A few representative samples of solid fall fish we’ve been catching, including a nice 8 lb 15 oz pig that Western Coast ace Gary Dobyns caught. The last fish is a fat 8 lb 2 oz prespawn female that I caught on Monticello.
Happy Holidays to everyone. Thanks to all of my friends, family, sponsors, and customers for a very rewarding 2010 season and I hope everyone has a year of great catches in the coming year. In 2011, I’ll be fishing as a pro in the FLW Tour for my 3rd season as well as guiding for my 7th year on Fork. I learned a lot by competing at the top level of bass fishing this season, and I look forward to making good use of that information on the tourney trail and guiding this year.
Heading into the New Year, the early stages of prespawn are ready to get underway in some areas of Lake Fork. Considering I’ve seen some bass on beds as early as Feb 10th in years past, spring on Lake Fork is truly just around the corner. With a warmer and drier forecast for this winter, it should be a lot more consistent season than the bitterly cold and extremely wet winter we had last year. Meanwhile, lunker bass continue to be caught from deep water as well, including two fish that were just shy of 13 lbs in the past couple of weeks. With big prespawn bass smoking jigs, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, and lipless crankbaits now through March, this is my favorite time of the year on Fork. Numbers run lower this time of year; however, the average size of your catch is at its highest for the year, usually in the 3.5 to 5 lb range, with a good shot at bass 7 lbs or greater. It’s also the time of year that more 10s, 11s, 12s, 13s, and bigger are caught. Best of all, you’ll have the lake mostly to yourself, especially on the cold and nasty days when the lunkers bite the best!
Starting in January, I’ll be a frequent participant and host of “The Big Bass Batttle” on Versus. The show will also run on WFN (World Fishing Network), as well as on Time Warner cable in the Dallas area. The show features 4 anglers on the same lake fishing at the same time, all trying to catch the one largest bass that day. With bragging rights on the line, guys use their very best tactics to catch them and there should be a lot of good instructional material in the show in additions to big fish catches. I’ve recently filmed shows at Fork along with some other lakes in TX, MS, and LA. It has been a lot of fun to film and I hope everyone enjoys watching it.
January Special: Book a 2-day guide trip for January and I’ll add an extra half day trip for free. Book a 3-day or longer guide trip for January and I’ll add an extra full day trip for free. In addition, I worked with the most popular resort on Lake Fork to secure special hotel pricing as well.
Boat for Sale: My 2010 Ranger Z521 boat is for sale. It is a demo boat through my dealer and you’d be titled as the first owner. She’s value priced to save you big bucks off the cost of a new boat. For more details and pics of the boat, please check my website (www.lakeforkguidetrips.com
) or drop me a note. Here’s a video: Ranger z521
Lake Conditions: Fork’s water level continues to slowly drop, as it has all fall. The lake level is currently 399.62’ (about 3’ 5” below full pool) and a ton of stumps are now visible. The boat lanes are still safe to run in general, but definitely exercise caution when heading out of the clear-cut areas. Regular passages of cold fronts finally cooled the water after it was running pretty warm earlier in the fall, and you’ll find temps from the upper 40s to lower 50s, depending on your location and the day. The main lake is the normal greenish clear color, except on the north ends where it is more stained. Some of the creeks are stained, but those with grass are pretty clear.
Location Pattern: Many big bass are schooled up in deep water right now and it’s a great time for spoon fishermen. With the colder temps, offshore structure in 23’ to 36’ have some very large schools this time of year, so keep searching with your graph until you find them. You can find these deep fish into early Feb each year.
If you’re like me though, 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 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. Main lake grass beds near the mouths of these coves hold a lot of fish this time of year, as do main and secondary points inside the coves—provided there is deep water nearby. During warming trends, follow bass back into the creeks and onto the flats. After cold fronts, they’ll typically drop back just a little bit to adjacent points and creek channels. .
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. 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. 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. I’ll rig both the spinnerbait and vibrating jig on a 7’ 3” Dobyns 734C rod so I can cast them a mile to cover water, yet still have enough power to bring big fish under control. With the spinnerbait, mono like 28 lb PowerSilk line works best, while 30 to 50 lb braided line works better with the vibrating jig to help get it 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 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 704CB 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. On cold winter days, the reduced memory of FHP really makes jerkbait fishing a lot easier. 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
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