Lake Fork Prespawn 2010 Guide Stephen Fatherree

March is almost here and these Lake Fork bass are well set into their pre-spawn pattern. There are days in February and March where one fish after another can be caught in one spot. The bass can be very predictable and often times quite easy to catch. With a few tips, you’ll be sure to have the right combination of lure and location for your early spring fishing trip. This is the time of year that not only huge fish are caught, but also anglers will find that where you find one bass, you find many.

The cool nights, short days, and chilly rainfall all contribute to lake temperature staying in the mid 40 to 50 degree range until warmer March weather arrives. Currently the water temperature is 45-50 degrees around most of the lake with warmer water being found in the backs of creeks and along banks that are protected from winters harsh north wind. The water clarity is currently stained to muddy. For a few days following a rainfall you can expect to find dirtier water in the back of long creeks and small main lake pockets.

There are three main patterns that I will focus on over the next few weeks. I concentrate my effort on the upper ½ of the lake and fish water anywhere from 5-25 ft deep. One thing in common with these bass is they prefer some type of quick access to deeper water. On a 5 ft deep flat, that change may only need to be 1 or 2 feet and come in the form of a creek channel or small depression. While in deeper water the fish usually prefer at least 10 foot of deeper water within a couple hundred yards or so. This allows the fish to quickly move to warmer water in a short distance and also not have to travel very far to feed on the shallower structure and begin spawning. In shallow water I will look for grass or timber covered flats with access to some depth change, and on deeper structure such as submerged humps, bridges, and ponds, I will look for the sharpest drop in that area. As a general rule, the shallow water bite is best after two to three days of unseasonably warm sunny days, while the deep bite is usually best from late morning to early afternoon when the sun is at its highest.

Many anglers think that just because the water is cold, most fish stay deep. Well that is definitely not true due to the fact that there are many resident fish that prefer shallow water and will stay there for most of their lives. On Lake Fork this is especially true considering the abundance of cover available in shallow water. One of the best baits day after day is a red rattle trap. I prefer a red or red with an orange belly trap in the ¼ to ½ oz size. Occasionally I will upgrade to a ¾ oz when fishing 5-10 foot deep, or on a very windy day where you need the extra weight to get that cast out there. When fishing this bait a long cast is very important. You want to cover as much water as possible with each cast to increase your chances of getting bit. I recommend using a rod that is at least 7 ft in length and has a medium action to prevent the fish from pulling out the hooks during the fight. I will throw the ¼ bait on 14lb fluorocarbon line and have a rod rigged with 17lb fluorocarbon for my ½ and ¾ oz traps. I will focus throwing this trap in the back ½ of creeks on the bank that has the most protection from a north wind. Areas with grass, timber, and creek nearby are always most productive. Sometimes the fish prefer you burn the bait back as fast as possible, while others a slow retrieve is best. Make sure that regardless of which retrieve you use, whenever your trap contacts grass you rip the bait out which often times will trigger a fish to bite. Also be aware that when you hook a fish that he or she was there for a reason, and many times fish will stack up very tight in that sweet spot. Make multiple casts to and around that area and visit it throughout the day to take advantage of your trip.

The second pattern that exists on Lake Fork in late February and early March is deep water structure fishing. I will focus on submerged humps, bridges, and creek channels in 15-25ft of water on the lower ½ of the lake. Pay careful attention to your electronics as they will tell you when your boat passes over that bridge, or where the sharpest drop on a hump lies. I will always throw a marker buoy overboard before fishing a spot as a reference to where the structure lies. Now its time to start fishing. My favorite baits for this deep water fishing are a brown 3/4oz football jig and a 1/2oz silver spoon. After locating an area to fish I will fan cast the area with jig. Let the jig settle to the bottom and slowly drag and hop the bait back to the boat. I cannot emphasize the importance of working the bait slowly. Most every bite you will get on the jig will be while it is sitting dead still on the bottom. I will sometimes pause the bait for up to 30 seconds and never move the bait more than a few inches at a time. When a fish bites you may feel one subtle thump in your line or you may just pick up on the bait and feel mushy pressure. Regardless of which one, set the hook, hard and fast. Don’t give any bass much time to swim off with the bait because they will not hold on long. For this technique I will use a 7-7 1/2 foot medium heavy rod and no less that 20lb fluorocarbon line. This is strictly a big fish technique and it is important to have the proper equipment. If I am unable to get a bite on my football jig, then I will work the same area with the spoon. Spoon fishing is easy and can often be the most productive for numbers of pre-spawn fish. I will let my spoon fall directly under the boat on slack line. Once on bottom, lift and jerk the spoon off the bottom repeatedly, letting it fall straight back down. This is another technique where you need to let the fish tell you how they want it presented. Sometimes they want the spoon hopped just a few inches off the bottom, while some days a sharp jerk of 1-3 feet is preferred. Always make sure you let the bait fall on slack line back to the bottom after your jerks, and as soon as the bait contacts bottom, lift again. Most bites will come right before the spoon contacts bottom. Instead of your line going slack, you will feel a distinct thump. And considering you will be repeatedly jerking the bait up, you will most days accidentally set the hook on them. This is a great way for kids to fish too because a hard fast hookset is not always necessary. Keep in mind that if you are catching small yellow bass on your spoon you are probably not far from largemouth. Many times a client will be reeling in a barfish and catch a giant bass that was after him. For the spoon I prefer a 6’6 medium heavy line and 14-17lb monofiliment line.

Between a shallow water rattle trap bite, and a deep structure bite, any angler should be able to make the most out of their early pre-spawn fishing trip here at Lake Fork. These techniques will stay productive until mid March when the bass have spawning on their minds. Here is a list of the baits you can expect to see on the deck of my boat throughout the early pre-spawn season.

-1/4 and ½ oz red trap
-1/2 and 3/4oz brown and black football jig
-3/8oz black and blue jig
-red craw bandit 200 series crankbait

I still have many days available this spring that I am looking to book soon. Make sure you check out my new Military Discount Pricing for all active, reserve, and retired United States Military.

I hope this report is helpful to all Lake Fork fishing fans!

-Stephen Fatherree


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