When anglers arrived at Kentucky Lake for official practice for the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, they discovered a lake that has been dropping since July.
Laydowns, bushes and other cover that has been in the water during the summer time is now well out of the water, leaving some anglers unfamiliar with the area wondering what is left under the surface.
For those unfamiliar with why Kentucky Lake is so low this time of the year, it’s called the fall drawdown, when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) slowly releases water from all of the Tennessee River Lakes in preparation for major rains during the winter and early spring.
The drawdown process normally begins around the end of July on Kentucky Lake and ends around Thanksgiving, Bethel University Bass Fishing head coach Garry Mason said, leaving the lake at winter pool for the majority of the winter into March.
Before becoming the head coach at Bethel, Mason guided on Kentucky Lake for 40 years and has learned how the bass on Kentucky Lake handle the fall drawdown.
“It affects the fish because there isn’t near as much water over top of them in the places they want to be,” Mason said. “These fish, especially largemouth, are on the move this time of year feeding up for the winter. So you will find them where the food source is.”
Mason said during drawdown, largemouth will tend to relate to gravel sandbars and gravel bars on the lake while smallmouth will be relating to long rocky points. Baitfish are the key this time of year.
“Usually our water temperature is a little cooler than it is this year,” he said. “That keeps the fish up closer to the surface. Right now they are feeding and chasing shad and trying to get full for the winter. We should see some big bags of fish weighed in and may even see a lunker or two.”
Finding fish isn’t the only thing anglers need to worry about on Kentucky Lake during the drawdown. Navigating the lake safely also becomes a concern, as many areas that can be navigated during the summer will no longer be navigable.
“The average depth on Kentucky Lake is 8 feet and we have 60 feet of water in the Tennessee River channel,” Mason said. “When you get into some of these secondary creeks during drawdown, you’re in skinny water. You gotta watch where you go. For the most part, those fish aren’t going to be back in that shallow of water anyway. But it does affect them, and it affects the anglers as to where they can go.”