Some representative samples from recent Fork trips:
The dog days of summer have a firm grip on Lake Fork right now and bass will remain mostly in summertime patterns until the weather changes. Despite low water and a squirrely weather pattern, Fork has more consistently produced double digit fish this year than any time in recent memory. No matter the conditions this year, it seems like you always hear of someone landing a monster. Summer fishing had been excellent on the lake for size and numbers, but things slowed down considerably for me over the past week. The silver lining of Fork is that even though the numbers were off, we still managed to catch at least one fish 7 lbs or bigger most days. Depending on your heat tolerance, the crowds completely disappear by 11 AM each day and you can have the lake to yourself if you don’t mind the hot sun. Alternatively, the night bite has produced some trophy fish in comfortable temps for those who aren’t afraid of the dark (I would caution against hitting any trees with a rod and yelling in celebration of a lunker though, as this normally draws in Bigfoot from what I’ve seen on TV, ha).
September is just around the corner and we consistently catch bass chasing shad in the shallows that month every year, whether the water is hot or cool. Any cool fronts, tropical storms, or rainy days really turn on this bite even in August, so if your deep bite fizzles, disregard the water temp gauge and get after the shallow bass with crankbaits and spinnerbaits or flip any shallow grass and wood.
Until the lake turns over, I’ll be concentrating mostly on offshore structure. Unlike the earlier part of summer when the schools were huge and the fish were more active, you’ll often find smaller pods of bass now and their feeding windows are shorter. However, trust your electronics and you can grind out a few fish when they are inactive, and then get some good flurries when they turn on. Depending on the conditions, bass will be on the bottom, suspended, or on the top schooling, so you’ll have to adjust your presentation accordingly.
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Lake Conditions: Fork continues to drop, but we are still about 2.5’ higher than our drought a couple years ago, with plenty of useable boat ramps. The lake level is currently 397.26’ (5’ 9” below full pool) and water temps are running from the mid-80s to low-90s. Hydrilla and other submerged vegetation is taking root in more areas of the lake all the time, especially on the north end. With little runoff or wind, water clarity is pretty high right now, with the traditional greenish clear water on the south end and more yellow-brown stain up the lake and in creeks.
Location Pattern: Early and late, bass are chasing shad in the shallows, especially around main lake points and humps, or in the creeks that have some grass. Some big bass are 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 18’ to about 30’ 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, lipless cranks, and swimbaits like 4.5” Live Magic Shad boot tails are getting some active fish early and late. Keep these same baits handy if you’re fishing offshore, as bass come up schooling over the deep water, and a quick cast to breaking fish often results in a catch. Unlike shallow topwater fishing, I’m most worried about casting distance when chasing schoolers, so I upsize to a longer rod to be able to reach fish that are way away from my boat. The 7’3” Dobyns Champion or Savvy rod is perfect for me, as it’ll cast way farther than a 6’6” topwater rod, yet it is light enough that I can still walk the dog with baits for a long time and not wear out my wrists. 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. 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.
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 Trick 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 rod and you can still catch them, although the average bass size will run a bit smaller. Soft plastics in shades of green work year-round, like green pumpkin or watermelon/red, but summertime fish also love reds and purples like blue fleck, red bug and plum. Again, change up until you figure out what is working best.
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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