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101: Largemouth Bass Fishing

Home | Fishing | 101 | Largemouth Bass Fishing

Largemouth Bass Fishing

On Kentucky/Barkley lakes the Largemouth Bass feed primarily on threadfin shad and gizzard shad.  Largemouth Bass will also feed at certain times on crayfish and newly hatched or immature fry of basically all the fish in the lakes.

It should also be noted that Largemouth Bass will also sometimes feed on lizards, worms, small snakes, insects and frogs but these are not the primary forage of the species.  Since shad are the primary forage of the Largemouth Bass on Kentucky/Barkley lakes their seasonal locations are closely associated with the seasonal locations of the shad.

Spring Patterns

Spring is a transitional time for Largemouth Bass.  Spring bass patterns can be broken down into three major phases:  prespawn, spawn, and post spawn.

Prespawn begins on Kentucky/Barkley lakes around mid-March when the water temperatures on the lakes have warmed sufficiently enough to raise the fish's metabolism to a point where they need to feed more to sustain themselves.

The prespawn phase normally occurs when the water temperatures on the lakes are at or about 50 degrees in the earlier part of the day.  The pattern continues until the morning water temperatures reach the mid to upper 60's later in the spring, usually around the end of April.

During early prespawn (from mid March thru early April) Largemouth can be primarily located around main lake points and the first secondary points in the creeks and bays.  These fish are still somewhat sluggish with the cooler water temperatures and thus it is best to use slower moving lures and techniques such as suspending jerkbaits, slow rolled crankbaits and jignpig to entice these fish to bite.

One should note here also that during early prespawn on very warm spring days some Largemouth will move into the warmer shallow water of the bays late in the morning or early afternoon to feed.  These fish can be taken on crankbaits and spinnerbaits.  From early April thru late April the Largemouth migrate from the early prespawn areas to the late prespawn areas.  They are located in the shallow waters of the creeks and bays.

A number of circumstances come together to cause this migration.  The water temperatures rise during this period from the 50's to the mid 60's.  This warming increases the fis's metabolic rate so the fish need to feed more to sustain themselves.

The Largemouth also are moving to the shallow water areas where they will spawn during the next phase.  As the water temperatures rise the shad also migrate to the shallows to feed and spawn.  The Largemouth will follow the shad as they move into the bays.

These migrating fish can be taken along primary and secondary creek channel banks and secondary points in the bays, especially those with good structure and cover such as chunk rock and wood.  Good lure choices here are crankbaits, soft plastic lures on Texas and Carolina rigs and jignpig.

Late April thru early May the water temperatures will range from the mid 60's to low 70's.  Anglers will find the Largemouth in shallow water on late prespawn and spawning patterns.  During this period the late prespawn Largemouth will be feeding heavily and will take a number of lure presentations including spinnerbaits, topwater, lipless crankbaits, Texas rigged soft plastics, floating worms and jignpig.

These fish can be found around the mustard flowers that grow each spring in the shallow water pockets and around the buck brush which is likewise located in the shallow water areas.

When the Largemouth begin spawning, the feeding habits change.  The larger females are reluctant to take lures during the spawning period.  They feed very little during this period.  The female must be coaxed into biting by placing slow moving lures such as soft plastics or jigs on the fish's bed and hopefully causing the female to take the lure in defense of her eggs.

The smaller male bass is more likely to be taken during the spawn as it is his role in nature to defend the nest both during and after the spawn.  Spawning bass are normally found near the buck brush or adjacent to other wood cover.

The post spawn period begins in early May and extends through late May with water temperatures in ranging from the low 70's to mid 70's.  During the early portion of post spawn, the larger females, after having laid their eggs, move to deeper water areas in the bay such as secondary points, creek channel banks and drop offs near the spawning beds.

These fish will spend some time there resting up after the spawn.  Although they will feed, their bite is subtle and they are reluctant to chase fast moving lures.  The best presentations for these early post spawn fish are Carolina rigged plastics, sinking worms and jignpig.

The smaller male bass will remain with the nest during this period to guard it from predators and will readily take fast moving baits such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits fished near the nesting areas.

After the female bass have rested up from the spawning ritual they will begin to feed more actively.  This normally occurs around mid May to late May.  These fish will readily take crankbaits, Texas and Carolina rigged plastics and jignpig especially on secondary points and main lake points in the creeks and bays.

Summer Patterns

Over the past decade or so the primary pattern for summer Largemouth Bass fishing has been to fish the ledges (sometimes referred to as drops) on the main lake and near the mouths of the deeper water bays.

This deep water pattern normally begins around the first part of June when the morning water temperatures rises into the high 70's.  The transition is predicated by the migration of the shad from the shallow water areas in the bays to the cooler more oxygenated deep water areas.

