About bass

Bass From the Milfoil: The Kentucky Lake Combination

By Terry and Roxanne Wilson

Tucked neatly into the rolling hills of western Kentucky is a sparkling jewel that may well be the best big bass opportunity for flyfishers in the Midwest. Kentucky Lake has experienced a bass explosion in the past decade that has many fishermen singing its praises. With 2,380 miles of shoreline and a diverse structure, this relatively new warm water mecca offers almost endless alternatives.

Since 1944, when the Tennessee River was dammed, thousands of fishermen have made an annual pilgrimage to Kentucky Lake to celebrate the rites of Spring. The object of their enthusiasm was crappies. Justifiably, the lakes reputation spread across the nation as generous stringers of gigantic speckle bellies were photographed and ballyhooed across the country.

As ecosystems often do, the lake gradually changed and by the mid l980s significant growth of milfoil had found its way into the Tennessee River system. It is now firmly implanted in the lake. Milfoil is a prolific form or aquatic vegetation that can grow up to an inch a day. This enables anglers to fish the emergent growth in early spring while allowing bass fry to take refuge from predation fly the time summers heat engulfs the lake, milfoil covers the surface in many areas. Even points which slope to depths of 20 feet will often have plants that tickle the surface. This enormous wall of vegetation not only serves as a nursery for young bass, but also provides pockets and edges that serve as am bush points for older bucketmouths.

To further understand the benefits of milfoil, one has only to plunge a bare arm into its dense growth on a hot day. Instead of bath water warmth, the coolness of the water is surprising. This welcome phenomenon allows lunker bass to suspend in the upper reaches of milfoil over a twenty-foot bottom. There the bass can rest comfortably and still be in position to at tack any vulnerable prey which might enter his lair. In this high and active position, the bass are now accessible to the fly fisher not only during the spawning activities but throughout the season (50 degrees to the seasonal high and back to 50 degrees), eight months or more each year. During this lengthy period the flyrod isn't just another option, but nearly always the best method available. There are two reasons for this. First, a flycasters lure spends more time in productive water, whereas the baitcasters and spin fishermen must continue their retrieve all the way to the boat. The long rod advocate needs only to pick up his fly and return it to a likely pocket. Second, the splashdown of bait casting hardware has all the subtlety of a scud missile. Natural prey doesn't enter the water that way nor do fly casting lures. It gives us a distinct advantage.

Anytime between March and November is a great time to visit Kentucky Lake. Spring bass are located in the backs of coves in emergent milfoil. The massive growth of milfoil provides the primary bass location for summer as well. The pockets and edges give many targets to cast to the behemoth of our dreams. The gorgeous autumn season is equally productive and bass tend to move back into the cove ends and feed ravenously. Shad bursts are common on Kentucky Lake, but we've often seen awesome bursts in the fall with acres of bass chasing shad. Matching the minnow usually provides plenty of action.

Standard bass flies are effective on Kentucky Lake. Poppers, deer hair bugs, large streamers, leech patterns and weighted jig-type flies will all pro duce fish. Our all time favorite and most productive fly-lure is the Desperate Diver. Its effective because it imitates the action of the bass's favorite prey in the milfoil, the injured minnow. White gets most of our attention in the spring and chartreuse takes over in the summer. Fall sends us back to the white diver and a rod with a silver diver is always ready for frantic shad bursts. Since it floats at rest and dives upon retrieve, there are many ways to fish the Desperate Diver. Developing a rhythmic retrieve so it can dive and float can be pure dynamite, but a continuous strip with increasing acceleration sometimes triggers the big ones. Let the bass dictate the type of retrieve they want. It is also very effective to retrieve through the milfoil strands to vigorously shake the vegetation. Accustomed to having frightened prey bump into the tangled maze, active bass are drawn to the source of the commotion. During the warmest months, this is our best presentation.

Many visiting fishermen make a grievous error when fishing foreign waters. After driving hundreds of miles and perhaps paying a premium price for accommodations, they fish aimlessly and futilely because they don't know the water. The solution is simple. Secure a knowledgeable and skilled guide. Perhaps fly fishermen are most susceptible to this misjudgment because there has been, historically, a severe shortage of warm water fly fishing guides and a large number of very independent fly fishermen. Boat handling on big water with wave action constantly produced by large barges may be too challenging to most of us. A former magazine editor and outdoor writer, Ron Kruger, is the most experienced fly fishing guide on the lake, and can enhance the trip with his knowledge and experience. His address. is Rte. 5, Box 310, Benton, Kentucky 42025. (502)352-8021.For more information about Kentucky Lake, such as accommodations and other activities contact the Aurora, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Article first appeared in The FFF Quill Summer of 1993


Terry and Roxanne have had articles pertaining to fly fishing for bluegill, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, channel catfish and shortnose gar appearing in many national magazines including: Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Journal, Warmwater Fly Fishing, Fly Fishing Quarterly, Bassmaster, Ontario Out Doors, Popular Flyfishing and the Flyfisher. Their first book, Bluegill Fly Fishing & Flies, was published in 1999. Largemouth Bass Fly Fishing, Beyond the Basics, is their second book. Terry and Roxanne are life members of the Federation of Fly Fishers. They live in Bolivar, Missouri.