Kentucky Lake ready to shine again for Bassmaster College Series return

April 10, 2024

Kentucky Lake ready to shine again for Bassmaster College Series return


PARIS, Tenn. — What was once the premier bass fishery in the country is ready to shine once again as the Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops makes its return to Kentucky Lake.

Tristan McCormick, a two-time qualifier for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, believes impressive numbers will be caught.

“The population of bass we have now is incredible,” McCormick said. “I’m seeing big improvements.”

Tournament dates will be April 17-18, with anglers launching from Paris Landing Marina at 6:30 a.m. CT each day and returning for daily weigh-ins at 2:30 p.m. This is the second of three tournaments on the new Legends Trail, and the top 10% of the field will punch their tickets to the 2024 Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops scheduled for Aug. 22-24 on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C.

Once a premier destination on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail, Kentucky Lake has seen its share of struggles throughout the past 10 years, largely due to the influx of Asian carp. But the last two or three years, the bass fishing has improved dramatically thanks to a couple of good spawning cycles — and this event could mark a big reawakening for the lake on the national tournament scene.

“Last year, we had a pretty mild prespawn. The water didn’t jump up and down too much. So, we had a better spawn than we would normally have,” McCormick said.

The last time the Bassmaster Elite Series competed on the giant reservoir in May 2018, Wesley Strader claimed the blue trophy by flipping shallow wood. The last B.A.S.S. event held there was the 2020 Bassmaster High School National Championship, an event won by Tucker Smith and Hayden Marbut with 47 pounds, 5 ounces of mostly smallmouth over three days.

That high school event was the first glimpse at what Kentucky Lake has become, which is a really good smallmouth fishery. So much so that tournaments are being won strictly with brown fish, which would have been unheard of in the fishery’s heyday.

With that said, McCormick believes two different scenarios could play out, and which one prevails depends on the water level.

“It could be the spawn or it could be prespawn,” he said. “It is kind of that in-between. If the water comes up, it will be won on largemouth. If the water is stable, it is going to be a smallmouth deal and they will blow it out of the water.”

At the beginning of April, the Tennessee Valley Authority began the process of filling the lake to summer pool. As of Monday morning, the lake was 2 feet above normal pool.

McCormick said this sets up well for prespawn and spawning smallmouth. Main-river bars, points and pea gravel will be key areas to target. Smallies can be caught on swimbaits and Damiki rigs with forward-facing sonar as well as Carolina rigs, Ned rigs and tubes.

Largemouth will also pull out to some of these areas.

“If they are pulling a lot of current, that is when the prespawn Rat-L-Trap and ChatterBait bite comes into effect,” McCormick said. “All of those bass are staging to go spawn and are all sitting on the main current break.”

The Pickwick Dam tailrace could also factor.

In normal water conditions, prespawn largemouth will also hang around the mouths of the creeks and channel swings in the creeks.

“They will get as close to their spawning areas as they can without being on their spawning area,” McCormick said. “They will roam on the shallow flats in front of the bushes waiting to go up.”

The tournament is being hosted by the Henry County Tourism Authority.

2024 Bassmaster College Series Title Sponsor: Strike King

2024 Bassmaster College Series Presenting Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops

2024 Bassmaster College Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2024 Bassmaster College Series Premier Sponsors: Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2024 Bassmaster College Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Lowrance, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC

2024 Bassmaster College Series Youth Sponsors: Seaguar, Shimano


About B.A.S.S.B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting-edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (, TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.