James Henderson Lake Fork Report Late July Early August 2011

First off I would like to apologize for not reporting last month, but as some of you know I have been dealing with some personal issues. I lost my Father a few weeks back after a long and brutal fight with cancer. All prayers for my family have been greatly appreciated and I know he is in a better place and no longer suffering.

Lake Fork fishing is in full swing summer patterns now with plenty of big fish being caught deep and shallow. Pop up showers have kept fish biting well late in the day, and you can catch fish on a lot of different techniques right now.

Lake Conditions:
The lake is currently 4.95 feet low but dropping steadily, with no substantial rain in the forecast other than isolated late thunderstorms it could be a dangerous summer with lots of stumps now showing up near boat lanes. Water surface temps are in the upper 80’s to low 90’s. The vegetation around the lake is sparse for the most part due to the hard freezes from this past winter. Milfoil is the dominant grass with some coontail and hydrilla near main lake. Low water conditions are affecting shoreline floating grass such as lily pads, duck weed, and gator grass. Water clarity is excellent to lightly stained. The thermocline will come into play more as the lake continues to stratify.

Locations:
The early top water bite shallow has been fair near grass around bream beds and on points out to 6ft deep. Main lake pockets and points are areas to key on for top water bites early. Moving out as the day progresses working drop offs, and tree lines.

The deep bite has been the most predictable with fish moving on to points, ridges, and humps above or at the thermocline to feed. The schools of fish will generally suspend over deeper water when not feeding but will move in and out feeding periodically during the day. Electronics are key to finding fish on these structures and even though you don’t catch them at first, it can pay off to hit these locations more than once in a day if there are bait or fish suspended near by.

Presentation/techniques:
Shallow morning bite for me means a big walking bait over points and near drops. Zara Spooks, Sammys or other similar baits, have all been working well from 6 inches deep out to 10 feet. Popper baits are also putting fish in the boat and can produce a lot of numbers at times. Areas where you can see a lot of small bait fish flicking the surface, call for the poppers in shad or clear colors. Another good option in this situation is also a prop bait. Prop baits are not seen by fish on Fork very much anymore and can be real productive. A torpedo in clear or a devils horse still works to catch big fish. If fish are slapping at your baits and not hooking up, try changing the size or color of the bait. You can also try a weightless plastic just below the surface like a wacky worm, fluke or shallow square billed cranks.

Deep structure fishing and crankbaits go hand in hand. The two best ways to cover a piece of structure deep is with a crank or carolina rig. Boat position is critical when casting a big crank because you are only in the strike zone for a short time due to the pendulum effect. You want to make contact with the structure or the cover. Be ready to mark any location where you get bit, by lining up objects on shore or by kicking a buoy in the water as a reference point. On deep structure you will find “spots on spots” that will concentrate fish. You may be fishing a deep point but find a nub off the side or a drain/ditch along the side that are key to getting bit or not at all.
Right now on a lot of days you can find numbers on a lot of deep structures, and sometimes it seems like you can catch them on virtualy every cast. But when things get tough another technique that works well especially for fishing road beds, bridges and ridges is strolling, or trolling. This involves first casting your crank bait and either using your trolling motor or big engine to let all or most of the line out of your reel. You can then either start cranking or trolling, this along with using a thin diameter gets your bait down quick and keeps it in contact with the strike zone for hundreds of feet of the retrieve. The only problem is with other anglers pulling up on to your structure as you troll out of it, and it can be very problematic on Fork. For really deep cranking try DD-22s, Hot Lips, or Fat Free shads. Most of the time crank colors are simple with shad colors working best, during low light situations or overcast skies a darker shade or chartreuse is preferred.
Jigs , spoon, and heavy swim baits are also working around structure when the fish are suspended. Stroking a jig or ripping a swim bait through a school of fish can get your rod yanked out of your hand and trigger a school of fish to feed. Other times you may rip a lure off the bottom and it does not fall quit as far down because a fish sucked it in on slack line and you didn’t feel it. Watch your line always when fishing deep like this because you will usually see your line jump even if you don’t feel it.
Other deep water presentations working well right now are carolina rigs with various soft plastics in shades of green such as watermelon, pumpkin or chartreuse. Texas rigs, football jigs, and shaky heads are also pulling fish worked in the same areas and along the outside weed edges.

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