This is the seventh installment of a series of articles titled “Fall Fishing Festival” profiling the productive fishing on Kentucky’s lakes, rivers and streams in fall.
FRANKFORT – Many anglers think the first cool winds of early fall spur largemouth bass to move from their deep summer haunts and shove their noses practically on the bank.
They fish too shallow too early and wind up frustrated. Those bright, glistening days of early fall that send people to the lake by the droves are actually some of the toughest days of the year to catch largemouth bass.
Now, with nightfall coming just after work, is the best time of autumn to chase largemouth bass, especially on our smaller, state owned lakes. The first of November through early December is a highly productive and misunderstood time for largemouth bass fishing.
“Right now, largemouth bass are following baitfish into the back ends of coves and against the bank and feeding heavily,” said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Female largemouth bass in fall already have about three percent of their body weight in eggs for the spawn next spring.”
The lakes in Kentucky smaller than 1,000 acres are easier to manage angling-wise. They receive considerable fishing pressure during the warm months. November is a different story.
The opening of modern gun deer season this coming weekend should leave these lakes devoid of anglers. You don’t need an expensive boat to fish these waters, either. They are perfect for johnboats, canoes, kayaks, personal pontoon boats and bank fishing.
Workers with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife placed stake beds in 317-acre Guist Creek Lake in Shelby County this past summer. They dropped these beds along the channel in the Guist Creek arm, up lake of the Benson Pike Bridge (KY 1779). They should hold largemouth bass this fall.
“We sampled the lake this past Tuesday,” said Jeff Crosby, central fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We saw quite a few dandy largemouth bass, up to 6 pounds. The bass are spread out all over the lake.”
Lincoln County’s Cedar Creek Lake, the only lake in the state with trophy largemouth bass regulations of a 1-fish daily creel limit and 20-inch minimum size limit, is extremely popular with bass anglers. Consequently, Cedar Creek receives a lot of fishing pressure on its 784 acres in the warmer months.
In November, the lake is relatively abandoned. Try fishing ¼-ounce jigs in green pumpkin mixed with shades of brown and orange in the abundant woody cover near deep water on Cedar Creek. Burning lipless crankbaits or spinnerbaits across the flats near the submerged railway in the upper lake also works well in November.
Population sampling conducted by biologists on Cedar Creek shows an increasing amount of fish longer than the 20-inch minimum size limit.
Elmer Davis Lake spreads across 149 acres in Owen County and has excellent numbers of largemouth bass over 12 inches with increasing numbers over 15 inches. Pearl-colored jerkbaits fished slowly over the remaining weed beds produce largemouths in fall.
The largemouth bass fishery is rapidly improving in 158-acre Beaver Lake after a rehabilitation project completed in 2011. Beaver Lake now holds many 12- to 18-inchers. Jerkbaits draw strikes there as well in November.
Bullock Pen Lake in Grant County is just 134 acres, but has many 3- to 5-pound largemouth bass. Target the woody structure in the lake with black and chartreuse or brown and orange jigs.
Although Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake receive the lion’s share of attention concerning bass fishing in western Kentucky, 760-acre Lake Beshear in Caldwell and Christian counties may have the best largemouth bass population of the three.
“Lake Beshear is hot right now,” Buynak said. “It has lots of big bass with many from 12 to 18 inches and longer.” Fish 3/16-ounce peanut butter and jelly colored jigs on rocky points in the lower lake for Lake Beshear largemouths in fall.
Two lakes with the name of Mill Creek offer productive largemouth bass fishing in fall. One is located in southern Kentucky’s Monroe County and holds an expanding population of 18-inch and longer largemouth bass in its 109 acres.
The other is 41 acres in Powell and Wolfe counties surrounded by Natural Bridge State Resort Park. This clear lake holds excellent numbers of fat largemouth bass longer than 20-inches. Target the flooded timber in the upper lake with 4-inch black finesse worms rigged on 1/8-ounce heads fished on 6-pound fluorocarbon line. November is a productive month on clear mountain lakes such as Mill Creek.
Deer season is here. It’s time to fish small lakes for largemouth bass.
Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.