When Hobie team member Kristine Fischer visits Kentucky Lake, she’s not on vacation. The pro angler has fished eight tournaments, winning the Hobie Bass Open in 2019. After taking the lake apart with a competitor’s eye, the tournament pro shows us the ropes at the bass Mecca.
Fishing the Smallmouth Bass Paradise of Kentucky Lake, Tennessee
For decades, Kentucky Lake has drawn the attention of anglers and outdoors enthusiasts. The largest lake in the eastern United States, Kentucky Lake covers two states, 186 miles, 160,000 acres with 24,000 miles of coast. In addition to fishing, the lake hosts nature reserves, camps, public access, wildlife refuges and a national park.
The huge lake has been a frequent stop for professional fishing tournaments. Anglers from around the world test their skills against Kentucky Lake’s legendary ledge fishing. Dial in the open water fishing and you can experience epic nonstop action on big bass. Kentucky Lake attracts 17 million visitors each year, creating a destination with attractions and accommodations for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Brandon Hunter, pro angler and local guide
HiTec Outdoors, Benton Kentucky
Great selection of bait and tackle. Expert service for electronics and rigging.
Where to stay
Located on the northern end of the lake, Moors Resort on Kentucky Lake is your one-stop shop for accommodations, restaurant and marina. Moors Resort hosts many of the lake’s tournaments. Guests can watch a weigh-in then fish for recycled bass released after the event. For anglers roughing it, several campsites on the east shore offer all levels of comfort and easy access to the lake.
Where to eat
Ralph’s Harborview Bar & Grill is dedicated to Ralph Moore, the founder of Moors Resort. Enjoy remarkable views of the lake while taking a trip back in time with the establishment’s classic rock theme. Order one of their crafted cocktails and try the catfish, you won’t leave disappointed.
Kentucky has earned its reputation as a black bass factory. In the past few years, the lake has added smallmouth bass to the menu. Now there are two good reasons to fish Kentucky Lake.
March through June has proven to be prime time for bass fishing. June claims the best ledge bite. The shad spawn at the end of June and early July produces excellent topwater action early in the morning and just before dark.
When fishing ledges, use big worms like the Xcite Baits MaXimus and Zoom Ol Monster. Other productive ledge baits include scrounger swim jigs paired with the Castaic Jerky J or other shad imitations, deep-diving crankbaits, and half-ounce to one-ounce baffle heads with a large creature bait. When the bite gets tough, break out the drop shot. In the creeks, use swim jigs, square bill crankbaits, spinner baits, weightless plastics and Texas rigs.
To fish the iconic ledges, side-imaging sonar is essential for finding the deep drops holding fish. Mark the edge on a GPS and make accurate casts. For shallow flats and creeks, a Power-Pole micro anchor keeps the kayak planted when wind is blowing through the hollers.
Plan on getting up well before sunrise to capitalize on an early morning topwater bite. Most of the major creeks have kayak-friendly access. Use Google Earth and Navionics apps to find areas with diverse fishing opportunities, such as a creek leading to a steep ledge. Jonathan and Pisgah creek have large flats, docks, secondary points and ledges holding transitioning fish. Kentucky Lake is a current-driven animal. When the bass move onto the ledges, use the TVKA app to monitor when the dam is generating power. On bright sunny days, fish deep. When the sky is cloudy, be ready for all-day topwater fishing.
Tourist trap. | Feature photo: Dustin Doskocil