Lake Fork, TX Report – December 3

This week’s work duties found me making a round trip drive with stops in north central Arkansas and south central Texas. Such an itinerary gave me the opportunity to take a drive by a legendary northeast Texas fishing hole named Lake Fork. I packed a few poles and some tackle just in case I could swing a pit stop on my way home. After a final half day of work and a five hour drive, I made it to the lake with about 45 minutes of daylight remaining. Texas weather wasn’t as nice as I’d hoped but there I was on the bank of a spot that I’d dreamed about for over thirty years.

 

Stats

Date: December 3, 2020
Location: Lake Fork – northwest of Quitman, Texas
Time: 4:53pm-5:18pm
Weather: Overcast/windy
Air Temp: 45F
Water Temp: felt warmer than the air
Totals: 1 bass
Lures: Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (green pumpkinseed with white) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-7

5:18pm – Mission accomplished as daylight faded

Notes and Nonsense

Search for a Spot – After a five hour drive from Seguin, Texas it was time to find an area with decent bank access. In such cases, I always look to start with the dam (rocky bank with proximity to deep water). However, I could not find any dam access roads and only a pay ramp area with shallow water and rather barren bank access. A gas station stop for some dam advice proved fruitless so it was back to Google where I spied a causeway crossing an arm of the lake. All in all, I wasted the better part of an hour of daylight just trying to find somewhere to cast.

Technology makes it cool to see exactly where I found my Lake Fork bass

Riprap Really Rocks – The causeway that I selected happened to have parking for a public launch ramp and bank access to the water beneath the causeway. Plenty of large rock, known as riprap, lined several stretches of bank, just the kind of spot I look for when chasing bass from the bank on a new lake. Typically, these riprap stretches have a batch of rock that extends out into the lakebed and provides several appealing factors. For starters, the breakline/transition between rock and lake bottom provides a classic “edge” where bass like to hang out. In addition, there are countless nooks and crannies in those underwater rocks that hold forage such as baitfish and crawdads. In terms of presentation, these areas are custom made for a parallel retrieve from the bank. This keeps your lure in the strike zone for the entire cast and also allows you to bump the structure along the way. Finally, from a financial standpoint as a frugal fisherman, I can often get a hung lure freed by walking to the bait to give it some slack or a pull from the opposite direction.

A look back at the stretch of structure that this bass called home

Plan B – After 15 minutes of casting along the causeway riprap without a bite, I headed to the ramp area for crunch time as daylight faded. I tried a spinnerbait on riprap stretches on each side and along the ramp but found no bites. As a result, I decided to switch to a chatterbait and work the ramp area again with the new presentation. A few casts later, I had a solid strike jar me out of my mindset that things were not going to work out for a Texas bass. Very cool and some important fishing lessons reinforced by the catch. If you think you have some good water but aren’t finding a bite, a change in lure, retrieve speed or angle can be the key to fooling a fish. And while this outing was very limited in terms of time, it is well worth hitting a good looking spot a couple times in order to cross paths with an interested bass.

$37 Bass – A non-resident one day permit in Texas comes in at $16 and there is also a $5 transaction fee. I opted for a pair of one day passes but things did not work out on the previous day as I ran into access issues and fading daylight but that’s another story. At any rate, that Lake Fork bass wound up with a price tag of $37. I suppose if I was to calculate the hourly cost of fishing it would be $74/hour as I only cast for about 30 minutes on my two days’ worth of permits.

Seen a lot of pics and vids of Lake Fork over the last 30 years, fun to join the club

All good in the end as I was actually there for work after all, the fishing was just icing on the cake. I’ll tell you what though, it sure made my day. The combination of six days away from my family, a thousand miles from home, hotel beds, restaurant food, too much beef jerky and M&Ms and poor radio reception for most of the journey just wore me out. Therefore, it was good to find something to recharge my batteries. Fishing on a renowned bass lake that I never dreamt I would see and taking a picture with one of its inhabitants was a winner. Still smiling as I type. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Happy to have another update with this post coming in a day earlier than the normal Monday submission for various reasons. I just got this report yesterday evening as one of our anglers took advantage of a fifty degree Saturday afternoon. As you can see below, his efforts were rewarded in a big way.

