Jacobson Park Lake, Lexington, KY

September 24, 2012: Jacobson has been added to the FINS program! I’m looking forward to trout fishing in town this winter!

August 2011

I’ve written some bad things about Jacobson, but there really are some big fish there.

I went fishing on the Kearney side last Sunday.  Throwing a shakey-tail tube minnow, carolina rigged, I jigged across the bottom. on the third throw, the line took off. It was a BIG fish, peeling line off the drag while I reeled hard. Three minutes later, after two hard runs, I finally saw a big, stout carp surface, flop, and take off again.  After five full minutes of fighting, and four serious runs, I got him up to the shore. As I stepped toward him, he flopped and snapped the line.

It was 8 lb test braided fireline, tied with a palomar knot.  He snapped it, lifted not even a third out of the water.  I guestimate 20 inches length, girth like a football, probably 15 pounds of fish.   This falls into the top ten of fish fights I’ve had, and he was THE most determined freshwater fish I’ve ever wrestled.

Folks have been leaving comments about bass caught early morning in the 3-5 pound range in Jacobson Lake.  My opinion has shifted–it is a challenging lake to fish, but there are definitely some big fish there.

April 12, 2009

Jacobson Park Lake, Lexington, KY

by John Kirkland

In writing about the small water of Central Kentucky, I try not to be judgmental. Jacobson Park, for many living in Lexington, is the only (apparent) public fishing available in town.  Lots and lots of people fish this small impoundment.  I try not to judge, but in reality, this lake is a mudhole.  Over-fished, over-silted, trash-filled, and just generally slimey, Jacobson Lake offers poor fishing, and lots of it.

It is our only public lake, though (for the time being).  On a warm Easter Sunday afternoon, I headed out, with at least a thousand others, to the park to throw a line.  There was a surprising amount of action, and I had to label the day “not bad”, especially given that it was in town, and just after a long, cold winter.

At the far eastern side of the lake is the entrance to Camp Kearney, a city-run day camp that occupies the back portion of Jacobson Park.  When camp is not in session , the public can access the shoreline bounded by the camp on one side, and Lakeside Public Golf course on the other.  There is a gravel and shot-rock causeway that extends from Kearney to the golf course. This forms a small four or five acre pond fed by a chain of lakes and ponds that runs through Andover Golf Course (now there is some excellent urban fishing—if you know someone living there nice enough to let you fish in their back yard.  More about that in another column).  Though polluted by golf courses (don’t ever eat anything out of here!), this pond offers consistent fishing with less trash in the water.

On that April day, standing on the causeway, I was casting a chartreuse roostertail just past a mat of weeds, near a small floating dock.  Repeatedly, I hooked and landed small largemouth bass, 10 inches and under.  Usually, one is lucky to catch a couple of stunted bluegill or an eight inch channel cat at Jacobson.  This turned out to be a pretty good trip, throwing a spinner on light tackle, and wrestling a half-dozen little bass.

I never expect big things out of Jacobson, so it is nice when there is at least a bit of a feeding frenzy going on there.  Not to mention, 65 and sunny is very nice in April.


I would come back a month later to test out my new sit on top kayak.  The kayak worked great, and even though a stiff wind challenged any movement around the lake, I was able to cross the half-mile with little trouble.  Fishing was very slow that day, but this trip was only a test of the boat.  I caught one fair black crappie, “trolling” a crankbait as the wind pushed me across the lake.

Jacobson Park Lake is located at Jacobson Park, off Richmond Road, on the east side of Lexington.  Park hours vary with the seasons, but there is a fishing jetty accessible at the entrance of Lakeside Golf Course, and I haven’t noticed any posted hours there (night fishing for catfish may be possible).  About two thirds of the lake is shore-accessible. The lake across Richmond Road is a private lake—the security there will eject trespassers.

