Lake Fork – The Devil You Don’t

| June 1, 2011

Now, the first thing any “competitor” would think about doing is gathering their information to make a single decision, for a kayak fisher, a single decision, on where to fish the tournament the next day. I already knew Rob Woodruff had zeroed in at least three boat fishers in the previous three days of guided fishing, and was glad, on multiple levels, I wasn’t on a bass boat. The conventional wisdom for kayak fishing on Lake Fork, was to stick to the coves, get in deep where bass boats can’t go, and hit the stumps. Reports from Texas Parks and Wildlife seemed most practical, stating the bass were coming off the beds, virtually done spawning, and eating in deeper water.

The wisdom of the moment would put us in a nearby cove, just a hop-skip-and-jump from the public boat ramp just off 515 on the west side of the lake. Run north around the bridge, and dip into the cove where “there always seems to be plenty of fish” sounded like as in the moment, and prescient as any information could possibly be. Experience always encourages me to consider a couple of factors related to experienced, in the moment information. One, is someone trying to distribute locations to keep from sending all contestants to the same cove, and 2) how good, how fresh is the information, and finally, I had to consider he fishes on a boat, and his time / distance perspective, related to manpowered kayaks, could be off. We had to be in to the weigh-in, in our case photograph presentation – by 2-pm.

Conventional wisdom, from the tried and true grapevine, always murmured … “Caney Creek, Little Caney and No Name,” were all locations I had heard before.

A decision like where to fish a kayak fishing tournament, when running with a partner, demands consultation. It seemed practical to have Austin make the call. His grandfather could wave us off if he knew something from his years of experience on Lake Fork.

The next decisions were pretty simple. I knew the tent camping was out, although during good weather, I would definitely pitch a tent on the grounds at Lake Fork Marina. A room would provide protection on a night like this. Then, since civilization was all around, it was time for local cuisine. AJ’s was recommended, and their parking lot was full when I passed by earlier – a huge parking lot, and a deceptively large tin building restaurant. All you can eat, fried everything, cobblers a la’ mode. Great food, for those living the lucky life of low cholesterol.

By the time I got back to the registration tent to meet Austin, the rain was full on, lighting and wind were also now on Fork’s plate. Prefishing anything, anywhere, went down the drain. We showed Austin the nearby cove and he was convinced it held the shelter we would need for tomorrow. So, it was going to be all the marbles, all the chips, all in for the cove.

We paddled out from the public boat ramp just before sunrise, around and under the bridge, and toward the cove. Austin’s Grandfather would be fishing off his boat, so we just knew somebody would have a story or two to tell. The previous night washed away all conventional wisdom – lightning, rain and wind came through, and the morning looked threatening, and was absolutely choppy.

The cove, like the rest of the lake, had that “look.” It’s a look that says and smells bass. And still, the entire lake is four feet low, so shave a lot of surface right off the top of the entire lake and a cove like this has a significantly reduced fishable surface area. We were there early enough to start on the surface and go deeper as the fish pulled back for the day. The only problem, we weren’t seeing any surface action at all.

We fished it top down, with no luck at all. The cove was good for protection, but for whatever reason, the legendary Lake Fork largemouth bass weren’t where we were. I did hook one, on the drop (the fly was dropping after being cast), and with the poor hookset that comes with a drop, all he had to do is jump once and do the freshwater tarpon headshake, and I was looking at a black clouser flying straight back at my head.

The ride out of the cove was treacherous, with waves now pushing a foot. We made for the bridge which still protected us, but Austin couldn’t make the turn into the wind so we had to come back and pick him up on some private property that he beached his Diablo on.

As we watched the tournament results come in, the kayak fishers had it tough, real tough. The boat competitors fared much better, and I was thoroughly entertained by the beautiful specimens of largemouth coming in for the weigh in. Out of the seven kayak competitors, only three registered fish.


Once again weather impacted the World Championship Bass on The Fly fishing Tournament on Lake Fork last Saturday, May 21st. Friday afternoon heavy rain blew across East Texas followed by a sever thunderstorm that evening. This prompted several folks to call and cancel their plans to participate.

However, seven kayakers and 26 boaters found the conditions much better Saturday morning until the wind picked up around 11 am. And the fish were biting …. for some folks.

In the Non-boater (Kayak) division, Randy Calley from Sepulpa, OK photographed three fish for a total length of 46.5″ to win $168 for first place. He also had two more fish in the 20-23 inch range which he failed to photograph. Bruce Burton from Okmulgee, OK place second with one 16″ fish winning $84.

In the Boater division, Johnny Walker and Cheryl Farrell, from Ft. Worth, had five fish weighing 7lb-6oz for first place, winning $500! Benton and B.C. Fowler (the birthday boy who was 74 years young), from Garland, had five fish that weighed 7lb-2oz for second place, winning $280. Third place went to Dewayne White & Ron Olsen, from Flower Mound, with four fish that weighed 4lb-13oz, paying $156.

The Big Bass in the Boater division was 2lb-10oz caught by Benton Fowler and paid $90. Second place, was Lance Rogers, $40. In the Non-boater division Calley had the big fish and Burton was second. The Big Sun Fish was caught by Diane Blair from Dallas and paid $56. Second place was Cody Bell, $24.

The Sage Largemouth rod for early entries was won by the venerable Richard Blair from Dallas.

The club trophy was won by the Dallas Fly Fishers but the North Louisiana, Ft. Worth, and Oklahoma folks said that won’t happen again!

The Casting Distance with a bass bug contest was once again won by Cody Bell who received a TFO 7/8 weight outfit. The
Casting Accuracy with a bass bug was a tie between Diane Blair and Benson Fowler which required a cast off. Diane claims she won but donated the TFO 5 weight rod to Benton.

Several teams reported catching 16-24″ slot fish including the six pounder pictured below caught by Justin Rackley. Justin’s dad, Calvin, bought him a new fly rod and this was his first time to fly fish for bass. Although Justin has caught a lot of big bass on Lake Fork, he said “this was the most exciting way to catch bass I’ve ever experienced”. That’s saying something since Justin was on the National Championship Texas A&M college bass fishing team.

Everyone received a goody bag with a Skeeter tee shirt, a Buff, a hat and a bass fly. There were numerous drawing prizes which were donated by Redington rods, Rio lines, Mariner-Sails, TFO reels, Professional Sales RV, Lake Fork Marina, Umpqua flies, Teton reels, Oakley sunglasses, Ranger boats, Sage rods, Tailwaters fly shop, and Brothers flies.

Approximately 10 folks participated in the free fly casting clinics and the anglers received a fishing update from Lake Fork guide James Caldemeyer Friday evening.

It was unanimous that we have the tournament again next year around the same time (check for updates). Thanks to all our sponsors, volunteers, and participants.

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Category: Arkansas Report, Culture on the Skids, Eating and Drinking, Fish Kill, Gulf Coast Report, Literature

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