Weight: 7-0
Angler: Chris Schwarz
Date: November 28
Location: Warren County private pond
Lure: Ned rig TRD Stickbait (green pumpkin)
Angler Comments: Caught in 5’ of water with a setup of 10 lb. braid tied to a 20’ fluorocarbon leader, 8 lb. test.
Top 5 Weight: 30-5 (7-0,6-14,5-12,5-7,5-4) culls a 5-4

Way to go, Chris, an outstanding catch that pushes your creel into the rare air of the 30-pound club. Only 32 more days for the 2020 Top 5 project with the area weather headed for a more normal range. But you just never know what can happen if you get out there for a few casts. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – November 2010

Once upon a time, we were trappers.

For nearly a century, members of the Jackson family roamed the creeks, fields and timbers of West Central Illinois in pursuit of furbearers. Dating back to my grandpa George to my uncle, Richard, to my dad, Terry, to my brothers and sister and our offspring, the tradition spanned from the 1920s to just a few years ago. Boy, did we have some times and there are plenty of stories that never grow old no matter how many times they are revisited.

Today’s flashback is one of those stories as November of 2010 featured the introduction of a new trapper to the family tradition. My boy, Jayce, tagged along on this outing to Henderson County, following in the footsteps of his Papa and Dad. Footsteps that had been planted in areas like The Big Timber and Pat’s Creek for close to fifty years. A pretty cool adventure for a kid who was not even a year and a half old at the time.

We saw tractors, hedgeballs, corn cobs and deer. We had a fast food breakfast, drove the truck, rode on the tailgate, told stories and threw stuff. You know, all the normal things us trappers observed and did out there on the trapline. Oh yeah, we also caught a few coons but that was just icing on the cake.

Nowadays, trapping has gone by the wayside but the memories last a lifetime. For many years, I have pondered a formidable trapping retrospective here on the blog. At present though, the project consists of a lengthy list of ideas, a healthy batch of photos and a collection of rough drafts. Perhaps trapping season next year would be a worthy time to kick off such a series. That gives me slightly less than a year to put it all together which is still a tall order when thinking back over all those tales and adventures.

And speaking of thinking back on adventures, this will wrap up the weekly Friday Flashbacks for 2020. As always, I get a kick out of the strolls down Memory Lane with a fair collection of fish, family and friends. I hope that some were able to make the weekly stop and find a brief escape along the way. Of course, plenty more other stuff to come here on the blog before we say so long to this year. And Friday Flashback will resume after the first of the New Year as I have already begun constructing my outline of weekly posts. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Another boost for one of our anglers as the November weather continues to be reasonable if you can handle some wind. Today’s catch comes from the bank which has its own batch of variables to contend with in the gusty conditions. But, as you can see, you can still fool ‘em if you can get to ‘em.

Weight: 4-11
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 12
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Single Colorado blade spinnerbait
Top 5 Weight: 25-9 (5-15,5-5,4-14,4-12,4-11) culls a 4-6

Well done, Jim, and good to hear that you are still finding some success down there. Looks like there may still be a handful of comfortable days on the horizon so here’s hoping someone out there continues to get bit. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – November 7, 2015

Well, it’s that time again as I ponder whether I have caught my final bass of the year. Today we look back five years at just such a catch via a portion of the original fishing report posted at a former blogging gig.

Originally posted 11-13-15

Mission accomplished in logging my November bass.

For more than a few years now, one of my annual fishing goals involves the bookends on the bass fishing year. This particular goal consists of landing my first bass in March and my final bass in November. Back on March 21st I checked off part one of the goal and set out last Saturday looking to put the finishing touch on a solid year. Well, it took some work but I made it…just barely.

Stats
Date: November 7, 2015
Location: Little John Conservation Club (2 lakes)
Time: 9:35am-3:15pm (4.75 hours fishing, the rest relocating)
Weather: Sunny/very windy
Air Temp: 46F-54F
Water Temp: 50-52F
Totals: 1 bass
Lures: ¼ oz Jig & Pig (black/blue) with #11 pork trailer (black/blue) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-2 (Jig &Pig)

1:29pm – Top Bass (and only bass) at 16.5″ and 2-2 on a jig & pig

Notes & Nonsense

One for Two – For my Grand Finale I selected a pair of lakes that have been real friendly this year and most recently combined for 23 bass back on October 24; this time not so much. 9:35am until 11:50am on the first spot produced one lone bump on my Yum Wooly Curltail Grub as it bounced off a submerged limb. Stop number two gave up my lone bass on a jig and pig just over an hour into my hour and a half on the lake; the only bite I had. Of course, I tried fast with no success on a spinnerbait and lipless crank before opting to focus on slowing it down with the jig and pig around some real solid wood cover. I gave it my best shot and got my fish but the bass would rightfully be claimed the victor on this outing in outsmarting each of my attempts to garner some bites.

