Small Water Bass in Kentucky
Kentucky is home to many large bass lakes that get much more press than smaller ones throughout the Bluegrass State. Small water bass in Kentucky is readily available. There is many small lakes, less than 500 acres, that are open to the public throughout the state. These small Kentucky lakes offer both a great get away for enjoying a relaxing day on the water. They can also provide for some excellent bass fishing too.
Kevin Frey is the Eastern District Biologist for Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. He was quick to supply great information on three lakes in his district. They offer great opportunities to catch largemouth bass and other species as well. Many of these small lakes have annual trout stockings. This could explain the great trophy largemouth fishing they provide for such small bodies of water.
Pikeville City Lake
Pikeville City Lake is 21.4 acres and located in Pike County Kentucky. It was formed from a bend in the Levisa Fork River. It was cut-off from the stream with a Kentucky Department of Transportation road project. According to Frey Pikeville City Lake is long, narrow and shallow and during the summer there are multiple aeration fountains that assist with increasing dissolved oxygen.
“Where this lake was once part of the river there are some gizzard shad, freshwater drum and flathead catfish, but it is probably the best lake in my district to catch excellent numbers of bass from 17-21 inches,” Frey said. “This lake would favor tactics of fishing on an oxbow lake or shallow water lake.”
Fishpond Lake is 28.8 acres and is located just west of Payne Gap off U.S. 119. Fishpond Lake was once a coal mine and was created as part of a strip mine reclamation project in Letcher County Kentucky. The mine was dammed in 1961 creating this deep clear lake. The natural springs that supply Fishpond Lake provides the perfect water for rainbow trout and it’s the trout that feed the giant bass that live there. Fishpond Lake has a paved ramp access for any light trailerable recreational boat.
“This Lake is the best lake in eastern Kentucky to go after a state record largemouth bass,” Frey said. “We sample fish from 10-12 pounds at this lake each year. Try dusk and dawn time periods or even after dark to go after the big ones. Fishpond lake can be tough to conquer. Some anglers are able to entice bigger bass with jerkbaits and swimbaits. These presentations best mimic the lake’s rainbow trout population.” Frey also mentioned that an angler may want to view this lake for tactics that are mentioned for deeper clear lakes in California.
Cranks Creek Lake
Cranks Creek Lake is a 176 acre lake located in Harlan County near the base of Stone Mountain in Cawood, Kentucky. This small pristine lake offers boat rental and three launching areas as well as dock rentals for your stay. Contact Stone Mountain boat dock for more information (606) 573-4802
“Cranks Creek Lake is larger than the other two lakes, but offers shallow water and deep water fishing for bass. The upper end of the lake near the marina is shallow and has a lot of various aquatic vegetation and usually more turbid water conditions. The lower end of the lake is deep, clear and moving, which holds fish at deeper depths. This lake is a good lake to catch trophy size largemouth,” Frey stated.
In closing Mr. Frey provided some current largemouth bass electrofishing data for each of these lakes, fish/hr > 20.0 inches @ Pikeville City Lake = 9.10, Fishpond = 10.73, Cranks Creek Lake = 7.60 Note: “The larger 1,000 – 2,500 acre reservoirs in this district run approximately 0.5-1.4 fish > 20 inches/hr, thus all 3 of these smaller lakes provide some quality fishing for fish greater than 20 inches,” Frey added.
Bullock Pen Lake
Bullock Pen Lake is 134 acres in size and is located near Crittenden, Kentucky in Grant and Boone counties. It features largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. According to KDFWR Central Fisheries District Biologist Jeff Crosby the largemouth bass fishing can be excellent at Bullock Pen Lake.
“Anything that mimics a shad is an excellent bait for Bullock Pen Lake,” Crosby said. “This lake also has some very good water willow (Justicia Americana) beds that attract a good portion of the bass”.
Large crankbaits and big Texas rigged plastics work great on big largemouth during the day. Look close to shore at dawn and dusk for big largemouth cruising in search of a meal. Big bass are more comfortable in shallow water at these times and will move up and position themselves next to any shallow ambush points available and wait for baitfish to swim by. Big topwater baits will trigger strikes from these big bass just work them near the shallow cover. Pausing the bait right next to a stump or cedar tree can result in some heart-stopping explosions.
Kincaid Lake is a 183 acre man-made lake located in Pendleton County. It was created in 1961 by impounding Kincaid Creek, a branch of Licking River. It is Kincaid Lake State Park’s main attraction. The park offers camping, fishing, boating and a 9-hole golf course.. The park grounds and lake are open all year, but check the parks website http://parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/kincaid-lake/ for seasonal dates of other facilities before you go.
Kincaid Lake is another small Kentucky lake with a great largemouth bass fishery. Like Bullock Pen Lake, Kincaid has some very good water willow beds and are excellent areas for finding quality bass in both lakes. Swimbaits and jerkbaits in shad colors do well given the large gizzard shad population that makes up most of the bass’ forage.
“The bass populations are very stable in these lakes, especially Bullock Pen and Kincaid lakes. We do occasionally stock largemouth bass into Guist Creek Lake, but the overall population is stable,” said Crosby.
Guist Creek Lake
Guist Creek Lake is 317 acres located in Shelby County in Shelbyville Kentucky. It has a campground and marina and they are open from March 1st through November. The marina offers bait, tackle, snacks and ice. They also have boat slips and boat and canoe rentals so check their website for more information http://guistcreek.com/marina/ .
