Barren River Lake Fishing Report

Bill Hester caught this string of hybrids near the dam on 14″ crappie rods and using 4 lb. test line.

By Josh Morris
Hello, folks,  I hope this warm week has afforded you the opportunity to get out on the water. This warming trend will help to jump start the fishes hunger.  Some good fish are being caught on Barren River Lake right now.
Bass are being caught on mud flats and points look near the Narrows for these fish.  It is hard to beat a crank bait in a root beer color.  Also, a jig is good.  Also, this warm weather and the sunshine can move the fish shallow.  Work your way up and look for wood and chunk rock.  They hold warmth.  I went to Dale Hollow Monday.  A few smallmouth were caught on bluffs but we found good Largemouth in about 3 feet of water on wood.
Crappie are about 12 feet deep look in channel swings near wood. Bobby Garland jigs and minnows are good choices.
The hybrids pictured above were caught by Bill Hester.  He was kind enough to send me a picture so we could post them. Congratulations to Bill on those good fish.  Bill caught those near the dam on 14″ crappie rods and using 4 lb. test line.  That had to be a lot of fun!
Thank you all for reading,  I hope your live wells stay full this spring!
God Bless.

Josh Morris is a tournament bass angler and an ambassador for FLW. He is on the water two to three times per week. Some of his information comes from the good folks at Barren Outdoors. You can follow Josh on twitter @joshmorris53. Feel free to email Josh questions at spottedm@gmail.comHe is sponsored on the tournament circuit by Barren Outdoors, G Loomis, ShimanoPsycho Fishing Lures, Blob Fish, Snack Daddy Lures, and Freddie’s Dugout.

Float-and-fly to catch smallmouth bass

By Lee McClellan, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources 
Although we’ve seen many warm fronts this winter with temperatures in the 60s just this past weekend, the water in our highland reservoirs is still cold.
Once water temperatures drop below 50 degrees for extended periods, threadfin shad begin to suffer from the cold water.
“Threadfin shad get thermally stressed by winter water temperatures, especially in late winter,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of the Fisheries Division for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “They begin to twitch and spasm as they try to fight off death.”
Smallmouth bass, as well as spotted and largemouth bass, instinctually know to eat these weakened baitfish. The float-and-fly technique imitates stressed shad in cold water as good as anything.
“Many bass lures, such as jerkbait, use twitching movement to draw strikes,” Ross said. “The little fly twitching in place is irresistible to a smallmouth in the winter.”
Born in the deep, clear lakes of east Tennessee and inspired by crappie anglers complaining of big smallmouth bass breaking off tiny hair jigs fished deep in the winter months, the float-and-fly technique employs long, light to medium-light power spinning rods and 4-pound line to present small 1/16-ounce to 1/8-ounce jigs under a bobber.
The tiny jig is the “fly” in the float-and-fly technique. For generations, smallmouth anglers in Kentucky and Tennessee call hair jigs “flies.”
The long spinning rod, from 8 to 11 feet in length, is necessary as you suspend the diminutive jig 8 to 14 feet deep. Casting such a presentation on a rod shorter than 8 feet is nearly impossible. Fly anglers use 8-weight rods to suspend 1/32- to 1/48-ounce jigs under large strike indicators, employing light fluorocarbon line as the tippet. The lighter 1/48-ounce jig is much easier for a fly angler to cast with a leader and tippet running at least 8 feet long.
The “flies” are made of either craft hair or duck feathers or a combination of both. The float-and-fly technique has grown so popular that national outfitters carry rods designed for it. Tackle shops in the Lake Cumberland and Dale Hollow Lake region sell them as well. Float-and-fly rods also make excellent crappie and panfish rods.
All you do is load the spinning reel with 4-pound co-polymer or fluorocarbon line and clip on a 7/8-inch pear-shaped plastic bobber 8 feet above the fly. Adjust the depth of the fly until you get a “pull down” on the bobber from a fish. There are specially weighted foam bobbers designed for the float-and-fly technique that grant better casting distance. The internal weight in these bobbers makes them roll over on their side if a big smallmouth hits the fly and moves shallower.
The quivering fly hovering just above the sunken trees pulls these fish out of their lairs to strike. Female smallmouth bass need to feed in late winter to power the development of the eggs in their abdomens they will drop into nests later this spring.
Fish the float-and-fly near the main lake in winter on these reservoirs. The best fishing occurs when your back faces lots of big, deep water.
Remember to allow your fly to strike the water’s surface on the back cast. This provides resistance on the forward cast that loads the long spinning rod, leading to much improved casting distance.
Applying a petroleum jelly-based shad scent, called “fish dope,” improves the delectability of the fly to smallmouths. Those with glitter in them are best.
On bright days, trimming a fly to match the bend of the hook and heavily applying dope to where the fly resembles a small stick often makes the difference between being skunked or catching fish.
A month of good float-and-fly fishing awaits anglers until warming waters puts big smallmouth or spotted bass on the prowl and willing to chase lures. This technique also fools huge largemouth bass on farm ponds and small lakes in late winter.
Remember to buy your fishing license soon. Feb. 28 is the last day of the current license year in Kentucky.