Winterizing – I had to chuckle as I headed for the “ramp” on my last lake knowing that it was time to think about the care my gear needs to weather the winter. Dragging my boat back up the grassy incline I took into consideration that trailering my watercraft typically involves just me and my truck bed. Roll the boat over beside my driveway upon returning home, close the tailgate and call it good. As for my motors, lean the oars up against the wall of the garage next to my poles and tackle. Looking back over the 51.50 hours I got to go fishing this year, the vast majority involved manpower for propulsion. Seven hours in a friend’s boat back in April were the lone gas powered means of propulsion and only a few quick jaunts from spot to spot. Along with that trip I also spent just over five hours with my foot on a trolling motor pedal during an outing with Dad. The remainder of my season found me manning the oars for about 35 hours and chasing bass on foot for about four hours. I guess the moral of that story is that I need to work on taking care of myself over the winter, something I’ve let slip more than a bit this year.

The old oars have what I call “personality” and plenty of tales to tell

Five years later, the old oars have assumed their place against the garage wall where they will likely remain until next March. And my body and brain will once again engage in their annual debate on what sort of fishing stunts to pull in 2021. May have one more fishing trick up my sleeve for 2020, though. Time will tell. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Still some bites out there to be had especially with this weather. Quite comfortable for the anglers as you can get some big bites in short sleeves. The latest big catch is included below and it added an entire pound to the angler’s already outstanding 2020 haul.

Weight: 5-12 (21.25”)
Angler: Chris Schwarz
Date: November 3
Location: Lake Warren
Lure: Chatterbait with paddle tail trailer (bluegill)
Angler Comments: I caught this fish in relatively the same location as my last entry on a windblown bank with rock.
Top 5 Weight: 28-9 (6-14,5-12,5-7,5-4,5-4) culls a 4-12

How about that? Two bass combining for exactly eleven pounds coming from the same general area over the last couple weeks (see October 25 Top 5 Update for Chris’ 5-4 bass). I believe that spot would be locked in for every trip during the remainder of my fishing days. Well done, Chris, and quite a year. Talk to you later. Troy

Election Day Strip Mine Report Nov. 3

11:43am – November bass, mission accomplished

Well, Election Day 2020 has certainly earned a unique spot in the history books. But no one can dispute the fishing results here on the blog although there has been a bit of a delay in reporting.

Stats
Date: November 3, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL private strip mines (3 lakes)
Time: 11:25am-4:35pm (3.5 hours fishing)
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 64-70F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 2 bass
Lures: Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (smoke) – 1 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-2 (Chatterbait)
Top Weight (only two at 12” or better): 3-1 (2-2,0-15)

3:06pm – Top Bass at 16″ and 2-2 on a chatterbait

Notes and Nonsense

Poll to Pole – Up at 6:00am, Julie and I completed our civic duty and were back home from the polling location before 7:30am. I had taken a vacation day so as not to have any time restriction on casting my vote. Granted, I could have voted early but I am old school and do my duty in person, pandemic or no. And I was glad that I did. We live in a diverse area and it was rewarding to stand outside in the crisp morning air with several dozen other community members of varying races and ages looking to put their candidates into The White House. And, since I had the rest of the day off, I packed up my gear and headed to the fishing hole.

Winning Lures

Dead Heat – Too close to call on the Top Lure for the trip. The Red Eye Shad came through with the sought after first catch, a November bass to meet my annual goal. The chatterbait later produced the Top Bass for the day. One bass apiece on the lures and equally important on a tough day.

Had a couple social media comments on the dark coloration of the Top Bass with one actually referring to it as a “nice smallie.” Indeed, a largemouth but the the color did elicit a comment from me in the clip below (second catch in the video).

 

Trip Tune – I caught a few tunes on the way down but must admit that I was dialed in to talk radio on the way back home that evening. All manner of evaluations and projections came over the airwaves and like most of the last four years I put little stock in anything I heard no matter the slant. And when I got home it only got weirder. I guess if I had to assign a lyric, I would draw from John Lennon. Nope, not Imagine or Instant Karma or Mind Games.

