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Ohio River Fishing TipsimageRead navigation & fishing tips on each pool in the Ohio River, down to the mile marker

The river’s settled down. Things are getting back to normal. That means a solid, early morning June topwater bite. Most experienced river anglers carry these three baits with them as they launch in the early morning light.

1. A small, quarter-ounce popper

This is the first choice of nearly every angler. You can work it slow and easy, or fast and furious. Most anglers start slow and then work their way up until they’re splashing water everywhere trying to imitate a fleeing shad.

Throw it on monofilament or braided line. Avoid fluorocarbon. It’ll pull the nose of your popper down and ruin its action.

Color is largely a matter of personal preference. The most common choices are natural shad hues and solid black.

2. A standard size Zara Spook

No lure on the planet has caught more big bass than a spook. Walk it back to the boat. Change speeds and stop it occasionally only if a slow and steady retrieve isn’t working.

Color doesn’t matter so long as the belly is white with a touch of blue. It’s a rare situation in the Ohio River when a bass can see the back of the lure.

Don’t expect a lot of bites on a spook. It’s not a quantity fish bait. It’s a quality fish bait. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to spool-up with braid.

3. A buzzbait

There are squeakers and there are clackers. Some anglers swear by one and curse the other. Maybe it matters; maybe it doesn’t. Make your own choice.

The important thing here is to fish your buzzbait back in the heaviest, thickest stuff you can find. Always use braid, nothing else will handle the abuse.

This is a reaction bait. Color is not a very important consideration. That said, nearly every successful buzzbait anglers throws white, white and chartreuse or black. Most go with a single blade.

Fish any of these lures around creek mouths, cuts, backwater areas and anywhere you can find an inflow into the main river. And never think the water’s too shallow to hold a bass. It isn’t.


This is part three of a 3-part series on spring fishing hot spots for crappie. Read Part 1, catching crappies in Cabin Creek and Part 2, catching crappies in the Carrollton KY area.

The McAlpine Locks and Dam is at mile 606.8. That’s right in the heart of Louisville and right in the heart of some really good crappie fishing. The best fishing extends from a short mile upstream to a long mile downstream from the main dam. Catches of 100 fish a day, or more in some cases, are common from late March through the first part of May.

There really aren’t one or two good spots to highlight here. It’s a patchwork of swirling water around scores of rock piles, humps, old dam structures, drift piles and manmade structure in the area. Launch your boat at one of the public or private ramps in the area and look for a fishy spot. Then go to work.

Traditional fishing methods produce best if you want to catch high numbers of fillet size fish. A small minnow, hung under a bobber and held down with a tiny split shot is about all it takes. Toss it out and let it drift with the current around the area you have chosen to fish.

If you’re willing to settle for a handful of bigger crappies try small jigs, twister tails or tiny in-line spinners. They all catch the bigger fish. Bright, shad imitating colors seem to work best. The area is snag infested so take along several and fish with heavy line if you plan to fish all day.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, however, keep in mind that these are river fish. They behave differently than their reservoir brethren. Forget that important fact and you’ll likely go home empty handed.

First, and perhaps most importantly, they don’t school by size. In fact, they really don’t school at all. They’ll bunch up in certain places at certain times but it’s misnomer to call that grouping a school. They’re more accurately described as individual fish holding in a favorable place under favorable conditions.

As such, it’s likely that you’ll catch a couple of good ones from a spot and then the size will go to heck or the bite will drop off completely. When that happens move to another spot and come back later. The bite is likely to be better if you let the spot rest for a few minutes.

Why they do this, remains a mystery known only to the fish. Maybe they turn off or maybe they move in and out, plenty of anglers will argue either side. Whatever the reason, a short rest is often an effective stringer filling strategy.

Second, they won’t often be found in deep water. They hold shallow — many times in water less than 6 inches deep — and generally don’t move regardless of changes in the weather. When the bite gets tough it’s not because they have moved, it’s because they aren’t biting.

A word of caution is in order here. This is a place of swift and unforgiving currents. They change direction and intensity on a moments notice. They can be deadly. Don’t fish in this area if you are an inexperienced river boater, remain vigilant at all times and never — not for any reason — remove your life jacket.


This is part two of a 3-part series on spring fishing hot spots for crappie. Read Part 1, catching crappies in Cabin Creek.

The mouth of the Kentucky River is at mile 545.8. This relatively small tributary, immediately below Carrollton, is a great, early spring crappie fishery. The traditional late March and early April rains wash trees and bushes into its waters. Much of it collects along the bank.

The trees and brush attract bugs and insects as they decay. They, in turn, attract small minnows and baitfish. The crappies aren’t far behind. And so, if you want to catch Kentucky River crappies, fish the trees and the brush along the bank. Fishing this stuff isn’t difficult but it does take some experience and the right attitude.

First, not all trees and bushes are created equal. The newer ones, with a little greenery on them, are by far the best. The theory is that the decaying greenery attracts bugs and insects which in turn attract small baitfish. The small baitfish then attract the larger predator fish such as crappies. Whether that’s right or wrong is arguable. What isn’t arguable is that crappies hide under them.

At times the crappies seem to prefer the outside bends where the water is deeper. But on other days the shallow, inside bends produce best. There’s no rhyme or reason to this so fish both until you find where they’re hiding the day you can go fishing.

Regardless of where it’s located, however, the best way to fish the greenery is with minnows — the smaller the better. Most anglers fish them under a small, quill style float. They toss the rig into the treetop’s thickest parts and let the minnow swim around. Others like to tight-line their offerings. Either way, the strategy is the same; get your bait into the thickest part of the tree you can and keep it there for as long as you can.

But getting them to bite is only half the battle. After that, you’ve got to figure a way to get them out of that tangled mess and into your boat. Heavy line will help some. The water’s dark and dingy most of the time so heavy line won’t affect your bite. This is also a good place for some of the newer fluorocarbons.

Light, thin-wire hooks are another option. If the fish does get hung you can often pull the hook out with moderate sized line. True you’ll loose the fish but at least you’ll still have your rig.

No matter how you fish or with what take along a bag of hooks, a half-ton of split shots and plenty of line and bobbers. You’ll need them before the day is over.