Kentucky Lake is not far from Chicago

Kentucky Lake is not far from Chicago
Rich and Don

What I normally say at the end of my TV Show, Illinois Outdoors,  is that “Great Fishing is not that far away.”  It’s become a trademark for what I do.

Chicago and northern Illinois is the home of many people, many outdoorsmen and women.  And I’ve learned over the years that it is the Chicago Market that many fishing destinations would like to draw from.  And with so many being an easy drive in any direction you point to, great fishing really is not that far away.

That truly is the case with fishing Kentucky Lake.  I live in the south suburbs of Chicago and not all that far from I-57.   Getting down to Kentucky Lake, according to my GPS is 5 and a half hours, door to door.

Understand that Kentucky Lake is a big body of water and extends from the north end of the state to the south end and into Tennessee.  So to get to the south part of the lake may take a bit longer.

Last month, Roger Wright and I fished the north end of Kentucky Lake.  We stayed at the Kentucky Dam Village Resort which is located at the northwest end of the lake.  The resort offers great accommodations within the Kentucky Dam State Park and is only a hop, skip and jump from the Illinois/Kentucky border by taking I-57 to I-24.

Okay, it was mentioned that the lake is big.  Well it’s actually over 160,300 acres big.  It’s a man-made reservoir constructed for producing hydroelectric power and is considered to be the largest artificial lake by surface area in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It’s the third largest in the state.  Kentucky Lake is not the largest by volume though; Lake Cumberland holds that distinction.  That’s probably because Cumberland’s maximum depth is almost 200 feet.

Last week we got to fish with Randy Kuhens and Rich Bay of Kickin’ Bass Guide Service.  These are a couple of knowledgeable guides who know the lake like the backs of their hands.  Our trip was for the lack of better works, fantastic.  Randy normally guides out of a brand new Ranger bass boat, but for our trip, we used a beautiful pontoon.

The water was warm and had a surface temperature of 82 degrees.  Bass fishing would be slow so Randy felt it would be bet to go for stripers and crappies.

Well, the white bass or stripers were not cooperating in that a cold front moved in the night before.  Yellow bass for some reason were hungry, very hungry.  So were the big bull bluegills.  We got a bunch of them throwing blade baits.  The catching was pretty constant and fun with our light spinning gear.  I talked with Randy the week after our trip and the stripers got back into the groove.  They had several good catches of white bass the week after our trip. Well, I guess I have to go back.

For a change of pace from catching yellows, that afternoon we switched gears and trolled crankbaits for crappies.  Neither Roger nor I have ever done that before so we was all for it.  We always appreciate learning a new technique on the water.

Now I’ll be honest with you here.  I was concerned when we were setting up crankbaits the size of which I’d normally cast for bass.  But when in Rome… do as the Romans do.  We used big crankbaits and they worked.   By the end of the day the live well held plenty of 12 to 14 inch crappies that came home with us for the dinner table.

Randy and Rich of Kickin’ Bass Guide Service are on the water several days a week guiding clients for bass, stripers and more.  As Randy says, “If it swims, we’ll fish for it.”

Kentucky Lake is a great fishing and vacationing destination.  I must say that if you’re planning on a week of fishing down there and are not familiar with the lake, hire a guide within your first two days of arrival.  Have a guide show you where to fish, how to fish and what to use.  Learn up front and enjoy the rest of your week on the water catching fish on your own being armed with the education that a guide can give you.

For families and younger kids, fishing from the pontoon is great.  There’s a lot of room, it’s comfortable and the safety aspect of it all is obvious.  Randy’s pontoon is handicap accessible and had taken many anglers with disabilities on the lake for a day of fun fishing. For the more experienced anglers, fishing from Randy’s bass boat is not only efficient for moving around this big body of water, but also thrilling.

For more information about the Kentucky Parks, visit their website at   We stayed at the Kentucky Dam Village which offers really nice rooms at the lodge and spacious cabins within the park, a pool, great restaurant, the Harbor Lights, and more.  Visit their site at And finally, to learn more about Kickin’ Bass Guide Service, visit their site at

You’re at the end of my column for this month so here it comes.  With the northern end of Kentucky Lake being only about five and a half hours south of Chicagoland, that means that, “Great fishing is not that far away.”

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