Hunting, fishing licenses expire Feb. 28

It is time to renew your Kentucky fish and wildlife license.
Your 2016-2017 license expires Tuesday, Feb. 28.
The 2017-2018 licenses run March 1, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2018.
License fees are available at http://fw.ky.gov/Licenses/Pages/Fees.aspx,
Licenses may be purchased online at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Online License Sales site. Replacement licenses can be printed online for free.
Licenses and permits can be purchased in person across the Commonwealth at about 900 locations. License vendor locations are listed at http://app.fw.ky.gov/VendorLocations/.
Licenses and permits can be purchased by phone at 877-598-2401 twenty-four hours a day. All licenses and permits, except a disability licenseelk drawing application and youth licenses and permits, can be purchased by telephone.
Operators should NOT be relied upon to explain licensing requirements. If you are unsure what license or permit you need, refer to the License and Permit Descriptions section, or call 1-800-858-1549.

Barren River Lake Fishing Report

By Josh Morris
As the weather begins to hint that spring is around the corner we all have a tendency to get cabin fever. We want to be outside. We crave the sun and warm breeze on our face.  The longer hours of daylight and warming trends have a similar effect on fish.
They have a metabolic change just around the corner. The spawn is approaching, and approaching fast. To this fish this means that they are hungry. They will begin the pilgrimage to their favorite spawning areas. One of my go to presentations when this begins is to throw a crank bait. The water will dictate the color. There are many different ways to present the bait. I have found throwing one that gets down and ticks the bottom or a rock or stump is the best. So match the bait to the depth you are fishing.
The main thing is where to look.  Well again this depends on the body of water.  On Barren River Lake go to the mouths of the creeks.  I start on the first flats I come to.  I throw and reel with a steady retrieve.  Long points are good staging areas too. The retrieve can vary find what works for you.  This is important you must have a fairly soft sensitive rod.  I love the Gloomis IMX rod for this, and a Slow geared Shimano reel.  Work the flats and pockets working your way into the creek.  Feel the bait and concentrate.
Remember what you were doing and what the bait was doing when the fish hits.  Look at the color of the fish have they been up very long? Look in the throat is there any forage in it?  Put him in the live well see if it throws up some forage.  Match the hatch and you will do better. When you find some fish it is a good idea to have a jig tied on to drag through them as well. These fish will reload. Something is making them stop there.  You can also follow them once you get on them as they move up to spawn.
I went to Lake Cumberland earlier this week, but got there just as high pressure pushed the clouds out. It was a beautiful day but only one fish.  Tough conditions make you a better fisherman. That is how I look at days like yesterday.  Always learn and it was a success! Get on the water folks and find some fish!  I Hope all of you have a blessed spring, and year.