The more productive ledges are those that are found to be associated with the old creek channels and the old river channels on the main lake or near the mouths of the deeper bays.  Deep running crankbaits, Carolina rigged soft plastics and slack lined jigs, large Texas rigged worms and spoons are productive techniques for this deep water fishing.

A good tutorial about locating and fishing these ledges can be found in the article "Out on a Ledge" on this website

Another summer pattern is rapidly developing over the past couple of years with the reintroduction of submerged vegetation into the lakes.  This vegetation provides oxygen and cover for the shad in shallow water areas in the bays and also on the main lake flats.  Many of the shad and, therefore, many of the Largemouth can now be taken in these shallow water areas during the summer.

These shallow-water summer Largemouth are especially active during the early morning and late evening but can be taken in the heat of the day also.  The shallow summer fish can be taken on topwater lures, soft jerkbaits and Texas rigged soft plastics.  Fish over the submerged vegetation in front of the matted shallower vegetation and weedless soft plastics such as frogs and rats over the emergent matted vegetation.

Fall Patterns

Like spring, early fall is a transition time for Largemouth Bass.  The fish move from deep water summer patterns on the main lake to the shallow water fall patterns in the creeks and bays.  This transition is predicated by the migration of the shad from the deep water areas of summer to the shallow water areas as the water cools.

Anglers should take note here that some of the deep water shad will not move into the creeks and bays but will simply move to the shallow water flats on the main lake.  Some of the bass will remain on these main lake shallow water areas.  They can be taken on like techniques used to catch the shallow water fish in the creeks and bays during the fall.

The transition of the fish from the deeper water areas begins when the morning water temperatures drop below 80 degrees.  This normally occurs around mid to late September.

Anglers will find that the deep water ledges nearer the mouths of the creeks and bays are becoming more productive than those not associated with these areas when the morning water temperatures drop to these levels.  This is because the shad are staging to move into the bays to feed up for the coming winter.  As the water cools further into the lower 70's, the shad will move into the shallower water areas of the bays and on the main lake in large numbers.  The Largemouth will follow.

The Largemouth, like the shad, begin feeding voraciously to store fat for the coming winter.  During the fall the Largemouth will tend to school and attack the large schools of shad in numbers.  These feeding schools of Largemouth and provide some very fast and furious fishing for the angler.

Topwater lures, spinnerbaits and crankbaits fished on the flats and secondary points in the bays are the ticket for catching feeding Largemouth in the fall.  The savvy Largemouth angler will keep an eye out for flocks of seagulls diving into the water in the bays and on the main lake shallow water flats to locate feeding schools of fish.  The feeding schools of fish push the baitfish to the top of the water.   This allows the gulls to feed so when the angler sees these diving birds they know there is a hungry school of fish feeding there.  

Although these may or may not be schools of Largemouth feeding, there are normally at least some Largemouth among the feeding fish.  The fall fishing patterns will last until the morning water temperatures drop below the low 50's at which time the Largemouth and shad will move back to the main lake deep water areas where the water is a little warmer during the winter.

Winter Patterns

Although winter fishing for Largemouth is not as a whole as productive as during the other seasons, these fish can be taken by the savvy angler.

During the winter the Largemouth are located basically in the same areas where they are taken during the summer -- on the main lake ledges.  However, the techniques used to catch these fish are different  than during the summer.
During the winter, the fish's metabolism is reduced considerably by the colder water.  They do not feed as much nor do they take large meals when they do feed.  In the winter the Largemouth tend to suspend under the schools of shad.  The savvy angler will search the ledges for suspended schools of shad by slowly moving along the ledges and observing their depth finders.

Once a school of shad is located the Largemouth can be taken by vertically jigging small lures such as small spoons or jigs at or just below the suspended baitfish.  The bite is very subtle in the cold water so the angler must focus closely to detect the strike.  Many times the strike may only be detected by realizing that the lure has stopped dropping as far as it should have at which time the angler should set the hook.

Another pattern for winter Largemouth can develop on warmer winter days such as when a south breeze and warm sunshine warm up the water temperatures on rocky points and banks that are located on the north side of the lake (which faces the south breeze and sun).

The slight warming of the water in these areas by the wind and sun can move shad into these areas to be followed by the predator fish such as the Largemouth.  These fish can be taken by slow rolling crankbaits and jigs presented slowly in these areas.

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Fishing 101 Credits:

Written by Dave Stewart, Bass Buster Guide Service
Edited by Shawn Dunnaway
Fishing 101 may not be reproduced or reprinted and is provided exclusively by ExploreKentuckyLake.com

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Fishing at Sunset
Photo by Sherry Bailey

So many childhood memories have been made on the banks of Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. These boys are determined to fish until the sun goes down.