A couple nice jigging spoon bass that my 6 year old caught with me over Thanksgiving break:
A couple big fish from a recent trip to south Texas to film upcoming episodes of “Big Bass Battle”
Happy Holidays to everyone. Thanks to all of my friends, family, sponsors, and customers for a very rewarding 2011 season and I hope everyone has a year of great catches in the coming year. In 2012, I’ll be fishing as a pro in the FLW Tour for my 4th season as well as guiding for my 8th year on Fork. Once again, 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.
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 low water and a very mild fall, bass will be very consolidated and we should have another very good prespawn bite, just like we did this past winter. Meanwhile, big bass will continue to be caught from deep water as well, often with a lucky crappie fisherman catching a 13 pounder or bigger each winter. 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, new episodes of “Big Bass Battle” will start airing on NBC Sports (formerly Versus, and part of everyone’s basic cable starting on Jan 1) and WFN (World Fishing Network). I’ll be a frequent host and participant on the show and we have some good action for the coming season on lunker lakes like Fork and Falcon. It has been a lot of fun to film and I hope everyone enjoys watching it. Check your local listings for air times.
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 2011 Ranger Z521 boat is for sale. It was new on 5/24/2011 and is very gently used. 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: 2011 Ranger Z521
Lake Conditions: A few sizeable rains have stopped Fork’s level from dropping and they are a welcome relief after this summer’s drought. The lake level is currently 395.64’ (about 7’ 4” below full pool), 4’ lower than it was at this time last year. Despite the low water, most of the public ramps are still open and in good shape. Water temps have dropped quickly now in the late fall, with main lake readings of upper 40s to low 50s, depending on the day and location. The lake definitely is more stained this year than in years past, as there is hardly any grass left in the lake right now.
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 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. While about any flat 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 points and flats near the mouths of these coves hold a lot of fish this time of year, as do 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 for me each winter. First and foremost are lipless crankbaits in ½ or ¾ oz. Every year it seems like a new lipless crank with a different action or sound that the fish aren’t used to outproduces all the old favorites. This year, Lucky Craft came out with LV RTO in 150 (2.5”) and 250 (3”) sizes. Takahiro Omori designed these with a wide flat head to give it a wide wobbling action, plus a shimmying fall that triggers bass when paused. Red and crawfish colors are most popular and they often work well, although oddball colors often produce better on any given day. Buzzing lipless baits quickly often works well, but after cold fronts, letting the bait fall and ripping them off the bottom triggers more 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 chatterbait 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.
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. For jigs, I go with the 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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