Josh Morris is a tournament bass angler and an ambassador for FLW. He is on the water two to three times per week. Some of his information comes from the good folks at Barren Outdoors. You can follow Josh on twitter @joshmorris53. Feel free to email Josh questions at spottedm@gmail.comHe is sponsored on the tournament circuit by Barren Outdoors, G Loomis, ShimanoPsycho Fishing Lures, Blob Fish, Snack Daddy Lures, and Freddie’s Dugout.

NWTF in Nashville Feb. 15-19

The convention will be filled with over 700 booths displaying the latest in top-quality The National Wild Turkey Federation 41st annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show will be at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville this weekend, Feb. 15-19.outdoor gear as well as taxidermy and specialty turkey calls exhibits. It will also host the Grand National Calling Championships, including head-to-head competitions, and seminars from top outdoors and hunting experts.
NWTF members (must have valid member number), as well as active and retired military personnel with valid ID, receive a FREE wristband good Friday-Sunday. Admission is $20 daily for nonmembers. Youth (ages 11-17) can pay $10 and receive a complimentary one-year NWTF Jakes membership. Children (10 and under) are free.
Join the NWTF for $35 to get a $25 Bass Pro Shops promo card and free admission for the weekend.
For complete convention details, log on to NWTF Convention Schedule.

Have your fishing equipment ready

By Kevin Kelly, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

Planning a fishing trip more than a couple days ahead of time can be a gamble in late winter when the weather is a mixed bag and the favorable conditions here today may be gone tomorrow.
With some advance preparation, you can be ready to grab what you need and go when that friend calls at daybreak or the impulse strikes and the schedule allows for a last-minute trip.
Performing regular maintenance on your reels can prevent catastrophic problems or costly repairs down the road.
Over the course of a fishing season, grit and grime accumulate and work into the guts of a reel. A hitch in the retrieve signals a reel in need of immediate maintenance. Keep cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol, an old toothbrush, paper towels, reel oil and reel grease on hand to accomplish this task, but consult the reel owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for its recommendations.
Some wait until a reel is almost bare of line before replenishing the spool. Imagine the disappointment to have the biggest fish of your life break off or not have enough line to cast to a desired spot. Go ahead and invest in a new spool of line for the peace of mind.
Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines require more frequent replacement than braided lines. Match the line with the manufacturer’s recommendations for the reel and take care to load the line correctly to avoid line twist, which can lead to those annoying bird’s nests.
Likewise, clean and inspect any rods that were stored over the winter. Check the reel seats and tighten the lock nuts as needed. Repair or replace worn or broken rod guides. Brush the inside of the guides with a cotton swab. The cotton will snag on any sharp edges or burs.
Keeping your tackle organized can be a challenge once spring arrives. Why not start fresh? Stowaway utility boxes are an angler’s friend. These plastic containers come in all shapes and sizes and prove useful for storing baits, weights, jig heads, hooks and more. Organize soft plastics by color and type in separate sealable sandwich bags and store the bags in one of these clear plastic tackle boxes or a binder.
A dull hook decreases the odds of a good hook set, so take a moment while everything is out to sharpen hooks on crankbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits.
Some anglers organize their tackle by species or waterbody type to cut down on time and the hassle of picking and choosing from several boxes the night before or day of a trip.
If you’re running low on an item, look for off-season and pre-season sales to help stretch your dollar.
Aside from equipment maintenance and organization, it is important to carve out some time to review the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide. The 2017-18 version is available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever licenses are sold.
The guide points out any changes in regulation. New fishing regulations that will go into effect March 1 include the removal of a statewide daily creel limit for yellow bass.
Trammel Creek in Allen County remains under seasonal catch and release regulations from Oct. 1 throughMarch 31, but the daily creel limit for rainbow trout will be five from April 1 through Sept. 30.
Lakes and sloughs at Ballard Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Boatwright WMA in Ballard County will be idle speed only for all boats. Likewise, Beulah Lake in Jackson County will be idle speed only for all boats. Largemouth bass at Pennyrile Lake in Christian County will be under statewide regulations.
Available on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ website, the annual fishing forecast for the state’s major fisheries provides helpful tips for a more productive day on the water. Carpenter Lake in Daviess County for largemouth bass and the upper Barren River for largemouth and spotted bass, bluegill in Fagan Branch Lake in Marion County and crappie at Benjy Kinman Lake in Henry County are noted in this year’s forecast as up-and-coming fisheries.
The 2017-18 fishing license year starts March 1. Kentucky fishing licenses may be purchased online at fw.ky.gov or by calling 1-877-598-2401. Licenses and permits also can be bought at retail stores, county court clerk offices and outdoor sporting goods stores across the state. License vendor locations are listed on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website.
In the meantime, there is still some time to squeeze even more value out of your 2016-17 fishing licenses. The 2016-17 fishing licenses valid through Feb. 28.
While not everybody has the luxury of being able to drop everything and go fishing when the conditions are ideal, you can save precious time by being prepared so you can take advantage when an opportunity does present itself.

