Kentucky Redear

The Redear Grass Ain’t Always Greener

Often, the grass seems greener someplace else. Eighteen years ago, I caught a big mess of redear sunfish on Kentucky Lake. Since then, fishing has declined with the invasion of Asian carp. Man has fought back to control this disaster with fishing slowly improving. Even though the best catch of redear on Facebook was seven, I imagined James Lasswell and me doing better.

The huge reservoirs running alongside Land Between the Lakes are called Barkley and Kentucky Lakes.

Lasswell had a friend show him some redear and bluegill beds near the Barkley Dam a few years ago and had caught numerous big shellcrackers there.

I had caught numbers of redear for two days at Cypress Bay, about 70 miles south of the dams. 

We made reservations at Cypress Bay, Kentucky Lake, and planned to fish the Barkley Dam area on the way down and back. 

When you make plans ahead of time you chance being affected adversely by the weather. The two reservoirs flow north. There had been a lot of rain to the south, with both lakes rising a foot a day. The water was stained to muddy.

Lasswell caught one redear at Barkley. Together, we managed a few small bluegills. We gave the dam area a good try and then left for the Tennessee line.

If anything, our fishing got worse. I did catch a nice catfish that gave me a good fight on light line. Even small bluegill were hard to come by. I suspect the water PH had lowered.

Lassell could see lots of fish on his Live Scope. Some approached his jig for inspection and then swam away.

Our ace in the hole was my friend and fellow writer, Ken McBroom. He lives on Jonathon Creek, Kentucky Lake and fishes for redear. However, he was out of the area for most of the weekend.

On our way home, we again stopped at Barkley but fished a different bay. Quickly, I caught what might have been my personal best. I’ve not weighed my two largest; that also goes for bass. It was about 13 inches and may have weighed a pound and a half.

Unfortunately, we never caught another redear and headed home very disappointed and tired. I arrived to see the last four minutes of the Pacers game on Sunday evening.

Lance Carpenter texted, “The redears are going on the beds at Geist.” I met him there at 7 am Monday morning, tired yet ready for a change of fortune. 

He knew where, and we both knew how. My arm of several thousand cast the previous three days finally felt resistance. We were catching redear on almost every cast. I caught a dozen in as many casts. A few were in the 11-inch range.

Carpenter is as passionate about readers as I am, yet we fish much differently. I use small plastic grubs on light jigs tipped with wax worms. He mostly uses red worms on a #4 hook under a bobber or fished with a light split-shot on the bottom.

There are other differences, too. He fishes from a pontoon, and I from a bass boat. Carpenter anchors on offshore flats and other structures. I cast the shoreline, docks, and breaks. Pooling our knowledge of the lake and the habits of this mysterious fish will benefit both of us.

As it turned out, the Kentucky bluegrass wasn’t greener. A 20-mile trip to familiar waters was all I needed.

About Rick Bramwell 37 Articles
Grew up in rural Indiana fishing farm ponds and hunting woodlands. Bramwell has been writing outdoors for 48 years. He harvested the record typical whitetail for his county and hunts rabbits with his beagle Tramp. He fished bass tournaments, including Red Man, until 1989. Bramwell has put together an ultra-ultra light system for catching panfish that mostly involves tight-lining a small jig. He attended college at Indiana State and Anderson University. Bramwell has two sons in their 50s, Brian and Gregory. A daughter Jourdan age 27. His greatest memory: fishing trout, salmon and halibut in Alaska. Bramwell's passion, apart from the outdoors, has been coaching high school age fastpitch softball.

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