The forage connection

Immediately after the spawn, the big females move off the spawning areas and stage along the first significant depth change. This is about the time sunfish begin moving into the vacated flats and spawn in colonies, close to cover.

“A week or two after the bass finish spawning, you will see large bass charging the spawning sunfish,” explains Tanner. “When the bass were spawning, the sunfish raided their nests. When the sunfish go to spawn, the roles switch and bass will hammer the sunfish.”

The Summer Swing

Beginning in mid-April, another big fish pattern emerges. It coincides with the beginning of the shad spawn. This pattern is well-known and fairly predictable on southern impoundments. Lake Fork guides know the shad spawn draws good numbers of sizable bass. The best action occurs around the hours of dawn and dusk, when the peak of the spawning activity takes place.

“The shad are up there in the tens of thousands,” Pack explains. “The bite will last from dawn until about 10 o’clock and during the last hours of dusk. In May, we were catching 25 to 30 fish within the first three hours of the day.”

During the day, the bass suspend over the structure and in deeper water. When the shad move shallow to spawn, the bass follow and trap the baitfish against the bank and water surface. Thus begins the classic summer, deep-schooling pattern.

“The points don’t have to have cover on them,” Pack says. “The key is finding windblown points. If there’s wind present, the shad will be stacked on the point and the big bass will be there, too. The key to finding them is finding birds, like herons.”

While it’s true, a high percentage of Fork’s big bass are caught from relatively deep structure in summer, there’s another big bite pattern on the lake that may not be as well-known, but it’s consistent. A population of bass, including fish over 10 pounds, will remain shallow and feed on the variety of forage available in the shallow cover.

When a summer storm system blows in and skies are overcast, the deep fish suspend and scatter. Understandably, this makes it tough on guides and their clients. This is the time Pack “switch hits,” moving away from his main-lake fish and into the back of creeks.

“I go up in those creeks because there’s less water for the fish to suspend in,” Pack says. “I look for secondary points and channel swings, where an area’s deepest water is close to shallow cover. I have caught 12-pounders, in the heat of the summer, in these creek areas. In fact, I remember being up Birch Creek and catching a 12.8-pounder while fishing a grass edge with a Castaic Sunfish. I caught him up against a channel swing bank and he took me into the grass. The bass were busting on huge bluegills, along that edge of the cover. A low pressure system moved in and had ruined my deep bite, so I moved up into the creek.”