What would Caldemeyer do at Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest?

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Alan McGuckin

Well-respected Lake Fork guide James Caldemeyer, who also competes in Bassmaster Open events, has caught or guided his clients to over 100 bass exceeding 10 pounds the past 16 seasons. But this week he can only point at 2-pound "squeakers" and smirk in a humbling moment of self depreciation. 

Think about that. Caldemeyer has been a part of 100 bass over 10 pounds being caught on Lake Fork. That’s a mind-boggling achievement to anybody who has ever lipped a largemouth.

However, this week, at least so far, big fish simply aren’t showing themselves, despite the fact they absolutely live here in a manner few reservoirs in America can rival. “If Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest had come here again in June like it was scheduled to, prior to COVID postponing it, we would have seen the same sort of mega-sacks like we saw when Brandon Cobb won in 2019,” says Caldemeyer.

“But this week we’re dealing with really cold nights and warm sunny days. Those big temperature swings seem to sort of ‘spin out’ Florida strain largemouth. Plus, we’ve got a high-pressure system, low water, a full moon and the tail end of the fall ‘turnover’ staining-up the lake,” he explains.

COVID also caused a huge uptick in folks buying a license and going fishing as a safe and fun means of entertainment, which has led to increased fishing pressure on the famed fishery. But for the most part, fishing remained really good on Fork the past few months. And even right now, the sort of 1- and 2-pounders Caldemeyer is smirking at in the photo are fairly easy to catch – it’s the big ones that are particularly elusive.

“Big Florida bass are way smarter than most people realize,” says Caldemeyer. “If I was competing in Toyota Texas Fest this week, I’d focus on being midway back in the creeks, looking for any hydrilla and coontail vegetation I could find with shad present. Having shad around is absolutely critical to getting bit.” 

Asked what lures he’d lean on most, he named a Santone swim jig, a small lipless crankbait and a ChatterBait, and he predicts the angler who averages 19 to 20 pounds per day could claim victory, compared to Cobb’s crazy 28-pound daily average winning weight last year. 

“I say it will take 20 pounds a day to win, but then I think about how tough it is, and I’m tempted to lower my guess to 19 or 18 pounds a day,” grins Caldemeyer. 

“But look, this is Lake Fork, and things happen fast here. I’ve had days when my guide clients had a horrible morning, we go in and have lunch, go back out and catch the limit of a lifetime in the afternoon. So, don’t be shocked if all the sudden things change for the better this week,” he warns.

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