UPDATE: May 14th, 2011

I hit Jacobson on a rainy afternoon, thinking that if the weather got too bad, I’d just head home without being too far away.  After quickly losing a roostertail to debris on the Camp Kearny side of the lake, I switched to a creek chub in a sunfish pattern, and managed to land a scrappy, fat little largemouth, about 10 inches.  After talking to some others about their lures and strategies, I switched to a weedless spinner rig with a fat black grub on it, and soon after caught a  half decent 12 inch largemouth. This is the largest fish I’ve personally seen come out of Jacobson, though I know there are bigger ones there.

The weedless rig made all the difference.

Largemouth Caught in Jacobson Park Lake


51 thoughts on “Jacobson Park Lake, Lexington, KY”

  1. Went out before sunrise along the eastern shore north from the playground. About 6:45, caught one nice little 11″ bass who put up a nice fight for his size. Caught him on a blue/black Mini-Whacker single-blade spinner. That’s my first fish from Jacobson Park.

  2. We were fishing down by jacobson lake right off of Squires Road, there are no signs posted but we were stopped by a police officer and told to leave! No explanation and the boys I babysit were confused as to why. The police officer was very rude to us, we have been fishing there since the summer and never had a problem. Has anyone else had a problem there???

    1. That spot is actually private property (I’ve checked in to it before). I’ve seen signs posted there over the years, but they disappear pretty quickly. It would be nice if they opened it to the public–there aren’t enough spots in Fayette County as it is.

  3. Seems like being added to the FINS program has brought out even more fishermen to Jacobson. When I’ve been able to find someplace to fish I’ve caught several trout on the Richmond Road end and some small to mid sized channels. Haven’t done much with the bass this summer here.

  4. Just got back from Jacobson before the storms hit. I was catching small minnows near the shore on the Levi with a net, and throwing them about 15 feet out under a float. I caught two sunfish hybrids, and two catfish, with one of the catfish being about 18 inches long! I would add pictures but I don’t know how to add them on this forum

    1. Bass management is supposed to be part of the program, as well. I think they currently stock fingerling bass each year, already (I’ve caught enough of those there to believe that…) FINS generally reduces the creel limits and and increases the size requirements for keeping bass. One bass with a minimum of 15 inches is what I’ve seen at the other FINS lakes, If I remember correctly. If they can police the lake properly, that might help enforce that policy, which should help. There have always been a lot of people who go out there and keep every fish, regardless of size or species; that behavior seriously damages populations.

      When the water company owned the lake, nobody cared about the fishing quality (obviously). Now that the city owns the lake and the park, and FINS is involved, there should be SOME kind of informed and interested party watching what happens there. Time will tell…

  5. I used to be a member of the fishing club across from Jacobson Park and I can tell you there are some really nice bass there as well as there are carp as well. I hooked a big carp on a crank bait one time that pulled my little boat around like it was nothing. I do not know what it weighed but it was heavy enough that it broke 10 lb test when I tried to lift it by the line. I have caught a number of bass over 5 lb actual measured weight from there.

  6. I went to Jacobson this afternoon with a small white grub on a spinner, and pitched it to laydowns and patches of weeds. The pumpkinseed were TEARING IT APART. Literally! They ripped up at least three of the grubs. I also caught one small 1 foot bass, too.

    1. I’ve used chartreuse spinners there successfully in the past. Also, black or dark worms rigged weedless and fished on the bottom have picked up the occasional largemouth. Really, though, colors depend on wind/weather/condition of the water more than location, in my experience. If one thing isn’t working, try something different. No easy answer, unfortunately.

    1. If the water is warm enough, the crappie should still be hitting anything that looks like a minnow. As the temperature cools, you’ll need to slow down the presentation, and find a way to go deeper, without snagging the debris on the bottom. A live minnow works best for crappie–this is hard to come by in Lexington, though.

      You could catch your own, but that will require (for Jacobson) buying a small minnow trap (about $10 at Wal-mart), baiting it with a ball of bread, tying a line to it, then trowing it in deep enough water for minnows to find. Then you wait–maybe several hours, maybe overnight. You could do this at one of the less obvious corners of the lake, tie the line to a root, and come back later. Then you need a small bucket for the minnows. When you have a minnow, use a single, dark-colored, small-ish hook, through the tail, the lips, or top of the back. You’ll need a slip-type float, and will need to use a bobber stop to reduce frustration. Once rigged, drop the minnow in deep water near structure (tree stick-up, dock), and just let it swim a bit. If nothing bites in a few minutes, move to the next spot.

