Big bass in Texas

The fifth stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series brought us to Lake Fork, Texas this past weekend. It is the fourth year in a row that we have visited the reservoir located in the north- east part of the state, one of the most well-known big bass lakes in the United States.

Fork is not a big lake, by far the smallest that we visit for our tournaments and it receives an incredible amount of fishing pressure but it kicks out more big bass than anywhere I have ever been. It can be frustrating to fish because our field of 92 anglers is sharing a lot of water, then there are dozens of guides on the lake every day, local anglers as well as visitors to the lake who are out there fishing. If you find a good spot, there is a good chance other anglers are going to be fishing it as well.

Part of the reason that the fishing remains so good on the lake is because of a 16-24 inch protected slot limit, of which all fish must be released. For this event, our boat marshals weighed our fish in the boat and then they are released. If we were fortunate to catch a bass over 24 inches, we could bring it in to show the crowd at the weigh-in.

Each boat is equipped with the same scales that are tested before the event and that is what the fish are weighed on. While there might be a little more room for error than our traditional weigh-ins, I’m fine with it to get the opportunity to fish this big bass factory.

In each of the past four years, it has taken a four day weight over 100 pounds to win the tournament, over a five pound average per fish. This year, Lee Livesay defended the title, winning in back to back years on his home lake, where he is a guide while not competing on the Elite Series. His four day total was over 113 pounds, 11 pounds ahead of second place angler Brandon Palaniuk from Idaho.

Jeff Gustafson with an eight pound bass he captured this past weekend at Lake Fork, Texas.

It was a different lake this year with the water level around six feet lower than it has in in past events. I have a decent history competing on this body of water but most of the spots that have been good to me in the past were either out of the water now or to shallow to fish. I essentially had to start from scratch, like many other anglers. Because of the conditions, Livesay’s local knowledge gave him a big advantage over the rest of the field and it earned him a $100,000 pay day.

My tournament was okay, finishing up in 24th place. The first couple days I kind of had to grind it out, fishing both shallow and deep to put a decent limit together. I had 18 pound limits each day to sit in 40th place heading into day three. On day three, everything I did worked and I caught a 26 pound limit, including an 8 pound, 9 ounce bass that earned me big fish of the day. It was also over 24 inches so I was able to bring it in to show the crowd. The big fish of the tournament was an 8-12 caught by Marc Frazier.

We have this week off before resuming the season next week at Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee, Alabama border. I’m looking forward to getting out on the water there. It is the lake where I caught my biggest bass ever, a 10 pound, 12 ounce giant, but it was also the lake where I have my only zero
in tournament competition. It should be a good tournament with plenty of big bass to be
caught. After that, I’m looking forward to getting back to Sunset Country to do some fishing.