Guist Creek is said to be one of Kentucky’s best kept secret. With shallow water, average depth of 15 feet and 25 miles of shoreline the bass grow big and it is said to give up 5 pounders on a regular basis. This could be the reason bass tournaments are held on Guist throughout the year with great results.
“Guist Creek Lake does have a few beds of water willow and while not as extensive as Bullock Pen or Kincaid Lake, these beds are still great places to find largemouth bass,” Crosby said. “Even though there is excellent numbers of largemouth bass Guist can be very tough to fish at times, due to the large forage bases and fishing pressure that exist at this lake. The bass fishing pressure is high on these lakes, especially Guist Creek Lake and some days, but anglers can be very confident that the potential of catching a quality largemouth bass at these lakes is very high.”
Spurlington Lake is 33 acres. It’s located in Campbellsville, Kentucky and according to the 2017 Fishing Forecast put out by the KDFWR, is a good largemouth bass fishery, for its size. It has a better than average number of (15-inch plus) largemouth with above average chances for bass over 20 inches. Spurlington Lake also has Christmas trees and stake beds placed as habitat structures for bass and other fish. Be sure to check out the location of this cover on this lake and others at the KDFWR website.
These cedar trees and stake beds make great cover for largemouth bass. Big bass love to hang out there, especially when the lake doesn’t have a lot of cover of its own. This is why these strategically placed man-made structures become bass magnets in many of these smaller lakes.
A great way to fish heavy cover on any lake is with a Carolina rig, especially when the bass are not very active. The rig, with its heavy sinker, helps you feel when your bait is in the cover. It allows you to work it through without hanging up. A Texas rigged lizard or worm works great.
When the bass are “looking up” as they say a jerkbait worked over the top of this cover will entice them to come out of it and strike. Let the bass tell you how fast you need to work the bait. Sometimes a pause is needed. However, a fast moving bait will sometimes get more strikes, especially in the summer when the water is warm.
Mill Creek Lake
Mill Creek Lake is 95 acres. It’s located in Monroe County in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. It has a largemouth bass rating of good to excellent according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. There are good numbers of larger fish over 15 inches. Largemouth bass 18-inches and over are well above average.
“Mill Creek Lake largemouth bass has been on a recent upswing the last 3 to 4 years with numbers of 15 inch plus bass equaling Barren and Green River Lake proportions and 20 inches plus bass numbers on the rise.” Kentucky’s Southwestern Fishery District biologist Eric Cummins said. “Forage fish for bass in Mill Creek Lake consists of gizzard shad and miscellaneous sunfish (bluegill, longear, etc.). Mill Creek Lake also has spotted bass, but they are slow growing and rarely achieve large sizes.”
As a side trip for your Mill Creek Lake fishing trip be sure to check out the Old Mulkey Meeting House nearby. The log meeting house was erected as a church in 1804. This makes it one of the oldest freestanding structures in the state. Across from the Old Mulkey Meeting House is a pioneer cemetery with the graves of many Revolutionary War Soldiers. Many Kentucky pioneers and Daniel Boone’s sister are buried in this cemetery as well.
Metcalfe County Lake
Metcalfe County Lake is 22 acres and is another small lake under Mr. Cummins watch. “Metcalfe is one of the best small impoundments in Southwestern Kentucky and consistently produces big largemouth bass,” Mr. Cummins said. Metcalfe County Lake is located next to the county park a few miles north of Edmonton, Kentucky.It is owned by Metcalfe County. There is a concrete ramp available with limited parking. The park offers picnic shelters and wooded areas for nature hikes.
“Metcalfe County Lake produces the best conditioned (fattest) bass in our area, says Cummins; however, they can be difficult to catch due to the high abundance of forage in the lake. Also during the summer, it’s unique in that it can be better fishing during the day than at night due to the lake’s shallower thermocline and large swings in oxygen levels from daytime to nighttime levels.” Cummins also added that bass fishing pressure on this lake as well as Mill Creek Lake is low to moderate.
“Metcalfe and Mill Creek lakes are a half hours drive apart.” Cummins noted. “This can make for a great day of fishing. They might pose a challenge as these lakes fish very differently from day to day. Also, both lakes are electric motor only and Metcalfe County Lake is best suited for smaller boats, 16 feet or less. The parking and turnaround area is small capacity.”
Many of Kentucky’s smaller lakes are part of the stocking program provided by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. The first three lakes in this article Pikeville City Lake, Fishpond Lake and Cranks Creek Lake is stocked with rainbow trout annually and can be a great trip for trout anglers. You can check out the dates and locations of these stockings throughout Kentucky at the KDFWR website.
Baits to use for these trout vary, but for artificial baits on spinning gear a small suspending jerkbait is hard to beat. Trout love bright colors so anything colorful and bright like chartreuse, pink or yellow will attract trout. Most of the lakes with trout can be really clear so light line will help you get more bites. Another great bait for trout is the in-line spinner.
Natural baits that work great, especially in lakes, is whole kernel corn, red worms and small minnows. Many anglers fish for trout under floating lights at night. Trout will bite softly on these baits so watch your line close. When you get a bite sweep the rod gently upwards or to the side to set the hook.