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Kentucky Lake Ledge Fishing Tips

Kentucky Lake Ledge Fishing Tips

Scott McGlinchey

In this article I will talk about ledge fishing in general and how it applies to Kentucky Lake. I have been fishing off shore ledges and drop offs since 1989. I learned how to fish off shore on Wheeler Lake while living in Athens, Alabama working as a diver diving underwater for mussel shells.

Back then off shore honey holes were few and far between with 95% of the fisherman not even fishing off the bank. Good holes were passed from father to son or from friend to friend and most other fisherman respected those holes and left them alone for the rightful owner to fish.

In today’s world it is said that there are no secret holes left because of high definition depth finders. No doubt many of the secret honey holes are now community holes. “Ledge Mania” occurred about 10 years ago when professional tournaments where scheduled during the summer when bass are on the ledges. Fisherman across America saw their favorite pros on TV catching bass every cast winning huge amounts of money during the summer. Ten years ago many of the pros were not experienced at ledge fishing, but that isn’t the case anymore.

It sounds easy but it’s not. The days of using a paper map and a $100 depth finder are gone. Below I have outlined different methods and techniques for fishing ledges.


The first thing to do in locating ledge fish is to use your HDS unit’s live satellite map to view all the drop offs. Now you have to start somewhere. Most of the fisherman that are new to ledge fishing (have been doing it the last ten years or so) will tell you “if I don’t see fish with my electronics I am not going to fish the spot.” So they continue to scan until they find a school or group of fish.

From what I have read and seen on TV most pros say the same thing. I remember reading an article in Bassmaster magazine probably about 20 years ago where four pros were interviewed on how to fish ledges. Two of the pros said they would only fish the ledge if they saw fish and baitfish on the spot. The other two pros said if it’s a good spot they are going to fish it anyway.

Use your electronics to scan the ledge paying attention to structure below, baitfish, and the gamefish you’re after. The live satellite maps are quite a bit more accurate than the old paper maps. There are still secrets out there - ledges, humps, small turns, and points underwater - that aren’t on any map.

To find these places you have to keep an eye on your sonar while going from one place to another. I have found many secret places while running that are not on any map and I have won quite a few tournaments doing this. You want to make sure you’re HDS unit is set up right to get the best results.

If you’re having a problem with your unit make an appointment with Hitec Outdoors. They specialize in installing many of the HDS units and they are as good as gets in solving problems. If you need to take a class on how to operate and use your HDS unit Hitec Outdoors and Precision Sonar offer on the water classes here at Kentucky Lake.

Types of Ledges

Main River Ledge - A main river ledge is where the depth is 5 to 25 feet and immediately drops off into the main channel. The most under fished ledge is the straight main river ledge. Most people fish the cuts and points at the main river drop but overlook the straight ledges. Sometimes there will be a slight turn in the main river ledge, maybe 30 to 50 yards, and those turns can really hold a lot of hungry bass when there is current.

Points - Points can be a point of land coming off the bank, an underwater point, the end of a long bar, the mouth of a cut coming off the main river channel, even the end of a hump.

Humps and Bars - A hump is a feature that comes up from the bottom and drops off all the way around it. A bar is nothing more than a hump that is oval shaped and long or elongated.

Flat- A flat is an area close to any ledge that holds feeding bass. No one looks for flats to ledge fish but there are some flats that bass load up on.

Shell Bed - An area with many mussel shells on it.

Baits and Tackle

I use a ten inch worm, football head jig, and Carolina rig most of the time. I also use big deep diving crankbaits and heavy one ounce spinnerbaits when fishing ledges and drop offs. The best way to explain how I use the worm would be to call it “pulling the worm.” I slowly pull it up off the bottom and towards me. I pull it about two to three feet then let it fall to the bottom.

Some days you catch more fish if you leave it motionless for a couple seconds. Some days I will snatch the worm off the bottom to force fish to bite.

When using a Carolina rig or football head jig I drag the bait slowly bumping the bottom. With big crankbaits I like to make a long cast and I always use a bait that will dive deeper than the water I am fishing in. I get it down to the bottom and occasionally stop the bait or if I am running it through stumps I like to count the roots on the stump as my bait bumps through them.

Pausing after hitting the right root will sure trigger a big bite. The only way to determine the right root is to count them it takes time to learn. I like the one ounce spinnerbait in mid-summer and I have been using it since the early 1990s. I cast it long, let it get to the bottom and snatch it four feet off the bottom and let fall back on semi-slack line the same way guys use the big spoon.

Methodical Fishing

To maximize your fishing time you want to be methodical on how you cast and cover the water. When fishing new water or fishing a favorite location, if you will cast every five feet you will have covered the water effectively.

If your casts are every 10 to 20 feet you may miss a group of fish. Sometimes you have to go back and forth to get the fish to bite. Many times I get them to bite – let’s say I’ll catch 20 small fish at first. Then the 21st through 30th fish are three to five pounders.

Pay attention to the current when it is present. Some main river ledges will turn on and you can really load the boat. You can check the TVA website or a buoy to see if water is moving. It’s usually best to cast into the current or upstream but sometimes it’s not possible.

Many people will pull up to a main river ledge; be it a point, hump, or bar and cast into 12 to 15 feet with their boat sitting 25 feet. They work their bait down to 18 feet and miss all the fish that are in 20 to 23 feet.

When you’re out on a windy day and you can’t stay on your spot, find a long stretch of ledge and let the wind push you. Throw a big crankbait or heavy spinnerbait and you just might load the boat.

The last thing I will talk about is “casting angle.” On many drop offs, to catch a big sack of fish, you have to cast your bait at the angle the fish want it. Once you determine that angle it should repeat itself. Every time I pull up to a spot my plan is to cover the water thoroughly so I don’t miss any fish.

I hope some of these tips help!

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