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Archived Fishing Report

Rising Lake Brings Bass To Banks As Crappie Spawn Begins

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/11/2013

Bass are heading to the banks as Kentucky Lake’s elevation approaches summer pool and the annual crappie spawn begins.   
The early phases of the crappie spawn will begin within the next few days as their preferred surface temperature range of 62 to 66 degrees will likely arrive early next week. Spawning phases this year are about two weeks behind last year’s biological clock as another annoying cold front was in progress as this report was being updated.
Lake levels have been rising all week and are lapping at the door of 359, which is the official summer pool level that isn’t supposed to be reached until the first of May. Just why TVA has allowed the reservoir to rise so dramatically is somewhat of a mystery to most anglers who fear the agency will pull the plug soon, a situation that could have a negative impact on spawning crappie and bass that head toward shallow venues.
Elevation going into the weekend will be 358.7 at Kentucky Dam and 358.6 at New Johnsonville. However, heavy rains were in progress Wednesday night and Thursday morning across the region and that could send lake levels even higher by early next week.
Anglers are concerned that allowing lake levels to rise ahead of schedule will cause TVA to pull the elevation back down to its curve in the days ahead in order to create storage capacity. The lake is about 3 ½ feet above normal for this time of year.

Surface temperatures really warmed this week in response to mild nights and daytime temps that reached the upper 70’s. Readings the last few days have been climbing into the 57 to 59 degree range out on the main lake while secondary bays were a bit warmer with 60 degree plus water in places.
The cold front will likely put the brakes on the rapid warm-up for a day or two but temps are expected to rebound on Sunday into the low 70’s. Next week’s forecast will have several days in the upper 70’s so surface temps will jump quickly and trigger the spawning phases of crappie that have been somewhat confused by the crazy weather and fluctuation of lake levels.
Water color cleared across the reservoir this week as rising lake levels pushed most of the stain back. Anglers can expect some dingy water to return in shallow areas this weekend in the aftermath of high winds and runoff from heavy rains.
Crappie improved this week in response to warmer surface temps and increased numbers were caught in stakebeds and brushpiles in depth of 7 to 14 feet as the fish were on the move. Several fish have now moved into 5 to 8 foot depth ranges and will continue to move up as rising lake levels and higher surface temps will send them to spawning territory.
The cold front will bring a short hiatus to the blitz that began earlier in the week. The timing of the front is unfortunate as fish were on the threshold of spawning had the warm spell continued.
With the unusual lake levels now inundating shoreline habitat it’s quite possible some shoreline buck bushes could appeal to spawning crappie by early next week. There are a lot of anglers who hope that happens as fishing the stickups has been a passion here for many years. Under normal conditions crappie usually spawn before water levels ever reach shoreline structure but the stage is set for fish to dart toward shallows next week.
Fish had a mood swing this week and began moving toward structure. Spots that were too shallow last week and void of fish were producing decent numbers at midweek. With the rapid rise has come a lot of debris floating around out there so boaters need to be cautious.
Vertical presentations of jigs and minnows around the submerged structure were paying dividends whereas last week most of the fish were being caught by boats slow trolling and long-lining techniques when fish were suspended out over deep water.
Some nice stringers were taken the last few days in West Sandy and the upper Big Sandy basin. Also producing were the flats around the power lines in Big Sandy as fish staged in midrange depths in preparation for their desired spawning temp range.
Male crappie showed a significant darkening this week as hormonal changes were underway, another sign spawning time is at hand.
Things will happen fast next week as the warm sunny days will stimulate fish to move toward shallow shorelines and midrange cover where casting jigs, drifting over flats, slow spider rig and long-line techniques will produce as will vertical presentations.
Bass are roaming and moving up fast into shallow pockets and shorelines where those abundant yellow flowers are now holding enough water to attract fish. Areas that were high and dry last week are now holding bass.
Shallow grass and some buck bushes will begin producing this week as will some shallow roadbeds and gravel points. Tossing shallow running crankbaits will be a popular choice as will spinnerbaits, Texas rigged worms and assorted floating worms now that topwater enters the picture.
The bass are moving up in a typical prespawn phase and some big sows will likely be caught using various topwater selections. Backing off and tossing Rattle Traps and similar lures will work too on those gravel points where fish may stage before moving up into those shallow pockets where higher surface temps will be attractive.
Bass fishermen may have to apply an early May pattern in their approach this next week even though it’s only mid-April.
To say it has been an unusual spring would be an understatement. Weather patterns and lake levels have been anything but normal but once the cold front passes and winds switch back to a southerly direction expect a rapid rebound.

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Photo by Murray Blake

This stoic heron is looking at more than just his own reflection. He is looking at the fish that will become his lunch.