America is blessed with hundreds of great largemouth bass waters. From California to Florida, Minnesota to Louisiana, superb bigmouth fishing can be found almost everywhere.
And while it’s dangerous to label any one spot “the best,” Lake Fork Reservoir 90 miles from Dallas still can lay solid claim to that lofty title.
One recent spring, for example, the $1 million Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament was held on Lake Fork. It was a unique team event format with money generated from the tournament going to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department ($250,000), which has made Lake Fork everything it is today. The $250,000 top tournament prize went to a four-man team headed by noted angler Terry Scroggins of Florida. But more importantly, the numbers and sizes of bass collected by the 160 anglers in the Lake Fork Classic was staggering.
For example, in a pro-am event prior to the main tournament, I fished Lake Fork with noted FLW tournament angler Dan Morehead from Kentucky and amateur angler Ben Maki of Mississippi. I’d fished the reservoir previously, but it had been some years ago, and I wondered if the lake had “aged” or matured over time.
In an easy four hours fishing, our team boated four bass, including an 11-pound, 1-ounce giant caught by Dan, a 9-pound, 5-ouncer by Ben, and a “smallish” 6-pounder by me, plus another 4-pounder by Dan. We claimed second place in the pro-am, but those fish and many others foreshadowed the incredible tournament bass fishing Lake Fork was ready to serve up.
Despite strong winds, rough water, and yo-yoing air temperatures, for three days tournament anglers got a solid taste of Lake Fork’s bass wonders. Scroggins and his crew of anglers tallied 54 bass weighing an astounding 244-pounds, 12-ounces. That’s better than a 4.5 pound per bass average. Yet only slightly better than the 4.1-pound average for the 1,060 largemouths brought to the event scales weighing just over 4,358 pounds.
That’s well over two tons of bass in three days fishing.
Plenty of largemouths weighing over 10-pounds were caught, too, including an 11-2 weighed in by angler John Sappington—-worth a new custom Toyota Tundra truck.
Indeed there seems to be no end to consistently good, giant bass action on the 27,000-acre, 27-year old lake. The top six heavyweight bass recorded in Texas have come from Lake Fork, all of them weighing over 17 pounds, including the lake record of 18.18 pounds, taken in January 1992. That fish, incredibly, was caught by crappie fisherman Barry St. Clair using a minnow in 42 feet of water, and at 25.5-inches in length, it’s the shortest of the top six bass caught from Fork.
Lake Fork looks like every bass angler’s dream. It’s deep (with holes to 70 feet), fertile, and loaded with structure. There are creek channels, with lots of water 20 to 30 feet deep. There are long, tapering points, coves, man-made structures like riprap and bridges, flooded timber, stump flats, and a wide variety of vegetation, including milfoil, hydrilla, lily pads and floating duck weed.
Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists aggressively stocked Fork with Florida strain bass, and still do, to the tune of over 600,000 fingerlings annually over the last decade. Such aggressive stocking, and with a strict slot limit and bass harvest regulations, Fork remains high on any angler’s list of “must fish” bass spots in America.
Bass spawn from the first full moon in February to the last full moon in April. Some of the top areas for pre-spawn and spawning bass on Lake Fork include: Mustang, Big Caney, Williams, Dale and Wolf creeks, and Northwest Bay. Post-spawn bass school around first major breaklines on points near cove mouths. Usually they’ll be found in 10 to 20 feet of water. Beginning in May or June, as weather gets hot, Lake Fork’s largemouths move deep. The key depths for most big summer bass are 20 to 35 feet of water. Night fishing on Lake Fork can be excellent through summer.
Fall fishing on Lake Fork runs October to December, and most bass move back into coves and creeks. Winter fishing from mid-December to mid-February can be good during warm weather trends.
Top places to headquarter include: Lake Fork Marina (phone 903-765-2764; www.lakeforkmarina.com); Fisherman’s Cove Marina (phone 888-818-3675, 903-765-2943; www.fishermanscovelakefork.com); and Axton’s Bass City Marina (phone 877-525-4698; www.axtonsbasscity.co