Elite Lakes: A travel guide to Lake Fork

Lake Fork

Mention Lake Fork around bass anglers and the air often seems to grow heavy. Situated just 80 miles east of Dallas, this legendary Lone Star State fishery has an almost sacred air about it. Even before Barry St. Clair hoisted a staggering 18-plus pounder that still holds the state record out of Lake Fork in 1992, the Sabine River reservoir felt like bass fishing holy ground.

Today, the allure of Fork has lessened little. And while O.H. Ivie took home top honors in Texas in last year’s Bassmaster Magazine ranking, Fork remains one of the most prolific fisheries for big bass on the planet. At one time, Lake Fork was home to 72% of the 50 biggest bass ever boated in Texas. A shocking nine Bassmaster competitors have been ushered into the Century Club — an honor reserved for anglers boating more than 100 pounds of bass in a single event — during the last four B.A.S.S. events on Fork. And this year, the mythical waterway welcomes the world’s top anglers again for the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite on Lake Fork.

For fishing fans, the weigh-ins will be a chance to see some of the biggest bass of the year before 2024 really gets into full swing. But for fans and competitors alike, Lake Fork is a worthwhile destination for bass fishing, family fun and great table faire year-round.

Getting your grub on

Go a cut above the convenience store at Speakeasy Coffeehouse in Quitman. Located about 20 minutes from the waterfront, across the street from the Wood County Courthouse, this ode to another era serves up drip coffee (a regular cup of Joe) as well as your choice of cappuccinos, lattes and specialty coffee drinks. The Al Capone mixes vanilla and caramel bourbon into a latte; the Greta Garbo shakes mornings up with cinnamon and honey.

Grab a house made cinnamon roll or sausage biscuit for the road and a grab and go sandwich for the boat.

A log cabin might feel like an unusual place to find fresh pasta, but that’s just what the crew over at Alba’s Verona Italian Cafe is dishing out. If you’ve worked up an appetite on the water, Verona’s is the place to go to stuff it back in the livewell. Snag a handmade thin crust, New York pizza; dive into a pile of fettuccini carbonara; or dig into homemade baked pastas like lasagna and manicotti served with fresh rolls and salads. Be sure to save room for dessert in the form of a three-layer chocolate mousse, limoncello mascarpone or Italian cream cake.

Nightlife, live music and a creative menu of fusion foods like Cajun egg rolls, crawfish quest and grilled boudin links await at the Neon Moon Restaurant & Club, located on the outskirts of Yantis. Stop in for a quiet lunch or slide by after a day on the water to celebrate your latest Toyota LunkerShare Lake Fork giant.

Cabins, campsites and comfortable confines

Pope’s Landing Marina is a favorite retreat for vagabond tournament anglers. Waterfront cabins provide panoramic views of the lake and feature either lofts or covered boat parking depending on their layout. RV slots and rental homes large enough to accommodate an entire family are also available at Pope’s. Meanwhile, on-site boat ramps, covered boat slips and an 80-foot pier provide plenty of room to spread out while loading, unloading or storing your vessel overnight.

Stock up on last minute tackle at Lake Fork Resort, a no-fuss historic motel and RV park located right on the shoreline. Rooms here start in the sub-$100 range and a feature a complimentary coffee pot and Wi-Fi. If you care more about the fishing than the lodging, comfortable yet unfussy Lake Fork Resort could be a perfect fit for you. The on-site tackle store is well stocked with soft plastics, sun protection and replacement rods.

Travelers searching for a side order of rustic, Americana flair will feel right at home at Quitman’s Reel Inn and Lodge. The historic, eight-room motel located on Highway 154 features fish-themed decor throughout each room as well as an outdoor picnic area with barbecue grills.

Anglers looking for a step up in luxury may find themselves a home away from home at Sunrise Lodges on Lake Fork. This pair of short-term rental cabins comes equipped with extras ranging from opulent wall mount decor to billiard tables, firepits, complimentary kayaks and lakeside views.

Family fun

Bass fishing may be the signature highlight of Lake Fork, but the the area features an abundance of other outdoor activities to keep anglers and their families entertained off of the water.

Golfers can trade fishing rods for drivers at the Lake Fork Golf Course and The Link’s at Land’s End. Courses here meander through stands of pecan, oak, magnolia and persimmon trees with interspersed traps and water features — all within close proximity to inspiring views of the lake.

At nearby Mineola Nature Preserve, travelers can find an 18-hole disc golf course and mountain bike trails as well as the Mineola Bigfoot Paddling Trail, a nearly 12-mile canoe and kayak trail on the Sabine River.

Fresh strawberries, blackberries and blueberries await visitors to Alford Family Farms near Emory. This 115-acre farm hosts pick-your-own fruit patches, bounding rows of iris flowers and nearly unlimited supply of pecans grown right on site.

Just 45 minutes south of the lake, the East Texas Zoo and Gator Park brings visitors face-to-face with alligators ranging from finger-sized to 14 feet. Visitors are invited to get hands on with baby alligators, wallabies and boa constrictors at this family-owned location near Grand Saline.