Welcome to Texas! I have been looking forward to this part of the season since Lake Fork was announced as the location for Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Not only is this place a pristine location, with a great community, and close to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex (my neck of the woods), but it has got the bass — big bass — and a lot of them.
The lake has been on a steady uptick the last few years after a pretty rough stretch where the big girls were hard to come by. This year, however, has been an absolute slugfest and has pumped out at least three or four 13-pound or bigger ShareLunkers and countless fish of more than 10 pounds.
Add the best anglers in the world to this body of water, and you have got yourself a show. Expect a handful of double-digit fish to cross the stage by the end of the event.
The lake is super healthy right now and has quite a bit of matted grass, pads, flooded brush and tens of thousands of stumps. Being it’s the beginning of May, most of the area lakes are almost wrapped up with the spawn. There will likely be a few stragglers left behind, but look for the postspawners to make up the bulk of the stringers weighed.
BUCKET A: LIVESAY
You all have seen the name Lee Livesay on just about all the articles I have pumped out this year and there is a reason — the guy can catch some fish. This has got to be the easiest Bucket A pick I have ever had to write about. Livesay is easily one of the most consistent guides on Lake Fork and has been for the last seven or eight years. He will likely be throwing big swimbaits and may mix it up offshore a bit. He could also find a good frog bite. All other things aside, he certainly has his finger on the pulse of the lake more than anyone else. It won’t surprise me to see him with 35 pounds or more each day. It’s his event to lose.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: BLAYLOCK
Blaylock has been on a tear, posting three Top 10s out of four events so far this season. Keep in mind the fact that he is a topwater specialist. Whether he is throwing a frog, an old school Pop-R or some other floating presentation, topwater is a great way to catch some big postspawn gals. Stetson also found himself finishing second with 102-pounds at the 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Classic. It was a different time of year, but it shows that he knows how to figure them out on Lake Fork, which is no easy task.
BUCKET B: ZALDAIN
You’ve seen Chris’ name on my list consistently this year too. It’s no secret that he is a well-rounded stick. And also, given the ownership percentage, it’s apparently not a secret that he is a Dallas-area native now as of a few years ago. He has spent plenty of time learning Lake Fork over the last few years and will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: WHATLEY
I’m genuinely torn about this one. In fact, Bucket B might find a switcheroo come game time. Brad Whatley is a local Texan, but even more than that, he is a travel partner to Lee Livesay. I’d bet there may be some secrets exchanged between the two of them that could see Whatley finish well.
BUCKET C: COMBS
I’m honestly playing a little defense with this pick, but it’s also simply put a slam-dunk pick. Keith loves the North Texas lakes and has done well on them. He has won not one, not two, not even three, but four titles in Texas, including the 2014 TTBC on Lake Fork. He knows this lake well and will certainly be a factor come the final day. Plus, at 60-percent-plus, if someone does manage to beat him in this bucket, I’m not losing to many people.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: WENDLANDT
Another Texas boy here. If there are any left on beds, Wendlandt will certainly find them. He is also a stellar grass fisherman and can flip with the best of them, making him a threat.
BUCKET D: PRINCE
For Bucket D, I’m diverting from my strong Texas presence to pull in a Florida boy. I really think this one will be won in less than 10 feet of water. I’m not sure Cliff’s boat has ever seen more than 10 feet of water, so this feels right. Cliff is no stranger to hunting the biggest fish that swim in a lake and his shallow water skills will come in handy here.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: CARRIERE or HANSELMAN
For similar reasons as Prince, Carriere is a close second for me. He is a Louisiana angler and is dangerous in shallow water events. If that’s not your cup of tea, go with Hanselman. He is a Texan after all and has a good track record with BASSFest finishing ninth on Lake Travis last year. If he can find some deep, he could be deadly.
BUCKET E: KENNEDY
This tournament should be right up Kennedy’s alley. I think a swimbait bite will certainly be in order. That pattern on this lake has proven to be a very effective way to target bass 6 pounds or better. He can also throw a swim jig, frog, flip or do pretty much whatever is needed to find the five best bites he can each day.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: JOCUMSEN
It has been a tough year so far for the Aussie. There is absolutely no better time than the present to turn that around. He has a pretty solid resume here in Texas. He has several Top 20 finishes including a sixth on Amistad and a 15th on Lake Lewisville. He fished the local Texas trails for a few seasons too and being from Frisco, Texas, just an hour and a half from Lake Fork, I’d bet he’s spent some time out there. If you’re looking for a dark horse option, he’s your man.