Another weird winter and spring has the spawn lingering at Lake Fork, but I believe the numbers are dwindling. We are working towards the tail end of the spawn on Lake Fork as we enter the fifth stop on the Bassmaster Elite Series. It will be interesting to see how many fish are left spawning for the Elite anglers between major waves and how quickly some of these fish get offshore or start chasing shad. On top of the spawn being on the tail end, the water on Lake Fork is around 5 or 6 feet low due to some dam repairs going on this year.
On Lake Fork, there is both a gizzard and threadfin shad spawn that will draw bass onto shallow, hard clay points and other areas. This is much like what we saw Brandon Cobb capitalize on in 2019 at the beginning of May and how Lee Livesay dominated in late April of 2021. This could be a really solid pattern, but it will be interesting to see if the fish are coming to the shad spawns or far enough along where they are starting to pile up on traditional offshore areas.
Considering all these factors, there will still be bass caught shallow, but I would suggest building your team around anglers that will focus on mid-depth shad spawns or offshore anglers that will have fresh hungry fish coming to them as the week advances.
BUCKET A: BLAYLOCK
It’s hard to not pick Patrick Walters on Fork, but I am going to go with Stetson Blaylock. He has a good amount of experience and success on Fork in previous Elites and other high-level events on this famous fishery. Not to mention, the event being a few weeks later than in 2021 should play even more into Blaylock’s strengths.
Odds on AOY favorite
If you want to avoid the predominant favorite of Patrick Walters for this event, then don’t be afraid to go with Brandon Palaniuk as the timing of this event should make him a strong player.
BUCKET B: FEIDER
Regardless the time of year, Seth Feider has been one of the most consistent anglers on Lake Fork over the past three visits boasting a 10th-place average finish. On top of that, Feider appears to be returning to his 2021 form after a slow start.
Speaking of 10th-place average finish
Chris Zaldain’s big bait mentality rarely leads to consistency, but somehow on Lake Fork it does. Zaldain also has a 10th-place average finish in three Fork events. The only thing that really kept me from picking Zaldain in Bucket B was that I wanted to pick favorites in other Buckets even more.
BUCKET C: CARD
It is no secret that Brandon Card is more comfortable when he can fish offshore, and the lake being over 5 feet low should condense the bass a little more for him as he searches this year. Card also boasts a pair of fourth-place finishes in April and May Lake Fork events.
If you are looking for a strong play under 3% player percentage, look no further than Jay Yelas. Yelas got his 2022 season off to a solid start in Florida, and as we approach the midpoint of the season, he is hanging around the Classic bubble in Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. More importantly, the former Classic champion has averaged an 11th-place finish on Fork in three previous events, with his worst finish being 17th in 2019.
BUCKET D: LIVESAY
In 2019, Lake Fork showed that it can throw even the strongest local favorites a curveball, as Lee Livesay finished that event in 39th. Livesay has had a pretty slow start to his 2022 Elite campaign which has him way off pace to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic via points. Normally that could create a pressure-filled scenario for an angler like Livesay on his home waters, but the new dad just got the win at the St. Croix Bassmaster Central Open at Ross Barnett. So now he is 2023 Classic qualified, which I feel makes him extra dangerous to have a big event.
True sleeper pick
The November 2020 Lake Fork event was not kind of the “sleepy assassin,” but Austin Felix bounced back in 2021 with a Top 10 sight fishing. Felix is very lethal in sight fishing events, but I expect him to be more dangerous mining offshore schools of big Texas bass in this event. Knowing that both of those techniques are his strengths makes him an attractive pick.
BUCKET E: COMBS
The early May 2021 event that was right in the middle of the spawn didn’t really align with the way Keith Combs traditionally exploits Lake Fork. Now that this event is a few weeks later into the tail end of May, I feel much more confident that Combs will be able to crank up some big bags of offshore fish. Those fish should be coming to him in this event.
Off your radar
At this point in the season, Bucket E anglers are clearly not having the season they were hoping for, but finding the diamonds in the rough is what can make or break Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing teams. So, if you are looking for a low player percentage angler, look no further than Skylar Hamilton who seems to vibe well with Fork and has three top 30 finishes here on his resume.
Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge
Now onto season two of the Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge. This additional Fantasy Fishing game not only offers a fresh way to play the game, but a separate prize pool. Drain the Lake is an elimination or survivor-style game where you can only use an angler once all season.
Every event played leaves us all with a smaller pool of anglers to add to rosters for each reaming event, so plan carefully.
• Lee Livesay
• Patrick Walters
• Keith Combs
• Chris Zaldain
• Chad Pipkens
• Ray Hanselman
• Jamie Hartman
• Darold Gleason