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Archived Fishing Report

TVA Begins Winter Drawdown; Summer Bite OK for Bass, Catfish and Crappie

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 07/06/2017

Each summer Tennessee Valley Authority begins its annual winter drawdown immediately after the Fourth of July holiday on Kentucky Lake.

Lake levels began falling at midweek, which means a pretty steady current for anglers targeting catfish on the main river channel or perhaps bass fishermen stalking main lake ledges. Both type anglers should benefit from the slow drawdown as should some crappie anglers.

Current usually stimulates baitfish movement, triggering activity throughout the food chain. When zooplankton movement occurs it triggers schools of shad to head out on their nomadic journeys in search of food.

Once the that happens pretty much all species put on the feed bag, which means more aggressive movement from gamefish such as crappie and bass as well as sluggish catfish. The end result is better fishing!

TVA’s curve for lake levels sees the reservoir level out at summer pool elevation of 359 on May 1 each spring and stay there until just after the Fourth of July holiday when the annual drawdown begins. 

For the next few months a slow but gradual lowering of lake levels will be underway, barring any heavy rains throughout the TVA valley, which could alter the drawdown’s schedule. The objective of the annual drawdown is to create more storage capacity for Kentucky Lake as fall and winter months draw near.

Elevation by this weekend is projected to be in the 358.7 range around the Kentucky Dam sector. Upstream around New Johnsonville the elevation is forecast to be in the 358.6 range.

There have been some heavy thunderstorms across the region this week that dumped lots of water and caused localized flooding but the reservoir has been able to absorb the runoff.

Surface temperatures this week are in the 83 to 84 degree range. Humidity has been a factor some days for fishermen but getting out early helps combat that. Water color is clear across most of the reservoir.

Summer crappie fishermen are finding a few more fish playing their game lately. Some decent catches were taken this week by anglers stalking midrange depths of 12 to 14 feet.

Most anglers are fishing jigs tipped with either a minnow or Berkley Power Bait in the chartreuse or white colors. Productive jig color combos have been blue/chartreuse, black/chartreuse and red/black just to name a few. Some anglers are scoring decent stringers using just a plain minnow rig.

Other popular techniques such as slow trolling deep diving crankbaits over main lake ledges are producing a few fish as are long-line techniques pulling Road Runner style jigs but both presentations have been fair producers at best. Seems the fish are opting for a slow, vertical presentation with the bait right in their face.

Some boats were trying deeper ledges with jigs and bottom bumping rigs but success rates were also mediocre.

Several small fish are part of the outing so anglers can expect to measure several but there are some dandies showing up too. A few nice slabs in the 1 ½ pound range are biting at times but numbers of big fish are a bit below the summer norm.

Bass action is holding up pretty good with decent stringers coming in on a regular basis from fishermen stalking main lake ledges. The bite has been consistent for those working 10 to 14 foot depths.

Finding structure in that depth range has paid dividends and with the increased current fish should be even more structure oriented. Decent size bass are relating well to midrange crappie beds or stumps and brushpiles.

Popular choices continue to be shaky head and Texas rigged worms in the 9 to 10-inch length. Effect colors have ranged from green pumpkin pepper to black/blue with glitter. Jig and pig combos are working too as are swim baits.

Always in the summer arsenal of bass anglers on Kentucky Lake are the tackle boxes full of deep diving crankbaits. Most are shad colored variations such as Strike King’s 6XD series, Rapala’s DT14, Bandit’s 300 series and Norman’s DD22 are just a few popular ones found in the trays waiting for action.

Also tied on the rods of summer bass fishermen are Carolina and Alabama rigs. There hasn’t been much, if any, schooling action reported but most anglers use several different lures in their attempt to find and trick finicky fish into hitting one they find baitfish or structure on their sophisticated sonar equipment.

Boats working shallow shoreline habitat are still picking up several small fish. Tossing spinnerbaits, Texas rigged worms and some topwater has still produced at times if schools of pin minnows can be located.

Catfishing took a step in the right direction lately with the addition of current plus warmer surface temperatures pulling fish back out to main river channel venues.

Depths of 30 feet have been effective lately where boats are using nightcrawlers and chicken livers as baits of choice. The catfish bite should be good for the next few weeks so watch for more activity on the edge of the main river channel.

Mayfly hatches have been sparse the last few weeks along the shorelines of Kentucky Lake. Traditionally, hatches begin in mid-June and occur throughout the summer months. Seems there’s always been a good hatch around the Fourth of July time holiday but most anglers are just not seeing the abundance of flies the way they have in times past.

There has been an occasional sauger showing up but not enough to stimulate interest for trollers to hit the main lake sandbars pulling deep diving crankbaits like they did decades ago. Also sparse are schools of white bass. These two species are just not present in Kentucky Lake like they were in times past.

Kentucky Lake anglers should, however, have some pretty good days ahead as summer patterns are pretty much on course for catfish, crappie and bass.

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White Egret
Photo by Melodie Cunningham

Commonly mistaken for a heron, egrets can commonly be seen wading in shallow water near the lakes edge.