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by Steve McCadams
October 13th, 2006

    Fall is one of my favorite seasons yet fishing here is overlooked and underrated by most anglers.

   Gone are the doldrums days of Tennessee’s hot and humid summer. It’s a new season on the calendar of bass and crappie anglers at Kentucky Lake where the action is well worth the time and effort.

    Every year TVA’s biggest reservoir gives up some fantastic fall fishing. The Tennessee River meanders a path from Pickwick Dam on the south to Kentucky Dam on the north. In-between lies 2,380 miles of shoreline and some 160,000 acres of water tugging at the hearts and lines of anglers.

    Crappie and bass fishermen ought to love autumn angling here. It’s a shallow water paradise where a variety of lures work for bass. And, crappie take on an aggressive mood when a jig or live minnow invades their space.

    Dotted along the edges of the river channel are islands and mudflats where stumps, logs and treelaps beg you to toss a lure. The visible structure yields some hefty bass this time of year as slow rolling a spinnerbait or carefully retrieving a shallow-running shad colored crankbait will put you in touch with a largemouth, Kentucky spotted bass, or a rusty smallmouth with an attitude.

    Cooler conditions provide a wide comfort zone for restless bass, which love to hide around the shallow snags and ambush unsuspecting shad. And the grass is everywhere.

    Like all reservoirs in the mammoth TVA system, Kentucky Lake is under the annual winter drawdown phase where lower lake levels change the face of the overall fishery. Unlike many east Tennessee lakes, the “big pond” changes only five feet from mid summer to early winter.

    Still, the slightly lower lake levels alter the appearance and anglers have to adapt. Learning to fish “low water” isn’t too difficult. However, anglers must respect the elevation change and use caution when boating into backwaters.

    This is not the time of the year to take shortcuts across main lake sandbars. Cutting the corner where channel markers stand at attention will get you and your outboard’s lower unit in trouble.

    The shallow stickups appeal to such presentations as topwater jerk baits. Popular choices are Rebel’s Pop-R, Bagley’s Bango lure, Storm’s Chug Bug, and Smithwick’s Devils Horse, just to name a few. Heddon’s Zara Spook or Torpedo is worth tying on too.

    The floating flukes and other soft plastic baits allow a quiet entry when cast into shallow water.

    Gravel banks where big chunk rock points protrude into deep water often give up hefty stringers. Seems there’s always a bass on the rocks keeping watch on any sort of invasion.

    Early morning and late afternoon scenarios will see thousands of threadfin shad working the sloping gravel banks. The lowlight situations have daily hatches of microscopic insects known as “midges”. Shad show up knowing the buffet line is open and guess who else is hot on their trail?

    Buzzbaits have a time and place in the arsenal too. The frequent casts and steady retrieves allow anglers to cover a lot of water. The click-clack rhythm of the blade as it parts the placid waters can often produce a “commode flushing” strike that breaks the peace and tranquility.

    Crappie anglers have their time and place too. Trouble is, many perch jerkers overlook the fall fishing, waiting instead for a spring fling when spawning takes place.

    Each fall the fish begin moving back to main lake flats and bays in pursuit of roaming shad. Surface temperatures fall back into the mid to upper 60’s. The transition period sees crappie leaving the deep summer venues and heading toward midrange depths of 6 to 12 feet.

    Brushpiles, stumps, and manmade stakebeds produce consistent stringers of black and white crappie. The fish are more aggressive now, thanks to cooling trends that change the mood from their sluggish summer behavior.

    Popular techniques are vertical jig presentations on long telescopic rods and casting grubs and twister tail style jigs on light spinning tackle. And, the live minnow and slip-bobber rig always deserves honorable mention.

    Other popular techniques range from fishing some of the deep water ledges with double-hook bottom bumping rigs armed with live shiner minnows to slow trolling multi-pole rigs over open water flats where suspended fish camp out in la-la land.

    Whatever technique fits your fancy, the fall crappie fishing is worthy of pursuit.

    Both bass and crappie anglers will find stable weather where high winds are rare. Fishing patterns normally hold up from week to week too. Lake levels don’t fluctuate so you can count on the honey holes staying the same in terms of depth and appeal.

    Plenty of parking at the launch ramp and ample water to fish without worry of crowds. Just two more reason on a long list to give Kentucky Lake’s fall fishing a try.

    If that’s not enough to wet your appetite then add the  color parade of hardwoods on the hills reflecting their display in the placid waters. The sound of a flock of geese honking their arrival from the far north makes everything seem right.

    It’s time to test your tackle as there’s frost on the pumpkin!


Steve McCadams is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area. He has also contributed many outdoor oriented articles to various national publications.



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