FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 20, 2019) – Although this June so far is wet and soggy, the long-range weather forecast calls for a return to normal summer patterns. We can finally look forward to stable water levels, hot weather and predictable fishing.
Bass fishing in summer revolves around light, or the lack of it. The best times to sling a lure are pre-dawn to mid-morning, dusk and nighttime. You won’t find a better bass fishing spot during these times than a weedy farm pond.
Farm ponds make for great low-light bass fishing because they’re much easier to navigate than a huge reservoir. Target weed edges with a floating plastic frog or a Jitterbug in the pre-dawn, dusk and at night. A steady retrieve usually produces strikes, but switch speeds or pause the lure for a time if they don’t cooperate.
A weightless minnow-shaped soft plastic jerkbait is a good lure choice for low-light, but not dark, conditions in a farm pond. Rig this lure on an offset worm hook to make it weedless and cast it into fallen tree tops, brush or along weed lines. You can practically work this lure in place using short, quick jerks of the rod tip, driving any nearby bass crazy. You can also reel it over the top of weeds and drop it into holes in the vegetation that often hold some of the bigger bass in a pond.
The lack of weight and weedless nature of this rig make it easy to work in a shallow, weedy farm pond. Light lures are the way to go, leave the Carolina rigs and ½-ounce jigs at home. A medium-power spinning rod spooled with 8-pound test line works great for this presentation.
As the days turn steamy and uncomfortable, fishing from mid-morning to early evening makes for a sweat-drenched, uncomfortable experience. You can catch panfish and the occasional small buck bass, but fishing in the heat of the day usually leads to frustration.
Head to the Lake Cumberland tailwater and wade for brown, rainbow, brook or the newly stocked cutthroat trout. Fishing the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam in summer feels like you are surrounded by natural air conditioning. You’ll fish in waters that stay in the 50s and 60s year round and trout bite willingly the day long, no matter how hot the air temperature.
Summer provides a reliable pattern for water releases from Wolf Creek Dam. Power generation generally peaks in the afternoon making the morning the best time to fish in the upper one-third of the river near the dam and the afternoon better in the lower river. This is not set in stone, so anglers must know the release schedule before traveling to the Cumberland River to fish.
There are a couple of ways to check the release schedule, visit the TVA generation preschedule page and consult the “WOL” column. The number 45 represents one turbine of generation. You may also log on to the Tennessee Valley Authority home page and click on the “Lake Levels” tab and scroll down to “Wolf Creek.” The generation so far this week has been high, reflecting the wet weather, but should settle down into a more predictable pattern when this rainy stretch finally breaks.
Anglers can easily find access points for the Cumberland River. The Lake Cumberland Tailwater entry on the “Find a Place to Fish” page on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ website at fw.ky.gov details these access points.
Anglers will likely need waders to wade the river because of the cold water temperatures, but many hardy souls wet leg the Cumberland for short periods during summer. You do not need fly fishing gear to catch trout. A light-power spinning rod armed with small shad-colored suspending jerkbaits, a few in-line spinners dressed in white or red along with a couple of small silver casting spoons will put trout in hand.
Fish suspending jerkbaits over a rocky or pebble bottom across the current with a strout, erratic retrieve. If this retrieve does not produce strikes, slow way down. After reeling to get the lure down, let the suspending jerkbait float downstream and gently twitch your rod tip occasionally. Trout that ignored your lure earlier often hit this presentation, especially brown trout.
Cast in-line spinners and spoons at a 45-degree angle upstream and simply reel them back, making sure they give off lots of flash. Keep them up off the bottom on the retrieve. These lures score on all four species of trout in the tailwater, but especially draw rainbow trout.
Head to a farm pond at dark or the Cumberland tailwater on a weekend morning to escape this summer’s heat and enjoy bountiful fishing.
Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.