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April is Trophy Largemouth Time

April is Trophy Largemouth Time 

By Lee McClellan

It was roughly a year ago on Good Friday when Evarts resident Mark Ward went fishing after work with his wife and daughter at 6-acre Highsplint Lake in Harlan County.

Ward pitched a soft plastic lizard toward a nice largemouth bass he could see in the shallows of this mountain lake. Soon, what he said looked like a big log, approached the lizard and gobbled it up before the other fish could get there. He set the hook on the 14-pound, 9.5-ounce state record largemouth bass.

Kentuckians are blessed with many waters, large, medium and small that hold trophy largemouth bass. April is one of the best months to catch them as evidenced by Ward’s catch last April. The month of April also produced the previous state record largemouth bass: Dale Wilson’s 13-pound, 10.4-ounce brute from Wood Creek Lake, taken April 14, 1984. Here are some of the best places to try this coming year for largemouth bass in Kentucky.

Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley still crank out fat largemouth bass, and largemouth bass numbers are on an upswing in both lakes. National bass tournament trails make annual stops at these lakes, yet an average weekend angler can fish these lakes and have a glory day. 

The 2020 Fishing Forecast produced by the Fisheries Division of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources gave Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley a “good” rating for largemouth bass. 

The largemouth bass population in Lake Barkley has some huge bass and a good number of 12- to 14-inch fish in the population, ensuring good fishing in the coming years. Lake Barkley also has more shallow cover than Kentucky Lake. Black and chartreuse jigs pitched into this cover draw strikes. White and chartreuse spinnerbaits worked beside button-ball bushes and aquatic vegetation also work well in spring. 

On Kentucky Lake, fish 7- to 9-inch straight-tailed worms in the lime green or green pumpkin color on ¼-ounce Shaky heads on pea gravel points and channel banks for spring largemouth bass. Bladed jigs worked shallow beside the yellow mustard flower stands in the bays also draw strikes from big largemouth bass in spring on Kentucky Lake. 

Barren River Lake in south-central Kentucky holds plentiful numbers of 15- to 17-inch and better largemouth bass. “Barren is a fantastic spring and early summer bass fishery,” said Eric Cummins, southwestern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “The numbers of largemouth bass 20 inches and better are really good.”

Fish channel drops on the south bank of the Narrows Access Area with 5/16-ounce crawfish-colored jigs for spring largemouth bass on Barren. Last year, the lake received a giant infusion of various fish habitat structures. You may view a map of these habitat structures on the “Lakes with Fish Attractors” page of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at​. These structures make good places to fish a white spinnerbait in spring.

Although mainly known for smallmouth bass, Dale Hollow Lake received an “excellent” rating for largemouth bass in the 2020 Fishing Forecast. The upper portion of the lake in Kentucky holds a good population of largemouth bass. Target the woody cover in the upper end of the Wolf River arm of Dale Hollow for spring largemouth bass.

Spurlington Lake, a small 36-acre lake in Taylor County, is a perfect destination for bass anglers in johnboats, canoes, fishing kayaks or float tubes. “It’s been a consistent little sleeper lake since I’ve been here,” Cummins said. “Seeing 20-inch plus fish is not uncommon.”
Lake Wilgreen, a 169-acre lake in Madison County, earned an “excellent” rating for largemouth bass in the 2020 Fishing Forecast. This idle-speed only lake is another great destination for anglers in paddlecraft or small motor boats. Deadstick 7-inch straight-tailed brown and orange worms rigged on 3/16-ounce Shaky heads in the mouth of the small coves and creek arms on the northwest side of Lake Wilgreen. Slow, deliberate presentations work best on this productive, but heavily pressured, lake.

Another small lake to try for trophy largemouth is Letcher County’s 32-acre Fishpond Lake. Kevin Frey, eastern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife said one hour of population sampling usually yields a dozen huge largemouth bass from 6 to 10 pounds. An angler caught a 12-pound, 6-ounce largemouth bass from Fishpond in April a few years ago.

Do not clear off the mantle for your trophy largemouth mount from Fishpond; the lake’s extremely clear water makes it difficult to fish. Spring is the most productive time.

Cure your blues this spring. Catch a big bass and feel better.