Lake Fork Feb. 25, 2010 Guide Tom Redington

Despite a bitterly cold winter, the bass are hanging out in their typical prespawn locations. Many are even in the very backs of creeks in 2’ of 42 to 48 degree muddy water. As soon as we get a significant warming trend the bite will become consistent and bass will start bedding. In the meantime, the bite has been very slow to fair at best most days.

The cold temps have been especially hard on the relatively fragile threadfin shad and there have been a number of significant shad kills. That’s a windfall for the bass, and they’re getting a lot of easy meals as a result. The good news is that the bass we’re catching are downright obese and full of shad. The bad news is that food is so readily available that they aren’t having to work very hard to eat and that makes it tough to catch them on lures. As opposed to normal when I favor areas where I’m seeing shad in the water, lately we haven’t been able to get bit in areas where there’s a lot of bait. Basically, if you’re seeing a number of shad struggling in the area, we’re normally not getting bit in those spots.

As the lake warms, we’re going to have a very good spring this year. The extra flooded shallow cover and the very well fed bass will make for a very productive spawn and a lot of heavy fish. In the meantime, plug away in key areas and you’ll eventually connect with some big ones. My report is large unchanged from my last one and will remain that way until the spawns gets going in March.
Lake Conditions: The lake is full and more stained than normal, plus cooler than normal. The lake level is currently 403.01’, right at full pool. The water clarity is clearer on the south end, getting more stained as you head up the lake, and quite muddy in some creeks up north. Water temps are reading 45 to 47 in the main lake, while 51 was the warmest we found in the creeks yesterday.
Location Pattern: From late-December through much of March, I concentrate on the early prespawn and staging fish on points and along edges of flats or creek channels. Areas with submerged vegetation (primarily hydrilla, milfoil, or coontail) for cover will typically have the most active fish. While about any grassy area will hold a few fish, start your search in areas that have lots of spawning fish in late February through March. It stands to reason that the coves that hold the most spawning fish in early spring will have the most prespawn fish in the winter. I’ve found fish in grass anywhere from the very backs of creeks to main lake flats, with about 2/3 the way back in creeks being most productive lately.

As I say each spring, bear in mind that the absolute water temperature is not nearly as important now as the recent water temperature trend. For instance, water temps that are showing 52 degrees can result in slow fishing if the temps were 58 a couple days ago. In contrast, fishing can be great if the temps warm up to 50 while they were 44 a few days before. In general, look for bass on the flats and farther back in creeks during warming trends; conversely, drop back to points and main lake grassbeds after cold fronts. Finally, the day of and the day after cold fronts can be absolutely miserable to fish, but these frontal days after a long warming trend are usually the most productive times to fish.

Presentation Pattern: A few simple lures produce big bass each winter from grasslines and creek channels. First and foremost are lipless crankbaits in ½ or ¾ oz, like the Lucky Craft LV500 and LVR D-7. Red and crawfish colors are most popular and they often work well, although oddball colors often produce better on any given day. Buzzing these over the top of the grass on a quick retrieve is normally best, but after cold fronts, letting the bait fall and ripping these out of the grass will trigger most of the bites. Lipless cranks are notorious for losing fish, so I’ve gone to the 8’ Dobyns 804CB cranking rod. You can whip baits a country mile and it is so well balanced that it feels like having a little 6’6” rod in your hands. The 804CB has plenty of backbone to rip baits free from grass, yet a soft tip to let the bass eat the bait deeply and to keep them on. And a long rod moves a lot of line and keeps steady pressure on fish, resulting in more landed lunkers. If you’re out at the lake, run by Lake Fork Tackle’s pro shop in Emory and check it out for yourself. ½ oz Redemption spinnerbaits with tandem or double willow blades with white or chartreuse and white skirts will produce some really large bass in the same areas that the lipless cranks work, especially on windy and cloudy days. For a true giant, try swimming a 4.5” Live Magic Shad on the back of a ½ oz Phenix Vibrator Jig and fish it in the same areas you’d throw a spinnerbait. With the spinnerbait, mono like 28 lb PowerSilk line works best, while 30 to 50 lb braided line works better with the lipless cranks and vibrating jigs to help rip them through the grass.

When the bite slows or the conditions are sunny and calm, I’ll switch to a suspending jerkbait or pitch a jig and a Texas rig. Lucky Craft’s model 100SP Pointers in gold or chrome patterns are my traditional choices, although the new Gunmetal Shad & Phantom Chartreuse Shad are my new favorites. Work these with long pauses over the grass and along the edges. A long rod with a forgiving tip helps land big fish that just slap at these baits, so I throw them on a Dobyns 705CB cranking rod. Match it with 12 to 17 lb Fluorohybrid Pro, a new line that is as clear and sensitive as fluorocarbon, yet as smooth and easy handling as mono. For jigs, I go with the new ½ oz black and blue MPack jig from Lake Fork Trophy Lures and pair it with a matching Fork Craw or Hyper Freak trailer in the blue bruiser color. For the Texas rig, I’ll pitch a Lake Fork Flipper or Hyper Freak in black neon or blue bruiser with a 3/8 oz Mega Weight. Work your jig or Texas rig very slowly along creek channels or through deep grass for a great shot at a lunker.

Cover lots of water until you get bit. Once you catch one, work the area over thoroughly with multiple passes, employing several different baits. Fish tend to stack up in key staging areas during the winter and these spots will replenish themselves with more fish during the prespawn as more and more big bass move shallow. Find some good staging spots and you’ll have a milk run of honey holes now through March.

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.

Good Fishing,
Tom Redington

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