FRANKFORT - Female smallmouth bass in lakes such as Laurel River Lake, Green River Lake, Lake Cumberland and Kentucky Lake grow hungry in early spring as water temperatures slowly warm to 50 degrees. The water temperatures in these lakes range from the mid to high 40s right now.
They need to feed in order to nourish the eggs developing down in their abdomens for the upcoming spawn. You need to put a hair jig, tailspinner, or blade bait in front of their noses during the next month or so.
“Once the water temperatures start into the 50s, the large female smallmouth start gorging themselves to continue forming the egg mass in their bodies,” said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Eggs make up about 3 to 5 percent of their body weight now and will grow to about 15 percent of body weight right before spawn.”
Buynak, who previously served as a black bass biologist for many years, said the percentage of body weight from the eggs can grow to as high as 20 percent right before the spawn. That is a lot of eating those big females need to do between now and April, when reservoir smallmouth reproduce.
Finding late winter smallmouths in these reservoirs requires looking at things with a totally different perspective than you would for largemouth bass. You need acres and acres of big, deep water near your fishing spots.
Points near the old river or major creek channel are great places to start prospecting for early March smallmouths. “There are good smallmouth bass in Green River Lake size-wise for sure,” said Eric Cummins, southwestern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “You just need to pick your spots. The most productive area is the lower end near the dam.”
Map study reveals the Green River channel swings close to points in the lower section of the Green River arm of the lake while Robinson Creek does the same near the dam. Slowly probe these points with a 3/8-ounce black hair jig with no trailer, letting the lure settle on each rock shelf of the point as it sinks. A tailspinner fluttering down the sides of these points draws strikes from large smallmouths.
Laurel River Lake may be the best lake in Kentucky to catch a trophy smallmouth. John Williams, southeastern fisheries biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said a fishing partner of his caught a 23-inch smallmouth recently that weighed nearly 7 pounds.
Points that extend out into the lake and coves with a channel near their mouths are great places to try. Small silver and blue swimbaits worked slowly down points work well right now on Laurel. Swimming a 4-inch pearl curly-tailed grub across channel drops in the coves draws smallmouths in early March as well on this lake.
Pick an overcast, dark day to fish Laurel as the lake’s extremely clear water makes smallmouth skittish. A day with misty, light rain is best.
Lake Cumberland continues to produce healthy, fat smallmouth bass. The small cuts along the main lake from Harmon Creek to the dam make excellent places to rip a metal blade bait, such as the Silver Buddy, off the bottom for smallmouths.
Slowly work a tailspinner just above bottom right in the heart of the small v-shaped coves along the main lake and in the mouths of major creek arms for Cumberland smallmouths. A tailspinner sliced across the adjacent points of these little coves also produces strikes.
Kentucky Lake anglers report catching some good smallmouth bass by working suspending jerkbaits on points near the channel on the east side of the lake.
Get out now and prospect for trophy smallmouth bass on these lakes. The good bite lasts until right before Derby time.
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.