Lake Fork is cranking out great big fish as regularly as any time in recent memory. Just like any lake, you’ll have your share of slow postfrontal days on Fork, but even on a tough day, some lucky anglers pop a double digit fish. And on the good days, we’ve seen true monsters, including several 13s, a 14, 15, and 16 pounder this season. A busy tourney schedule, sponsor obligations, and an additional TV show (“Belize Outdoors” which will air 13 original episodes on WFN starting in May/new episodes of “Big Bass Battle” and “Crappie Time” start this month on Sportsman Channel) have cut into my guide trips on Fork this year, but with the lunker bonanza, you can bet I get on the lake every day that I can.
The spawn is in full gear at Fork right now and I’d estimate approximately 1/3 of the fish have already spawned, with a major wave of fish moving up all around the lake this week. Unlike the nearly cold front free spring of last year, we’re having a more normal season and the spawners should keep showing up in waves into early May. Backs of big creeks spawn first, then deeper pockets nearer the mouths of coves, with fish on flats on the main lake or mouths of pockets bringing up the rear. Each creek and pocket has its own characteristics, so one bay can be full of actively spawning fish, while its next door neighbor might be bedless. If you’re not getting bit this time of year, keep moving until you find them. With prespawn, spawning, and postspawn fish all available, there are biting fish to be had on any given day if you crack the code.
For fish pics and regular updates from Fork and the trail, follow along at www.facebook.com/tomredingtonfishing and http://twitter.com/Tom_Redington . For more fishing info, you can check out my spring jig fishing article: http://lakeforkguidetrips.com/fishingarticles/feb2013.htm and my article on showing spring bass a new look with soft plastic swimbait/jerkbait hybrids: http://lakeforkguidetrips.com/fishingarticles/april2013.htm
Lake Conditions: A few recent rains did little to raise the lake level, although they added some color to the creeks. The lake level is currently 398.71’ (about 4’ 3” below full pool). Water temps did a big boomerang over the past 2 weeks, going from the mid-60s to lower 50s and rebounding to around 60 now, plus or minus depending on your location. There is a bit of grass on the lake, mostly on the northern ends, and most of it is in extremely shallow water. The backs of some creeks are muddy, but most of the lake is about normal, becoming more stained as you head up the lake.
Location Pattern: For prespawn and postspawn fish that are staging on their way in and back out, key on points and creek channels near spawning flats. With little grass in the lake this year, bass are relating to the timber so make sure you are casting tight to the stumps. During warming trends, follow bass back into the creeks and check the edges of flats and creek channels. After the fronts, drop back to deeper water adjacent to where the fish were before the front and you’ll quickly relocate them. For spawning fish, look for protected bays in the back half of creeks. As the water continues to warm and we move through April, bass will start spawning nearer the mouths of creeks and in deeper creeks. The main lake flats are typically the last areas to spawn, often as late as early-May.
Presentation Pattern: The biggest spring trend on Fork for the past 2 seasons is “Bubba” versions of finesse rigs. Drop shots and shaky heads are normally thought of as limit fillers and dink catchers, but slightly heavier duty styles of both rigs have consistently hammered big bass on Fork. Instead of 8 lb line and a spinning rod, I start with 15 lb fluoro on a baitcaster, matched with a 7’4” Dobyns Extreme DX743C rod. A long rod with lots of tip like this will throw small baits a mile, definitely a key when dealing with wary lunkers in the shallows. Furthermore, bass around spawn time often don’t eat baits well; rather, fish often nip at lures and let go quickly to run rivals and predators out of their bedding areas. A super sensitive rod like the Dobyns Extreme helps detect subtle bites before the fish drop the bait. Ever wonder why your buddy is catching fish and you can’t, even though you both are throwing the exact same bait? Might be as simple as you’re not feeling the bites you’re getting.
As far as the setups, a 3/16 or ¼ oz shaky head jig with a stout hook or a drop shot with a 1/0-3/0 offset worm hook and a 6 to 12 inch leader to a ¼ oz sinker are my normal rigs. You can play with all sorts of colors if you like, yet shades of watermelon or green pumpkin tend to work consistently on about any lake in the country, including Fork. If bass are aggressive, a Hyper Stick’s wiggling tail will produce on either rig. When the fish get fussy, downsize to a trick worm, Baby Ring Fry, or a Hyper Finesse Worm and you’ll get more bites. Cast around each and every piece of shallow wood you see, as well as the gaps in between them. A good rule of thumb is if you’re fishing it so slowly that you can hardly stand it, you’re probably still fishing way too fast. Around spawning areas, the guy fishing the slowest in the boat normally catches the most this time of year.
If you drank 5 cups of coffee and can’t stand sitting still, chase after the prespawn and postspawn bass with spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs, and lipless crankbaits, especially on overcast and windy days. A great search tool is a lipless crankbaits like the Lucky Craft LV RTO. Red and crawfish colors are most popular and they often work well, although oddball colors often produce better on any given day. ½ oz spinnerbaits with tandem or double willow blades with white or chartreuse and white skirts will produce some nice bass in the same areas that the lipless cranks work, as will shallow running crankbaits like Lucky Craft LC 2.5 or BDS4 square bills. For big bass, try swimming a 4.5” Live Magic Shad on the back of a 3/8 oz bladed jig and fish it in the same areas you’d throw a spinnerbait. White or white/chartreuse bladed jigs with Sun Perch or Albino Shad Live Magic Shads work well. And for a real prespawn monster, pitching heavy cover along the first breakline and creek channels with a jig or TX rig is the way to go. I go with a 3/8 oz MPack Jig in black and blue or green pumpkin with a Lake Fork Craw or Hyper Freak trailer in matching colors. For the Texas rig, I’ll pitch a Lake Fork Flipper or Craw Tube in black neon, Bama Bug or watermelon/red with a 1/8 to 3/8 oz bullet weight and slowly work it around cover.
Here’s hoping you catch the lunker of your dreams. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at email@example.com or get more info on my websitehttp://www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com. 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 bywww.DiamondSportsMarine.com on Hwy 154 on the East side of Fork, Ranger Boat’s #1 dealer for 2011.