Jerry Strain

Paris angler Jerry Strain hoists a nice bass that helped him win the Senior Team Trail Bass Classic recently on Barkley Lake. Strain’s catch of 26.1 pounds in the two-day event earned him a check for $10,000.  

Although fall has a reputation for stability, this past week was a roller coaster of weather patterns for Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene. After last week’s hot weather, heavy rains preceded a cold front that thrust itself on anglers with a vengeance and turned the fishing world upside down.

Brisk north winds brought chilly temperatures to the region to kick the week off. That has thrown anglers off balance to some degree as more rain and cool conditions are expected to linger into the weekend. Above average temperatures one week; below average the next.

Surface temperatures have really fallen since the cold front descended. Last week temps were in the 79- to 80-degree range but have dropped some 15 degrees or more in some areas. Readings at midweek were in the 64- to 65-degree range and may cool another degree or two by this weekend.

Actually, anglers welcomed the decline in surface temperatures, which should set the stage for improved fall fishing conditions in the days and weeks ahead. Surface temps for mid- to late October usually range around the low to mid-60s so normalcy has returned in that department.

Throwing another curve to the fall fishing this week has been both fluctuation of lake levels and rapidly changing temperatures. That’s an unusual scenario for this time of year.

Water color was changing at midweek in the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy area as a lot of runoff entered the reservoir and brought muddy water to some areas. Around Paris Landing, some shallow pockets and the upper ends of big bays are quite dingy but main lake areas remain clear.

In addition to changing weather conditions have come changing lake levels, too. The TVA had really pulled the plug late last week and had the reservoir down slightly below winter pool for a few days, apparently anticipating the heavy rains.

At midweek, elevation was 355.3 and rising slowly but last weekend the lake had fallen to 354.7 in some areas. A few areas across the region received three to four inches of rain prior to the arrival of the cold front.

By early next week, mild temperatures and light winds should return. That’s the norm for mid- to late October.

Crappie fishing has been fair lately with several fish lingering in the 9- to 12-foot zones. A few fish were taken in 5- to 9-foot depths recently but falling lake levels last weekend appeared to pull a few fish out of very shallow venues.

Now that lake levels are rising slowly, anglers should see the shallow bite resume to some degree, especially if mild weather or some cloudy days enter the picture.

There are still several small fish out there so expect to measure a lot of your catch. However, a few keeper size fish are being taken but patterns are scattered and inconsistent. The north and northeast winds earlier in the week no doubt had an adverse effect on the overall bite.

There’s just something about the back side of a severe cold front that causes a mood swing in fish and that certainly seemed to be the case this week.

Anglers tipping jigs with Berkley Power Bait or live minnows were scoring the most fish. Popular jig skirts ranged from pink/chartreuse to some shad colors sporting glitter.

A few anglers have ventured out near the edge of the main river channel stalking deep brushpiles in 16- to 19-foot depth zones and found a few keeper size fish there. However, no real schooling fish were taken in the deep venues.

Overall, the crappie bite had been mediocre but should improve by next week. Although anglers are landing enough to keep them going, very few 20-fish limits have been taken.

Bass anglers had been tossing topwater around gravel banks and finding a few scattered fish busting a jerk bait or buzzbait at times.

Also popular have been Rattle Traps and Red-Eye Shad style baits tossed on main lake flats and back in some large bays where anglers have been searching for a few schooling fish or just some isolated good ones chasing shad.

Crankbaits on gravel have been producing as well with some fish occupying shallow roadbeds or rip-rap shorelines.

Lower surface temps should help the shallow bass pattern in the days ahead. Watch for more opportunity for anglers tossing spinnerbaits around stickups.

Hopefully Kentucky Lake fishermen can put the coveralls and heavy jackets back in the closet soon. The rain gear has really gotten a workout lately, too, so anglers are about ready to dry things out and stay dry for a few days.


STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is

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