      When Crappie are active, this is the preferred method. In the winter, though, most fish around here become mostly dormant, and don’t readily eat. Trout and smallmouth are big exceptions, and crappie stay active later into the winter and earlier in the spring than many species. In the winter, though, deep water is best, and Jacobson is pretty shallow overall.

      For more information, you might Google “fishing a minnow under a bobber”, “catching minnows using a trap”, and “winter panfishing in the south”. Good Luck!

  7. Just came back kayak fishing in Jacobson. Went to my “secret spot”, and hooked onto a giant! After about 30 seconds of fighting this, it came rushing toward my kayak, and went underneath it and got off!!!! I gues it’s the “one that got away” haha. I definitly will be going back to that spot next time!! I was using a fire tiger rattlin’ rapala on 15 mono.

    1. For the roostertail, in Jacobson, I would cast away from known brush and weeds, reeling in fairly fast. This should keep it out of the weeds, and may draw a strike. Same goes with the firetiger. There is a lot of debris in Jacobson (as you may have figured out), and spinners tend to hang up on the bottom there.

      The rapala is a bit different. I would work along the shoreline, casting out into open water, until you feel like you have really good control over casting. After the lure hits the water, let it float to the surface, then jerk it slightly and reel it in gently, a few feet at a time, letting it drift back toward the surface between movements. This will keep it higher in the water, and out of most of the weeds and brush. When you feel confident about casting accurately, you can try casting it closer to logs and stick-ups (lots of those around Kearney and on the levee by the golf course). The strikes will come when swimming the bait past a structure, or more frequently, “on the drop”, as soon as it hits the water. It will take some work at Jacobson, as those fish have seen everything, but they will still hit reflexively on occasion.

      Don’t be surprised if you get hung up and end up losing a lure or two. It is hard to fish effectively without losing a few lures. Just consider it the cost of pursuing that big one that will peel line off your reel one day. Good luck!

  8. Ok- I’ll reveal my secret spot to you all. By the wood playground, there are some trees and lots of shade. If you cast at a 60 dergree angle into the wind, with a flashy bait, you can catch bass up to 2-3 pounds. Still, I prefer using small-medium sized hard baits. 🙂 Don’t use plastics here: I’ve never gotten hits.

  9. I just tried out the spot. It was great. I saw alot of fish jumping, and I caught a small catfish. Also, one fisherman who was fish near me caught a bass. Thanks!

  10. Thanks for the spot, I know exactly where you mean. I just bought some nightcrawlers and a roostertail, and I’m going out Saturday morning, I hope I can catch something!

  11. I went to Jacobdon early at 6:00. I caught 3 bass on a chartreuase roostertail from Worden’s. Also caught 4 crappie with Spoiler Shad by Creme Lures(walmart- 1.59$ for 4). Now, here comes the funny part. For fun, I started using the original Rapala floater and let it dive a couple inches. I pulled it in slowly and BAM- a 5 pounder hits this thing. (Well, when I weighed it it was 5lb, 2 oz). Let it go, but 2 casts after this I catch a fair 3 pounder. Wow…

    1. WOW- I’ve never heard of a five pounder coming out of Jacobson. I have heard some jumps and splashes that sounded bigger like that before, but never heard anyone catching one that size there. My biggest bass ever, about 15 years ago, was out of the golf course lake in Andover that feeds into Jacobson (6 lbs, 24 inches). Congratulations, and thanks for the updates!

  12. Thanks for the tips! I went at around 8 am
    This morning, and found a perfect spot. I
    Snagged a decent smallmouth, and many
    Bites but I couldn’t land them. Thank you
    So much!!!

