By Tom Redington
After the lake turns over, October and November are prime season for the deep water structure fisherman on Lake Fork. Additionally, big bass can be caught deep through February, although the bite typically slows by late November. Huge schools of shad group up in deep water and the white bass, yellow bass, and crappie follow them. Being a real sucker for all you can eat buffets, tremendous congregations of bass join the action and happily stuff themselves on the shad, crappie, yellow bass, smaller bass, and anything else they can get in their mouths. Learn how to find and fish for these schools and you’ll add your lures to the list of what the bass are eating this fall.
Step one is the hardest part—finding the bass. Depending on the conditions, I’ve found fall and winter offshore bass as shallow as 12’ and as deep as nearly 50’ on Lake Fork. A trick to figuring out the most productive depth is that I’ll watch my graph for suspended fish off to the sides of points and humps or over open water. Generally, the depth that fish are suspending in open water is the depth you’ll find active fish on top of structure. For example, if fish are suspending about 28’ down in open water, check the tops of humps and points that are about 28’ deep and you’ll likely find schools of active fish. Most bass in summer relate to deep structure with significant depth changes nearby like points, humps, ledges, and creek channel bends. While all of these can hold bass in fall, large flats are also often productive in the main lake and also near creek channels in bigger creeks. Also in contrast to summer, fall schools often assemble in barren areas that are devoid of timber or spots with a few pieces of isolated cover, instead of on structure with heavy cover. Bass are on the move a lot this time of year following bait, so spots that are loaded up one day can be empty the next. Use your graph to check lots of deep spots and don’t start fishing until you either find a large school or locate an area with several large arches (fish) on the screen.
Once you’ve found a good school, catching bass is usually the easy part. For fish located on or near the bottom, Carolina rigs and drop shots are my preferred baits. On the Carolina rig, I’ll rig a 1 oz sinker with 20 lb FluoroHybrid Pro line and a 4’ leader. On the business end, I’ll rig a Lake Fork Baby Ring Fry, Baby Creature or 4” to 5” Hyper Worm. Watermelon, watermelon/red, green pumpkin, and June bug are all great colors to try. Simply drag this under the schools, with long pauses between pulls. For pure numbers of bass, it’s hard to beat the drop shot. A Twitch Worm or Hyper Finesse Worm on a drop shot rigged 12” above a ½ oz sinker with 8 to 12 lb FluoroHybrid Pro line is my standard setup. When the fish are active, a constant twitching of the bait on slack line works best, while simply dead-sticking the bait on a taught line works better as the water cools or when the bite is tough. With this light line and small hook, big fish can present a challenge. To overcome this problem, use a quality spinning reel with a good drag and I like an extra long rod as well. I use the 7’4” Dobyns Extreme spinning rods. It is lightweight and super sensitive, plus the long rod plays out big fish without straining light line or bending light hooks. For open hooks, the DX 742 SF works well, while the DX 743 SF has more hook set power and is better when you’re fishing around brush and need to weedless TX rig your bait on the drop shot.
With the bass primarily eating shad, baits that work up off the bottom for suspended fish and that imitate dying baitfish excel many days. Jigging spoons, crankbaits, tail spinners, swimbaits, and even topwaters catch lots of bass each fall. Fork Flutter Spoons are a great way to catch big fish in the fall, especially in the 5” size. If fish are finicky, the 3” size works better. Other days, the more subtle tail spinners or slab spoons are your best choice. Try multiple baits until you find what the bass prefer. Furthermore, some days these metal baits work best when ripped off the bottom. Other days they work better when drug along the bottom or held in place several feet off the bottom for long periods of time. On the other hand, if the fish are really chasing shad and actively feeding, shad and yellow bass pattern swimbaits and deep diving crankbaits deliver fast action. For the swimbait, try a 3.5” or 4.5” Live Magic Shad on a ½ oz jighead. Cast these out on 15 pound FluoroHybrid Pro line, count them down to the depth of the fish, then swim them back in. Deep divers in shad colors work great too, like the Lucky Craft Flat CB D 20. I really like the new Gun Metal Shad color for clear water, while the new Crack color excels in stained water. Finally, keep a heavy topwater like a big Sammy or Gunfish or a ¾ oz American Shad colored LV500 lipless crankbait handy to cast when bass chase shad to the surface. You need to be able to make long casts and to drop right into the schools, so I use a 7’3” Dobyns Champion 733C casting rod with low memory 15 lb PowerSilk mono to maximize my distance and accuracy.
If you want to learn how to structure fish or if you’re just looking to catch a lot of fish and maybe a lunker, late fall is hard to beat. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 or e-mail me through my website, www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.
Tom Redington is a full time bass guide on Lake Fork & a FLW Tour pro. He is sponsored by Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, & Minn Kota.