Barren River Lake State Park hosts Valentine’s Weekend Buffet Feb. 11

Barren River Lake State Park will host a Valentine’s Weekend dinner buffet this Saturday, Feb. 11, from 5- 8 p.m., at the Driftwood Restaurant in the park’s Louie B. Nunn Lodge. Cost is $27 per person and includes beverage.
Entrees
Roasted and Carved Prime Rib with Creamed Horseradish & Au Jus
Smoked Salmon in a Dill Beurre Blanc Sauce
Herb Roasted Pork Roulade Stuffed with Ricotta Cheese and Tomatoes
Chicken Marsala
Sides
Caramelized Onions and Roasted Garlic Mashed Yukon Golds
Rice Pilaf
Mixed Roasted Root Vegetables
Creamed Spinach
Sautéed Chipotle Corn
Steamed Broccoli in Hollandaise Sauce
Southern Style Green Beans
Three Cheese Mac & Cheese
Plus, Salads and Desserts

Tennessee Boat and Fishing Expo set Feb. 10-12 at Fairgrounds in Nashville

The Tennessee Boat and Fishing Expo is this weekend, Feb. 10-12, at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville.
The Expo will host the newest boats with dealer incentives, fishing tackle with discount pricing, an antique lure display, hourly door prizes, along with boat and tackle dealers from across the South.
Free seminars begin daily at 10 a.m.
And, the first 200 people through the door each day will receive a Bill Dance Bass Fishing DVD.
Hours
Friday, Feb. 10, Noon- 9 p.m.;
Saturday, Feb. 11, 9 a.m.- 8 p.m.;
Sunday, Feb. 12, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Admission
Adult (15- up) $7;
Youth (ages 7-14) $4;
Children (6 and under) FREE.
Coupon to get 2 for 1 admission on Friday.

