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Why is Lake Fork a Great Place to Catch Trophy Bass?

Texas' Lake Fork is a world-class giant bass factory and one of the best destinations for anglers seeking to mark off a double-digit largemouth from the bucket list

Why is Lake Fork a Great Place to Catch Trophy Bass?
Why is Lake Fork One of the Best Places to Catch Trophy Bass?

If you've read any of my fly fishing columns for big bass at Lake Fork, you might wonder why the East Texas reservoir is so insanely good?

Having started fishing at the Pineywoods' lunker factory back in the early 1990s, I've often wondered about the answer to that very question myself.

After all, Fork is virtually unparalleled in its big bass history, in the bucketmouth-rich Lone Star State at least.

In addition to cranking out the past two Texas' state record largemouth bass (18.18 and 17.67 pounds for those keeping score at home) and more than 250 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ShareLunkers (breeding bass weighing 13 pounds or more), the lake annually produces literally hundreds of double-digit-size bass each and every year.

All of this barely a 100 miles from the sprawling Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, mind you.

Which leads to this thought: Can you imagine the on-camera action that could be captured if and when Major League Fishing ever decides to stage a Select or Cup event at Lake Fork?!?

But I digress since in this space, we're talking about an ongoing record of big bass success for weekend warriors each year, even if it happens to be on one of the most heavily-pressured lakes in America.

So again, I'll pose the question and ask: "Why is Lake Fork so insanely good?"

After getting to know Rob Woodruff, an Orvis endorsed fly fishing-only guide from Quitman, I think I finally hit on the reasons why the 27,264-acre water body is the king of Texas bass fishing.

Because it was originally built with big bass in mind.

"Before it actually opened, we would come fish at nearby Lake Quitman," said Woodruff of Fork, a reservoir he started fishing not long after it was impounded in 1980.

"And every time we crossed where they were building the lake, I remember thinking how high the bridges were, how deep the lake would be, how varied the terrain was, how obvious the breaklines were and how much timber was being left in the lake.


"It didn't look anything like the other lakes I had seen being built in East Texas where they were hauling timber out and leaving bare dirt behind for a sterile looking lake bed.

"It was obvious that wasn't going to be the case at Lake Fork."

You know, kind of like the old line in the movie Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner said: "If you build it, they will come."

Or in this case, if you build it right and leave behind a forest of trees, big bass will likely grow as a result.

Woodruff's observations were spot on for the lake created and managed by the Sabine River Authority. In addition to leaving most of the lake-bed timber intact, the SRA also cooperated with TPWD to pre-stock Florida-strain largemouths into ponds, lakes and creeks that would be inundated when the lake filled.

Add in very fertile water and the stage was set for Fork's amazing ride.

Along with a veritable underwater garden of vegetation – biologists indicate hydrilla, Eurasian milfoil, coontail, American lotus, water primrose, water hyacinth, alligatorweed, and pennywort are all present – the finishing touches of restrictive bag limits, slot limits and a near 100-percent catch-and-release ethic among the lake's bass anglers have helped to fine tune the reservoir's recipe for a bass fishing heaven.

Does that recipe for big bass work?

You bet it does as a trip past any of Fork's various boat ramps in the spring will prove.

And that's true even if an angler shows up at the East Texas lunker factory with a fly rod in his or her hands.

Because contrary to what many of the conventional tackle guides and bass anglers on Fork might believe, Woodruff and others aren’t handicapped by targeting big bass on fly tackle.

In fact, every year Woodruff – a two-time finalist for the Orvis Guide of the Year award – and his clients prove otherwise with multiple catches of big bass weighing 7, 8, 9, and occasionally 10 pounds or more.

Woodruff's biggest bucketmouth to date is an 11-pound, 12-ounce specimen that bit his red/silver/gray-color Lake Fork Leech pattern back in March 2002.

"I knew it was big right from the get-go," said the guide. "When I first saw it, I thought it might be pushing ShareLunker status.

Editor's Note: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's annual ShareLunker program accepts egg-laden springtime female bass weighing 13 pounds or better for hatchery spawning purposes.

"As it turned out, it was one or two big shad or bluegills away from being one."

That fish wasn't a one-time aberration either. Woodruff – who has guided on the lake since the early 1990s – has caught several more double-digit Fork bass on his fly rods over the years.

And that includes three more bass in the 11-pound range; four that were just over 10 pounds and a good number more in the 8- to 9-pound range.

His clients also have fared well, catching fish up to 10 pounds, 3 ounces while losing several more in that class.

And that's not counting the dozens of 5-, 6-, 7-, 8- and occasionally 9-pound fish that they land with Woodruff each year.

Neither does it count the behemoth that one of Woodruff's customers lost while fishing a Lake Fork Leech pattern several springs ago.

In fact, that bass might have eclipsed the Texas state record largemouth bass caught on the fly, a 14.14-pound fish caught in 2000.

"I honestly think it was in the 14-pound range or even higher," said Woodruff. "I had a real good look at that fish, it had jumped a time or two and we had fought it a long time.

"Almost at the end of the fight, my client had it running parallel to the boat and suddenly, the loop connector just came off."

Given the girth of Fork's huge bass, such things will occasionally happen to a fly angler targeting the reservoir's piscatorial riches.

But that doesn't keep Woodruff or his clients from looking for the next double-digit lunker bass that they can successfully hook, fight and land on the fly.

Because thanks to an East Texas reservoir that was built with such mega bass in mind, such a possibility is always lurking around the next corner.

And one day, that stressed loop connector is going to hold as a fly rod bass big enough to make somebody famous gets caught.

A bucketmouth bass that will trumpet to the world that Lake Fork was, is and likely will remain for some time to come the undisputed king of Lone Star State bass fishing.

Even when an angler has a graphite fly rod in their hand.

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