Lake Fork Fishing Report—Tourney Edition
<p>It's tournament season on Lake Fork, with a big tournament or two every weekend for the coming weeks. The Big Bass Splash this weekend kicks things up a notch with the 3000+ anglers competing for $500,000 in cash and prizes. Next weekend on Saturday the 29th, the Diamond Sports Marine Open big bass tournament pays $10k for first prize and has hourly big bass payout as well (more info at www.DiamondSportsMarine.com ). And the big paydays continue up to the Berkley Big Bass tourney on Oct 20-21, with two bass boats for top prizes and hourly paybacks.
The good news for the tourney crowds is that the shad and tons of keeper sized fish are hitting the shallows of Fork right now. Bass are visibly chasing shad around the lake, especially in areas where the grass has started growing again. Although we are still catching a big fish now and then, it has been more of a quantity than quality deal for the past few weeks. The lake has been turning over for a while now and you can still catch some fish offshore, but the shallow fish are more consistent day-in and day-out.
Considering most of the attention on Fork right now is on tournament fishing, I'll deviate a bit from my normal report and include my September article about tournament fishing on Lake Fork. Good luck to everyone this fall and I hope some of this info helps.
Lake Conditions: Fork dropped a fair amount recently due to the dog days of summer but we are in good position to be near full pool if normal fall rains hit. The lake level is currently 399.38 (about 3' 7" below full pool). Water temps in the main lake are reading 79-83. Much of the lake is still a nasty brown from the turnover but not nearly as bad as it was a week ago. A variety of submerged plants as well as lily pads are showing up in familiar spots, plus taking root in some places where we haven't seen "weeds" for a while.
For more on how to catch those tourney winning fish, here's my September article:
Fork Tournament Fishing in the Fall
By Tom Redington
Fall is tournament season on Lake Fork, with thousands of anglers in big bass tournaments and regional team trail events. Because of the 16" to 24" slot limit that remains in effect for all tournaments, anglers' strategies are a little different on Fork than on most lakes. Since the vast majority of prizes for Fork tournaments are won by anglers with fish under 16", I'll focus on those patterns.
During the fall tournament season (Sep-early Nov), numbers of bass are available in both the shallow and deep sections of Fork. As the water cools, many bass move back into creeks and onto the flats near creek channels chasing shad. At the same time, shallow main lake flats and points hold lots of bass, too. After spending most of the summer fishing deep water structure, the shallow fisherman can consistently catch bass in the fall, so begin your fishing there.
Start your search for productive areas with moving baits, and then switch to soft plastics to catch numbers from those areas. Keeping in mind that you're looking for bass that are 16" and smaller, downsized lures typically work best. Topwaters are a great starting lure, and the smaller sizes of poppers and walking baits like Lucky Craft's Sammy, G-Splash, and Gunfish are very productive. The G-Splash is a popper that works best on calm days, while the walking and spitting Sammys and Gunfish work great when there is more chop. With the G-Splash, you can work it very slowly like a regular popper, or work it fast and it will spit while walking side-to-side. Depending on the mood of the fish, they'll prefer one retrieve over the other. A long rod with a soft tip helps a lot too and I've fallen in love with the fiberglass Champion 704CB Glass model rod from Dobyns Rod. It has a whipping action that launches small topwaters and cranks and the slow action of fiberglass lands a lot more fish that are barely hooked. And stories about how you landed a prize winning fish that was barely hooked sure beat those about how the "big one got away."
After the sun gets up and bass won't commit to surface baits, shallow crankbaits and lipless crankbaits work best. Bass are keying on small shad in autumn, so chrome or shad colors of small lipless crankbaits work all fall long. While the water stays warm, wider wobbling crankbaits like RC 0.5 or BDS 0 and BDS 1 square bill cranks move a lot of water and catch fish. Once water temps cool into the lower 60s, tighter wiggling cranks like the SKT Mini MR will garner more attention. And certainly don't forget spinnerbaits. A ¼ oz spinnerbait with two silver blades and a translucent white skirt fools many bass in the fall, especially on windy banks. Cover water with these baits until you get a couple of bites in an area and locate a school.
Once you've found a few fish in an area, soft plastics will normally produce additional bass from the spot. Your #1 option is a wacky worm. Rig a Hyper Finesse Worm on the weedless wacky weight system from Lake Fork Trophy Lures and cast it to the edge of grass, concentrating on points or along creek channels. If conditions are a little windier, the Hyper Finesse Worms and 4" Hyper Worms work great on a 1/8 oz jighead, fished shaky style. Fish these very slowly around areas where you've picked up fish with the moving baits and you'll be able to seine out more bass. When the bite is off and bass bury up in the cover a little more, or when they're holding just a skosh deeper, a finesse Carolina rig with 12 lb fluoro on a 7'4" Dobyns Extreme DX743 rod, a ¼ oz sinker and a 12" leader can be dynamite. Rig a Fork Baby Creature, Baby Ring Fry, or the Hyper Stick on the hook and you'll be in business. Finally, a 3.5" Live Magic Shad rigged on a weighted 3/0 Ultimate Swimbait Hook will catch neutral bass that are suspended around grass or stumps. I primarily like shades of green for these lures in clearer sections of the lake, with green pumpkin and watermelon shades being consistent producers. In murkier water, June bug, black blue, and black neon does well on Fork.
For a shot at a 24"+ over the slot bass, normally the largest bass are caught very first thing in the morning before the fish become pressured. Try a 10" Fork Worm on a TX or Carolina rig, or a ½ oz MPack Jig with a matching Fork Craw or Hyper Freak trailer early in the morning along creek channels and on main lake points. Many of the biggest fish are caught while finesse fishing for unders though, so the best tactic in my opinion is to target lots of bites. In the fall, big bass are more random and may come on a small worm or crank after catching 5 dinks before it. That's the beauty of Fork—a double digit fish can happen on any cast.
The early fall timeframe can be really hit or miss out deep. The lake normally turns over during this time and the offshore bite is awfully tough for a few weeks. Once the lake settles down, drop shotting Hyper Finesse Worms, Carolina rigging Baby Ring Frys, and smaller Fork Flutter Spoons catch lots of unders and some overs too. With the thermocline gone after turnover, you can catch offshore fish anywhere from 8' to 40'+. In general, the brighter and calmer the day, the deeper you want to search. With the incredible maps and sonar units these days, you're wasting your time fishing unless you mark a good school on your screen. The newer Navionics maps show all the tiny humps and creek bends on Fork and Down Scan and Structure Scan on the Lowrance units clearly pick up fish buried in grass, standing timber and brush piles. Graph around until you find a good school and then go to work on them.
Best of luck to those of you tourney fishing Fork this fall. Here's hoping you catch the lunker of your dreams. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 or e-mail me through http://www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com , where your satisfaction is guaranteed. If you're in the Lake Fork area and need any boat service or want to check out the new line of Ranger boats, stop by www.DiamondSportsMarine.com on Hwy 154 on the East side of Fork, Ranger Boat's #1 dealer for 2011.
About The Author: Captain Tom Redington
Company: Lake Fork Bass Guide Service
Area Reporting: Lake Fork Texas
Bio: My mission is to help you learn the skills to catch lots of big fish on Lake Fork—skills that will also help you catch more and bigger fish on your home lake and any other lakes you fish. In addition, I will focus my efforts on your goals for our trip—whether you want to learn a new technique, find fish for an upcoming tournament, learn the current patterns for a week’s visit to Fork, or just have an enjoyable day with friends, family or a client.