Don’t put your rods away this winter

By Tyler Brinks, Fix.com/blog
Don’t put your rods away during the winter. The bass will still be biting, and it is one of the best times of the year to catch a trophy fish. A different approach is required during this season, but preparation and knowing fish behavior will ensure that you are able to catch bass all year long.
Safety and Preparation
One of the most important strategies for winter bass fishing has nothing to do with fishing. Depending on where you live, the water can be anywhere from cold to dangerously frigid. Winter weather and the threat of hypothermia can quickly lead to trouble.
Make a plan of where you want to fish and be sure to let someone know where you are going and what part of the lake you will be fishing. If going alone, use extra caution, but ultimately, do your best to find someone to go with you.
When it comes to keeping warm, dress in layers and be sure to bring extra clothing in case you get wet or fall in. Layering is the best way to stay warm all day. Start with a base layer of a thermal shirt, pants, and socks. On top of that, use a fleece jacket and shirt for your middle layer. This will provide the most breathability and ensure you stay as warm as possible. A good outer layer is a rainproof set of pants or a bib and jacket.
Wearing multiple layers in a heated vehicle on your way to the lake will do more harm than good. Instead, add your final layer only when you arrive at the lake and begin to fish. Hand warmers and wool gloves with exposed fingers work well for keeping your hands warm and functional.
Fishing Locations
When looking for locations for winter bass fishing, two things are most important; baitfish and deep water. Both of these are keys to finding bass in winter, and if you find both in one area, you have a prime fishing spot.
By looking at a topographical map or an electronic map card in your GPS unit, you can easily find likely locations. Areas such as humps, underwater islands, and long points are good places to start. The ideal locations will have deep and shallow water close by. Even though bass tend to be deeper this time of year, they will move up and down to different depths in search of food.
If you are familiar with the body of water, it is often best to visualize where the fish are during the other seasons. If you know that an area is known for spawning fish, the bass are usually not far from this area. The first area featuring deeper water from a known spawning flat is a prime location for wintering bass. The same goes for locations that worked for you in autumn. Taking one step back to deeper water is another way to find a bass hot spot.
Lure Selection
Winter fishing techniques are much more streamlined than those for other seasons. Fast-moving and topwater baits are generally out of the question. What’s left are bottom-hugging baits and slow-moving lures.
Some of the top winter baits are jigs. Football-head jigs and hair jigs work well when the water is cold. Moving them slowly along the bottom is your best chance at getting a lethargic bass to bite. Since football jigs imitate crawfish, choose colors that closely mimic the crawfish in that body of water. The colors vary greatly by region, but generally anything green or brown will usually be enough to match the hatch. Hair jigs also imitate crawfish, but can also look like small baitfish. The same approach to matching colors works here; white- and silver-hued baits are often good choices.
Metal baits such as spoons and blade baits are another great idea this time of year. The hard metal often outperforms everything else when the water is cold. They do a great job of imitating dying baitfish and are a key way to catch winter bass.
Soft-plastic baits fished slowly on a drop-shot rig are another top choice in the winter. Fish these slower than you would other times of the year and experiment with both the size of bait as well as your leader length. Smaller baits are often better and adjusting your leader length based on how far the fish are setting off the bottom is a solid wintertime bass strategy.
Water Temperature
One of the most important things in all of bass fishing is water temperature. The temperature is what keeps the bass moving shallow to deep, and also lets them know when to spawn. It signals the end of a season and gets the fish moving to a different phase.
The following are water temperatures that trigger bass to change their eating habits. These will also vary based on region, as some bass in northern climates are more resistant to cold weather.
Under 40 Degrees
This is one of the most challenging times to fish for bass, but it can be done. Bass in water below 40 degrees will be inactive and require an easy meal. This means the angler must get the bait right in front of the bass for it to strike.
40 to 50 Degrees
These are prime winter fishing temperatures. Bass living in these conditions will have slowed down their feeding, but are not too cold to eat. They will chase lures to some degree and are likely to be caught on a number of baits.
50 to 60 Degrees
Bass living in these temperatures are willing to bite a wide range of lures. These are not typical winter temperatures for much of the country, but in Southern waters they may be the coldest time of the year. These temperatures are also when the bass are transitioning from season to season, either from fall to winter or winter to spring. Generally, these are excellent fishing conditions anywhere in the country.
Electronics Usage
Besides using your fish finder to locate prime fishing locations on your GPS, your electronics are likely never more vital than in the winter. Quickly scanning over areas as you are idling your boat is the best way to locate baitfish and the bass that will be nearby.
When seeing fish on your screen, dropping your bait to them in a vertical presentation is an excellent approach. The drop-shot rig and metal baits such as spoons and blade baits can be worked vertically and catch bass you see on your fish finder. It takes some practice to get your bait directly in front of the fish, but once you do it is often the best way to catch winter bass.
By exercising safety, being prepared, and focusing on the best locations, you can have success bass fishing all winter long.

Tyler Brinks is a tournament bass angler, originally from Las Vegas, Nevada. He now resides in Spokane, Washington, and spends his days fishing for bass, writing, making videos, and ice fishing.

