Brace yourself for Lake Fork

The 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department will be here before you know it, and I’m telling you to get ready for some serious largemouth weight. You won’t see any Bassmaster Elite Series angler holding up a 2-pound largemouth with a grin on his face. 

Before we get into the quality of this fishery and its management, I want to say a little something about when we’ll be there — May 2-6. That sets the tournament up for every angler, no matter his particular skill set, to perform at his best. There’ll be some bass on the beds, and some off the beds. There’ll even be a few that are moving towards the beds. That’s about as good as it gets in the bass fishing business. We’ll all be able to fish towards our strengths. 

Beyond that, however, is the quality of Lake Fork as a bass fishery. 

I rarely comment on fishery management practices because the state of scientific knowledge in that area is constantly getting better and different biologists see things differently. But Lake Fork is the exception to what I said. Their conservation and management practices are extraordinary. 

They have a slot limit, and they do enforce it. As I understand it all bass over 16 inches and under 24 inches must be returned to the lake immediately. And, only one bass 24 inches or better can be kept by an angler.

The biggest thing a slot like that does is give those bass that have growth potential a chance to grow into a giant. That preserves the gene pool for future generations of bass and anglers alike. It’s fairly common for an 8- or 9-pounder to measure inside the slot, and I’ve heard that a few 10-pound brutes came up short.

Given its proximity to Dallas that’s an extraordinary thing. With the kind of pressure Fork gets day after day from one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country, you’d think heavyweight bass would be rare. They aren’t. Sure, Fork is blessed with the right kind of weather and a strong forage base but still…

Another area of the country that’s benefited from slot limits is Tennessee. Although there are different limits for different bodies of water, and for largemouth and smallmouth, I’ve been told by reliable anglers that smallmouth as big as 5 pounds are frequently short depending upon where they are caught. A 5 pound smallmouth is a big fish.  

The biggest takeaway from all this is that our resources can be protected if we support those persons who are trying to protect them. This is especially true when we think about allowing our bass to grow as big as possible and to be caught several times over several years.

Getting back to Lake Fork, however, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this could be the bass, and B.A.S.S., tournament of the decade. I’m not going to go so far as to predict that because so much of bass fishing depends on the weather. But I will say that it’s a distinct possibility.

If it does happen, think about our fisheries professionals that make things like that happen. And please don’t ever cuss a slot limit again.