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Winter Fishing Tips

Winter Fishing Tips

A cold winter scene from Fenton Boat Ramp on Kentucky Lake.

The region is filled with highly skilled fishing guides whose knowledge of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley proves a helpful tool for those interested in winter fishing.

"Fishing during the winter months of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley can provide some great outdoor experiences and break up the monotony of being cooped up indoors," says Bass Buster Guide Service fishing guide Dave Stewart. "Some of the largest bass and crappie of the year are taken during the winter months, especially on those days when it warms up with south winds that come with an approaching cold front."

Winter Fishing Weather Conditions

Stewart cautions boaters and anglers of winter weather conditions on the water. Winds tend to be higher and the water can be rougher than the warmer times of year. So, when selecting your fishing spot, anglers should keep these things in mind.

Where to Fish in the Winter

"Good locations are creek channel banks with deep water access. Rocky banks tend to hold the heat near the shoreline this time of year after the sun comes up," says Kentucky Lake fishing guide Rodney Hairgrove.

Water temperature plays a crucial role in winter fishing.

"Areas that tend to warm up the water temperatures a degree or two during the day can be very productive as the forage (bait fish) tend to move to areas where the water is warmer during the winter and thus the bass and crappie will follow," says Stewart.

Winter Fishing Tips and Techniques

Here are a few other tips for anglers heading out on the waters of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley this winter:

Dress in layers

  • Moisture-Wicking Undershirts

    Your first layer should be made of a material that is able to wick moisture away from your skin. This layer will help keep you dry, while also preserving your body heat.

  • Moisture-Wicking Socks

    Wear thin moisture wicking socks, layered under wool socks.

  • Hooded sweatshirt

    “I prefer polyester when it comes to the hooded sweatshirt,” says Stewart. “Polyester will serve to keep you dryer than cotton.”

  • Winter-Weight Jeans

    These jeans will be one more layer to keeping anglers warm in the winter fishing months.

  • Waterproof outer layer, such as a jacket and insulated bibbed overalls

    Stewart recommends a Gortex lining. “There are a number of Gortex-lined jackets and overalls on the market with Cabela’s Guide Wear and Pro Bass Shops 100 mph suits being the most common brands.”

  • Warm Hat

    A warm stocking hat will do the trick, or there are a number of pull-over-head gear available that will cover your head, ears, neck and face.

    “Something that gets some laughs, but is a great winter-time addition to one’s wardrobe is a motorcycle helmet with full face coverage. These are good if a fisherman is planning to run any distance,” Crappie, Gills & More fishing guide Doug Wynn says.

    In all seriousness, Wynn wears a Mad Bomber fur-lined cap when the weather drops to more serious temperature lows.

  • Lightweight Insulated Boots

    Look for boots that are insulated and lined with a Gortex lining. This will help keep your feet warm under wet conditions.

    “You should expect to purchase boots that are one size larger than your normal shoe size. These will typically be more comfortable, layered with two pairs of socks,” Stewart says.

    Wynn says he prefers a good pair of insulated rubber boots with a snug fitting calf adjustment. “They’re the best bet to keep feet toasty warm,” he says.

  • Correct-Fitting Gloves

    Have a pair of heavy gloves to use when driving your boat and another thinner pair to use when fishing. Some anglers find fingerless gloves beneficial, as well.

  • Spare set of clothes

    Kentucky Lake fishing guide Rodney Hairgrove reminds anglers that there is always the chance you could fall into the water or get wet during a winter fishing trip. So, keeping a spare change of clothes handy could be a life-saving move.

Winter Fishing Tools

  • An External Heat Source

    There are those heaters that can be attached to a small, throw-away propane bottle. A grill bottle will also work and can be used to thaw cold hands or frozen sandwiches, Wynn says.

  • Handwarmers

    Hairgrove says hand warmers are a great addition to any angler’s toolkit. They can really help cut the chill produced by winds along the waters.

  • Alabama Rig

    Bass fishermen will make good use of an Alabama rig this time of year.

  • Jerk baits, jigs and slow-rolled crank baits

    Suspending jerk baits are another winter favorite of some of our Kentucky Lake bass fishing guides. Stewart recommends anglers use these lures and fish with patience, as bass are less inclined to chase lures in the colder water temperatures.

  • Survival Kit

    The kit should contain a spare set of dry clothes, a fire-starting kit, flashlight, food and fresh water.

  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

    Wear a PFD at all times, says Stewart. “It’s not a good practice to take off your PFD when fishing in cold water temperatures,” he says. “One slight slip can find you in the water and the cold-water temperatures can serve to immobilize you faster than you think it will.”

  • Scented Fish Bait

    Wynn likes to add Crappie Nibbles or Slab Sauce to minnows and artificial bait. “The small plastics with straight minnow bodies are my normal choice,” he says.

Winter Fishing Safety

  • Always let someone know where you will be launching your boat in winter months. Make sure they know where you will be fishing and when to expect your return. It’s also a good idea to make sure that same person watches to make sure you launch safely.
If anglers take this advice and take their time, they are certain to enjoy a fun-filled winter fishing experience. Find a complete list of Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake fishing guide services here.

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Hematite Leaves
Photo by Shane Dunnaway

Those who are familiar with Hematite Lake trail will know where this photo was taken. Beautiful autumn leaves attempt to cover the rocks alongside the path around Hematite Lake.