be good for the next few weeks so watch for more activity on the
edge of the main river channel.
Mayfly hatches have been sparse the last few weeks along the shorelines
of Kentucky Lake. Traditionally, hatches begin in mid-June and occur
throughout the summer months. Seems there’s always been a good hatch
around the Fourth of July time holiday but most anglers are just not
seeing the abundance of flies the way they have in times past.
There has been an occasional sauger showing up but not enough to
stimulate interest for trollers to hit the main lake sandbars pulling
deep diving crankbaits like they did decades ago. Also sparse are
schools of white bass. These two species are just not present in
Kentucky Lake like they were in times past.
Kentucky Lake anglers should, however, have some pretty good days ahead
as summer patterns are pretty much on course for catfish, crappie and
Also check out our past:
Kentucky Lake Fishing Reports
Steve McCadams is one of the nation's best known Crappie Fishermen
and a full time resident of Paris, Tennessee. Steve is also a
professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area.