February returns hope for anglers

By Lee McClellan, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
It seems to Kentuckians that someone accidentally dropped the sun down a storm drain about three weeks ago and it hasn’t been found yet.
Day after day desolate gray skies discharged rain every few hours. Although it has been warmer than usual, this January has been a long slog.
February is the month tinges of hope arrive back in many anglers’ souls.
“Before any change of season, there are hints of the season to come,” said Mike Hardin, assistant director of Fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The change from late winter to spring is not abrupt. By the third week of February, you can hear spring peepers calling.”
This translates into a time when someone suffering from terminal cabin fever can catch a fish for the ages.
Warm February rains muddy the water and provide a temperature spike.
“You get that good muddy water in mid- to late-February and you can pull some sows out of it,” Hardin said. “Females are gearing up for spawning. They need healthy fat reserves to get them through rigors of spawning. Instinct tells them they must eat.”
This situation is a fantastic time to catch a fat, pre-spawn female largemouth bass. Back in the day before graphite rods, bass boats or sonar units, gritty anglers would brave the weather during the first warm rains of February and employ the “jigging” technique to pull huge largemouth bass from shallow water.
They would use stout cane poles and a large hook tied to heavy black dacron line. These anglers would impale as many nightcrawlers as possible on the hook and using a skulling paddle for stealth, drop this combination beside any stump, log or other shoreline cover they could find.
Modern anglers can do the same thing with a ½-ounce black and blue jig and a flipping stick.
“That muddy water in late February is good flipping water,” Hardin said. “My uncle loved it when rains warmed the water to 51 degrees along the shoreline. He would flip a jig to the shoreline cover along those outside bends of Cave Run. That is when he caught his biggest largemouth bass. He had better weights in 51 degree water than in 70 degree water.”
Hardin said rains from the south in February also bring large muskellunge to the shoreline.
“That is when I first get my muskies,” said Hardin, who caught a 50-inch muskellunge from Cave Run Lake this past fall. “When you have a 42- to 48-degree main lake with warmer water coming in that is in the mid-50s, this is when you find fish along the shoreline.”
Some fish live suckers along the shoreline for big February muskellunge. Those anglers are strongly encouraged to employ a quick strike rig to prevent catch and release mortality. Large rattle baits, such as a muskellunge-sized Rat-L-Trap, also work well for shoreline muskellunge during this time of year.
“I also like a soft plastic bait called the Bulldawg in February,” Hardin said. “I like two-tone colors such as brown and orange. I also like the firetiger with a chartreuse tail version. I also throw jerkbaits like a Suick Thriller when they have their nose on the bank. They see that jerkbait work over their head and they hit it.”
A pronounced warm front in mid-to-late February draws big female smallmouth bass from their winter lairs into shallower water to feed heavily in lakes.
If warm rains accompanied the warm front, work white spinnerbaits with chrome Colorado blades right beside any submerged woody cover. This is an excellent presentation to catch huge smallmouths, especially if the water has some color to it.
If the warm front simply warms the top layer of water a degree or two without rain, big smallmouth will move up onto a flat to feed. The best flats lie adjacent to the channel on the main lake or major creek arm.
A medium-sized live shiner bottom fished in these areas is one of the best ways to catch the heaviest smallmouth bass of your life. Some anglers crawl the shiner slowly across the flat with just enough split shot weights to keep the shiner down. Others prefer still fishing shiners on the flat using a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce slip-sinker rig with a small black barrel swivel tied on the main line. An 18-inch leader of 8-pound test fluorocarbon line is tied on the other loop of the barrel swivel while the hook goes on the other end of the leader.
A size 1 Octopus-style hook works well for both presentations. You can also fish these rigs right in the middle of small cuts and tiny coves along the main lake or major creek arm for large February smallmouths.
“If you like catching big fish, February is a great month,” Hardin said. “A big fish warms you up better than a big coat.”
Remember to buy your fishing license soon. Feb. 28 is the last day of the current license year in Kentucky.