  13. I like to fish at Jacobson park, and it’s really
    Close to my house, but I have trouble catching
    Anything. Any tips such as bait, or spots to
    Fish in?

    1. There are some nice-sized fish in Jacobson, and there are also lots of bluegill (some bigger, most smaller). Persistence is the key when using artificial lures there, and placement is important when using live bait or artificial lures.
      The easiest way to catch a few fish would be to use either red worms (like what you find under a rock in the back yard) or nightcrawlers from the store. Use a small hook, and a small piece of worm (just enough to create a little ball of bait at the bend in the hook). Then either use a bobber, set about 10 inches above the hook, or use one small weight and fish the bottom. You will hang up more frequently on the bottom, but the fish tend to be better there, in my experience.
      Where to fish depends on several factors–time of day, how hot it is outside, angle of the sun. This summer, I would try to go either early in the morning or later in the day (after 6pm). Find a location where there is some shade on the water. Drop your bait 5-10 feet off the shore line (you’re looking for 2-3 feet of water), in the shade.
      If you want to try to catch bass, artificial lures will work best at Jacobson. Understand that it may take a while (1-2 hours) casting to hook a bass there. Carolina rigged plastic worms will help you not hang up on the bottom (google “carolina rigged worms” for an explanation), fished at a medium speed, jerking the line slightly as you reel. A roostertail-type spinner, in chartreuse (neon green) color works well anytime of year, but you will want to reel fairly fast and keep it only a few inches under the surface.
      Good luck–Jacobson has a lot of people fishing there, which can make the fish “smart’, but you can catch them if you keep at it.

  14. i used a charteuse and an orange worden’s roostertail last week. i caught two largemouths that were around 3 pounds. later, i caught a HUGE 5-6 pound largemouth. my bud was using a spoiler shad (by creme lures) and the white crappie were drilling this thing.

    tight lines

  15. Any news of smallmouth bass in Jacobson Park? I’ve heard that there are supposedly some in there, and I would like to know if anyone landed any.

    1. I have not heard about smallmouth there. It is shallow and muddy, which isn’t really good for smallies. The lake across the road (Ellerslie), however, is stocked with a wide variety of fish (smallmouth, walleye, hybrid stipers, etc). It is private and well patrolled, but there is a drain pipe between the two. It is possible that all kinds of fish might cross back and forth, so who knows…

  16. I got the newfangled “Live Target Frog” (hollow body in 2-5/8″) for Fathers day and after reading about several retrieval techniques I decided to go to Jacobson to practice. I was not expecting to catch anything because, as you have noted, you are lucky to catch a bass of any significant size and this is a HUGE frog bait. However, after getting a rhythm down in open water I decided to throw around the stumps near the headwater culverts. Hooked up with a surprisingly nice bass in the 12-15″ range just at dusk that escaped capture at the bank.

    I highly recommend that you check out this frog, it’s very soft and have enjoyed a very positive bite to hook-up ratio so far compared to the SPRO and Scum Frog. The larger sized Target Frog is a big-bass bait. Of the 6 fish I’ve landed with it, none have been below keeper size; the largest was an 18″ 3.25 pounder in a private pond in Richmond.

  17. I caught a good number of fish at Jacobson yesterday (6). I caught some good bluegill, one crappie, and a largemouth. What sucks is that I almost caught a catfish, but it got off.

  18. My children like to fish at Jacobson Park Lake. Granted it’s very local to us, about 10 minutes away, but it normally yields some bluegill and sunfish whenever we fish it.

    In addition to those species we have also pulled a few small channel catfish and a largemouth bass (on a spinner), all from the bankside and mostly just on a nightcrawler on a short line from a float.

    Jacobson Park Lake is a very popular venue, not only for fishing but for picnics, boating and general usage for a park so pick and choose your fishing times … and areas … to suit!

  19. fishing at jacobs park is ok for what i have fish there. Its not like it use to be years ago maybe 7 years ago fishing use to be great there. I wish that they would stock the lake like they use to do. But its good just to get out of the house and enjoy the wildlife.

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