Some representative samples from the past few days on Fork:
After tons of big fish spread out all over the shallows on Lake Fork during the spawn (resulting in a number of 13, 14, 15, and 16 pounders being caught), many of the lunkers are now grouping up in large schools on offshore structure. Whereas you might find bass on just about any piece of shoreline cover a month ago, now you can fish or graph large sections of the lake and not find a bass. Once you find a school though, man oooohhhhhhhhh man, it can boggle the mind with the number of good fish on one key piece of structure.
Finding these key honey holes takes some time scouting, but the payoff is worth it. Key structural spots often hold fish all summer long, and typically year after year if the water level and conditions are similar. With the water levels being down this year, bass are using some different areas, making it the perfect opportunity to find unpressured fish all for yourself. Most anglers think of deep water as the home of summertime bass, but channel swings in bigger creek arms hold lots of fish even in the dog days. In addition, shallow points on the main lake or in bigger creeks with deep water nearby are great structure spots too, especially early, late, and during the night.
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Lake Conditions: We’ve been getting regular rain showers, enough to keep the grass green, but not enough to raise the lake level. The lake level is currently 398.50’ (4’ 6” below full pool). Water temps were getting above 90 on the hot sunny days, but yesterday the surface temp was closer to 84 with the rain. Hydrilla is growing out to 5’ in a few places on the lake, but it is still not widespread. The water clarity is about normal on the lake right now, with most areas clear to stained.
Location Pattern: Early and late and when it is cloudy/windy/rainy, you can still find bass feeding on points and flats near or in the main lake. Some big bass are still on the banks but you can find schools of big fish offshore, so I spend most of my time off the banks on structure. Deep structure like points, humps, creek bends, and roadbeds in 8’ to 20’ are best on the cloudy days, while I look more in 20’ to about 33’ on brighter and calmer days. Bass suspend over many deep structure spots, but finding places where they are on the bottom usually results in better catches. Most of these schools are relating to a few pieces of isolated cover, so watch your depth finder closely or you’ll bypass the mother lode. This is where Lowrance’s DownScan really shines, allowing you to easily see schools of bass in thick timber that are very hard to decipher with traditional sonar.
Presentation Pattern: Topwaters like Sammys and Magic Poppers and swimbaits like 4.5” Live Magic Shad boot tails are getting some active fish early and late. As the sun gets brighter, you can often catch a few more on a TX rigged 8 or 10” Fork worm in the same areas.
On offshore structure like humps and points, deep diving cranks and Fork Flutter Spoons will catch suspended fish while Carolina and TX rigs will get the bottom dwellers. The key is to first locate fish on your graph, then let their position dictate your lure selection. Lots of bass suspend during the summer and super deep cranks like Lucky Craft’s Flat CB D20 are very effective, with Sexy Chartreuse Shad and Chartreuse Light Blue being my favorite colors. Fork Flutter Spoons will trigger a lot of these same fish too as they slowly wobble down through the schools like a dying shad. Try both aggressive rips and small hops with the spoon to determine the mood of the bass. A 7’8” Dobyns Extreme DX784C rod with 20 lb fluorocarbon line handles the heavy spoons very well and keeps those leaping lunkers hooked up.
When bass group up on the bottom, they are easier to catch. Carolina and Texas rigs are the most popular choice. I’ll try a variety of baits on both rigs and let the bass tell me how much or how little action they want. Hyper Worms, Fork Worms, Fork Creatures, Hyper Lizards, & Hyper Freaks have a lot of action and trigger big aggressive fish. If the bass are more finicky, straight tail baits like Hyper Finesse Worms, Hyper Sticks, and Twitch Worms are normally more productive. The most productive bait seems to change daily, so experiment until you find what they want. Many of the bites are light, so a super sensitive Dobyns Extreme DX744C handles the regular rigs, while the 7’4” Mag Heavy DX745C handles big worms and football jigs better. If the bass won’t respond to those offerings, switch to a Hyper Finesse Worm on a drop shot with 10 lb fluorocarbon line and a Dobyns Extreme DX702SF spinning rod and you can still catch them, although the average bass size will run a bit smaller. In the more stained water, June bug, plum and blue fleck have been good, while the various shades of watermelon and green pumpkin have worked best in the clearer water.
Here’s hoping you catch the lunker of your dreams. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at [email protected]
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