Finally! March is here. T-minus 21 days until the boat is hitting the water for the FLW College Open on Kentucky Lake. This is my first trip south of Minnesota for bass fishing. I’m very excited to fish completely new water as Kentucky is such a big change from what I am used to fishing. However, this is also what scares me the most. It is also why I have been doing a ton of research as of late. Every day, at some point, you can find me hiding behind my computer with 8-12 different tabs up with articles and maps as well as YouTube videos researching the time frames of my time on this famous fishery.
I am looking at a couple of weeks on either side of the time I will be in Kentucky due to the specific warming trend of the particular year. From this research, I take the information that I find useful and copy paste it into a word document. I also make sure to label everything by water temperature and the exact date listed on the article or video. Being the FLW College Open will be in the spring of the year, it is very crucial to pay attention to the water temperature. Knowing the basic range of spawning temperatures for bass is crucial. This way, when you arrive and begin your pre-fishing, you can look at a map and know roughly what depths you should be fishing and what kind of structure the fish are relating to. This won’t be a guaranteed way to catch big fish everywhere you go, but it helps cut the learning curve for a lake and gives you starting points.
Other information I found important was regions of the lake that tend to be a little dirtier or cleaner. This information helps me understand which regions of the lake heat up faster and roughly what temperatures I can expect in each region when I arrive. I can then look at the water temperature variance to estimate which spawning stage I should target in each area. There will most likely be multiple patterns I will fish when I am down there. Some patterns I will not be too familiar with, while others will fish nearly identical to patterns up in the North Country. Finding the right pattern that matches these water temperatures is key.
My plan is to fish my strengths. Flipping plastics and jigs and pulling swimbaits and crankbaits are going to be my go-to when I arrive. I know these baits well and how fish respond to them given different conditions. The first bites are often the most crucial part of pre-fishing. Upon catching a good sized fish, I will take immediate note of exactly where I think that fish came from. I will drive the boat over (when I am done fishing the area) and take note of what is on the bottom and, or I think the fish was relating to. If it is too deep or dirty to make out the bottom visually, I will drive over the spot with my Garmin EchoMap Chirp units and use a combination of sonar, down scan, and side scan technology to draw myself the best picture possible. With this Garmin unit, I can also literally draw my own map given the information the unit receives. This produces my own custom lake map that only I have access to. In my opinion, this is a game changer and can often be the difference between catching a few decent fish, or catching your limit of kicker fish. After you know the ins and outs of why fish are relating to the cover/structure they are and when you find the right bait and presentation to catch them, replicating these circumstances across a body of water is paramount to consistent success not only during the spring period, but the rest of the season as well.