Sometimes you take what Mother Nature gives you
It was a cloudy, rainy, foggy day predicted for Kentucky Lake. We had checked into Moors Resort and Marina after attending the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s annual meeting at Kentucky Dam Village. We had a few days available before the upcoming Crappie USA Classic, also on Kentucky Lake. We decided to enjoy some more of the beautiful scenery and hospitality of the area.
As I sipped my coffee and looked out on the lake from my cabin at Moors Resort and Marina. I was worried about my chances of getting on the water. A front came in overnight, the skies greyed, rain fell, and the wind blew.
The plan was to catch a Kentucky Lake blue cat or two. Veteran Kentucky Lake guide, Don Schnuck, knew where they lived, but worried that the weather would not cooperate.
Late October weather had been mild with relatively light winds right up to launch day. Then Mother Nature decided to offer a change of pace.
Open water ledges would be the targeted fishing grounds. Schnuck had caught blue cats there before and expected them to be there as usual. The other ingredient we needed was a relatively light wind. Kentucky Lake gets plenty choppy when the winds get up.
My thoughts were leaning toward cancellation as rain and drizzle continued to dampen the morning. Fog was developing in pockets across the lake reducing visibility when Schnuck called to say, “We better do it while we can. I think the wind will let us fish the ledges.”
When you are two days from home with a short window to fish you welcome the opportunity, so I agreed and off we went. It was a little bouncy but not bad. We reached Schnuck’s waypoint and immediately marked some fish. Things were looking up.
“We want to drift down the ledges,” instructed Schnuck. “I have caught them up to 40 pounds and more. Once we catch the first one, pay particular attention to the depth. If we catch one at 20 feet deep we want all the bait at that same depth.”
The wind was slowly picking up as we baited a simple hook and sinker rig and started drifting the ledge. Pointing to the sonar, Schnuck described the bottom.
“You can see the top right there,” said Schnuck. “There are some fish on top, but the blues usually bite along the ledge as the water gets deeper.”
We got in about 10 to 15 minutes of fishing before the wind rose to a point that whitecaps were forming and the lake was getting very rough.
“It requires winds of around 18 miles per hour to develop whitecaps,” offered Schnuck. “That’s what we got right now. We better do some bay fishing where we can get out of the wind and be safe. At least we can catch some fish.”
We pulled in the gear and headed for calmer waters.
“We will have to ease over there kinda’ slow,” said Schnuck. “We will follow an old creek bed up into the bay. Otherwise we would be in shallow water with a lot of stumps. They are just under the water and can do some damage.”
Once again pointing to the sonar, Schnuck pointed out the creek bed with shallow water on each side. Seeing that situation first hand, reminded me how important it is for anglers to spend some time learning the geography of the water they are fishing. They should study it for the fishing possibilities, but also for the safety.
“You can’t just run through here,” warned Schnuck. “Newcomers to the lake need to study the lake and make note of hazards like that stump bed.”
A few minutes later, after we reached the bay, he pointed out another unmarked hazard.
“You see that point right there,” said Schnuck. “Follow it out and you will see the rocks sticking up above the surface. That’s not the bad part. Folks can see those. The bad part is that it extends on out there quite a way. That’s the part that gets people in trouble.”
Schnuck navigated straight to a favorite waypoint in the bay. Over the years Schnuck and others have put brush piles out in the lake. He has spots all over the lake that can be fished under different conditions. Our target had changed from catfish to panfish, but he was sure we would catch some fish.
We traded the shorter, stiffer catfish rods for longer more sensitive panfish rods. Gold hooks, a small sinker and live minnows are Schnuck’s tools for targeting the brush piles. He informed me that we might catch anything.
The action was immediate. The first fish to come to the surface was a nice crappie. The fish gave us a good look before managing to escape. Then a couple of black bass snagged the lively minnow offerings I had made. We also caught bluegill and yellow bass. The long, limber poles added fun to every catch.
Even in the bay, the wind had some influence on the boat. Schnuck used it to our advantage. He would ease the Warrior Cat into the wind and up to the brush pile with the trolling motor and drift slowly away. When the bite stopped on one pile he moved on to another.
We continued the pattern of moving from brush pile to brush pile. For our final stop of the day we moved back out into the main lake to a brush pile located near the shore in safe water. It also connected to a small underwater slough. It seemed to be the perfect location. The sonar lit up with fish, but the weather continued to threaten our time on the water.
“There he is,” yelled Schnuck as the first of many yellow bass came to the boat. “Look how thick it is. When they have that real yellow color, they are also nice and thick and good eatin’.
The catching was nonstop before the weather got its way again. We could see the rain coming and the visibility worsening. It was only a matter of time before we would make a run to the marina where we departed at Moors Resort.
“I’m not worried about getting’ back,” declared Schnuck. “I am just worried about the other guy that might coming blowin’ home and not see us. Let’s catch one more.”
We continued to catch one more once; and then one more twice; you get the idea. It was hard to quit. Finally, the drizzle turned to rain and the fog became thicker, encouraging us to skedaddle.
It is always tough to leave an aggressive bite; more so when it’s the weather and not a time constraint. In this case a wise guide who knew what the lake could become with inclement weather made the decision easier. But I have the feeling we could still be there pulling them out, right and left, regardless of conditions.
Don Schnuck owns and operates Big Kahuna’s Fishing Guide Service on Kentucky Lake. He can be reached at 270-559-1366. He fishes from a well-equipped and comfortable riding Warrior Cat boat. His many years of fishing experience has helped put anglers on catfish, white bass, crappie, bluegill, and more. There is nothing he likes better than to take some new friends out and fill up a cooler with fish. He is based out of Moors Resort & Marina. Pick up arrangements can be made if needed. He can also help you with making reservations and advance license pickup, something you don’t want to forget.
I stayed at Moors Resort and Marina on my trip and highly recommend it. It is one of those bucket list kinds of places. They have whatever accommodations you need in 37 cottages, 24 log cabin lodge rooms, and an RV facility. You can even get some great eats on site at Ralph’s Harborview Grill.
If you bring a boat they have a ramp right beside the ships store, full service marina, boat rentals, slip rentals, fuel, bait and tackle. Recreational amenities include a beach, pool, playground, mini-golf, recreation field, and pavilion. All that is topped off with free Wi-Fi, free DVD, and games rentals. We stayed in a cabin with fully equipped kitchen and dining facilities. It was just like being at home, but with a lakefront view.