Until just a very few short years ago, I could have counted the number of smallmouth that’d I’d caught on fingers and toes. Mine alone! Over the years I had lucked into one here and there, but never targeted the species specifically. About 3 years ago I started fishing Lake Cumberland and discovered what a great smallmouth fishery I had right in my own back yard.
While at work one day, dreaming of being on the water, I decided to plan a trip. One of my co-workers, Wes Day, had just purchased a Bullet 21XRD and I thought I’d ask if he’d like to go on a smallmouth trip to Cumberland. I guess I wasn’t the only one with cabin fever. Three additional co-workers chimed in and said they sure wish they could go too. Without hesitation, like I need a good excuse, I volunteered to take 2 of these three in my boat and Wes volunteered to take the other one in his. We would later use paper, rock and scissors to determine who got in what boat.
We met early Saturday morning, January 19th, to make the 80 mile journey to the Lake Cumberland Dam ramp. The air temperature was in the 30′s, but a 50 degree January day was on the horizon. Excitement about getting on the water in January could hardly be contained. After arriving at the ramp and getting the boats ready to hit the water, someone came up with the great idea of a bragging rights tournament. Biggest fish of the day, and biggest 3 fish limit per person. The winner of each category would receive $5.00 from the rest of the crowd. This basically would work out to free diner for the winners.
As we made our way out of the no wake zone, I fired on the Yamaha and made a short run to the other side of the lake directly across from the dam. I figured I would parallel cast the bank with a crank bait to start the day off. The water temperature was 49.8 degrees. I knew it would only get warmer from there. First cast, the rod loads up and I boat a keeper size largemouth. I’m thinking, this is going to be a good day. The fish measured right at 16 inches. I’ve got 2 to 2.5 pounds and feeling good. Three cast later, Ben Sherman, lands a nice smallmouth that measures 17 inches. Although that’s a good fish, the lake keep limit is 18″, so he had to throw her back. I continue to move the boat down the shoreline and just as I get to the end of long point, the rod loads up and I’ve got keeper #2 on the way to the boat. It’s a giant smallmouth, just what we came after. She measures out at 21.5 inches and looks to be pushing 6 pounds or more. Now I’m really feeling good. Over the next 4 hourse I catch 4 more nice smallmouth, but they are all falling just short of the 18″ mark. At this point I’ve caught smallmouth on a crankbait and a silver buddy, but the quality I need just isn’t there. I need to make a move.
After contemplating my situation, I decided to run to the back of Beaver creek and Otter creek. We had recently received a lot of rain and I was hoping the water would be staind in the backs of these creeks. I felt like if it were staind, I’d be able to jig for a nice largemouth to fill out my 3 fish limit. We get in the back of these creeks, and sure enough it’s staind up. I begin working a jig from bank to bank. The third bank we stopped at, I began working a D&L 1/2 ounce black/blue jig. Just as I lifted the jig and let it set down, I seen the line jump. Without hesitation, I set the hook and boated keeper #3. This time a 18.5 inche smallmouth. My limit is full and I’m feeling pretty good. In fact, if I could cull out this 2 to 2.5 pound largemouth, I may be sitting on 13 or 14 pounds in my 3 fish limit.
I moved back to where I started the day off. Within 5 minutes, the rod is loading up and the fight is on. Another 6 pound smallmouth is in the boat. The problem was, Ben caught it. This wasn’t going to help my culling situation. I continued to fish hard until the end of the day, but I just couldn’t get rid of that largemouth.
We eased back to the ramp area. Time for everyone to show their catches. Ben had big fish for the day and I had the biggest limit caught (the only limit caught). I had to throw that jab in there, sorry. The only thing that makes victory taste sweeter is when someone else is paying for the pie, and that day, someone else bought both mine and Ben’s lunch. We had a lot of fun and caught a good number of smallmouth. The next time you get a warm day in the winter, don’t forget about Lake Cumberland and the great smallmouth fishery that it has to offer.