“Everybody’s talking and no one says a word…Strange days indeed, most peculiar, Mama.” – Nobody Told Me (1984)

Likely another year in the books from the Knox County, IL strip mines

The pleasant weather has hung around but chores and responsibilities have kept me off the water, which is fine. I was able to do a lot of casting in 2020 and got my bookend March and November bass to meet my annual goals. As such, these may be my final bass of the year. However, still plenty of blog posts to come including another quality Top 5 Update from one of our anglers coming tomorrow.

Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – November 3, 2010

It’s once again that time of the year when I hold out hope for a November bass before I put the poles away. Ten years ago, I got that November bass after barely ten minutes of casting on a magical place called “Emiquon.” The rest of the day wasn’t quite as easy as the original report relates.

Originally Posted 11-8-10

My quest to finish the year with a November bass found me on what has rather quickly and a bit surprisingly become a challenging body of water, The Emiquon Preserve’s Thompson Lake. Dad decided to sit this one out so I was on my own to figure out the bass. I accomplished my goal upon reeling in our second largest ever Emiquon bass but overall it was a tough day.

Date: November 3, 2010
Time: 11:30am-5:30pm
Location: The Emiquon Preserve
Weather: Sunny or partly cloudy/windy
Air Temp: 50-60F
H20 Temp: 50F
Totals: 3 bass
Lures: 3” Yum Wooly Curltail (pumpkin pepper/green flake) – 3 bass
Top Bass – 3-5 Yum Wooly Curltail (first bass of the day)
Top Five Weight: 5-14 (3-5, 1-7, 1-2)

Yum Wooly Curltail, classic cold water bait, cast it out, crawl it in

Notes and Nonsense

Thriving – If I were pressed for one word to describe the Emiquon coot population I’d have to pick “thriving.” Beyond that all I can say is you have to see it to believe it.

A commotion of coots (I had to look that one up)

5 Hours & 50 Yards – Those are the figures that separated my bass. I caught my first (and largest) bass near a tree on an old roadbed at 11:41am. I did not catch another fish until 4:46pm about fifty yards to the east and my final fish came at 4:58pm in the same spot. In between the first two fish I covered several miles in order to work a pair of ditches using up our older battery in the process; all without a single bite.

4:46pm – Bass #2 after a lengthy drought at 13.5″ and 1-7

Not Alone – I didn’t know what to expect as far as company this time of year but there were about half a dozen other fishermen who hadn’t yet put away their gear. I spoke with a pair who was leaving as I was launching and they reported a shutout in their pursuit of bass and crappie. A few minutes later I witnessed a fellow in a kayak land what he said was his first bass in about two hours on the water. So when all was said and done I was confidently able to blame the bass as opposed to my ineptitude.

11:41am – Top Bass at 18.5″ and 3-5 

Top Bass – Eleven minutes into my trip I was weighing, measuring and photographing the fish pictured above (pictured above twice actually as a three fish outing can make you a bit desperate). It came on a 3” Yum Wooly Curltail rigged Texposed behind a ¼ ounce bullet sinker which was slowly crawled back to the boat in an effort to maintain contact with the lake bottom. The 3-5 currently occupies the number two spot in our Emiquon record book. A nice fish but rather amazing that it comes up nearly four pounds shy of our 7-3 lake record.

4:58pm – Bass #282 for the year, the final catch of 2010

If this trip marks the end of my fishing for 2010 I’d have to qualify it as another good year for family and friends marked by a strong last few months. I did manage to find one more quality fish while quantity eluded me on this latest outing. Perhaps most of the fish are wise enough to reside beyond the “No Trespassing” area at Emiquon. If so they are certainly safe from my offerings, although not from everybody. But that’s another story.

Ten years later, I have my November bass in the log courtesy of some good weather and a vacation day. But that’s also another story so stay tuned. Talk to you later. Troy

Citizen’s Lake Revisited Pt. IV

Spanning a channel between the north and south sections of Citizen’s Lake is a bridge. Back in 1990, the bridge resided elsewhere in Warren County and was slated for eventual demolition. However, regional fisheries biologist, Ken Russell, was on board to get the bridge relocated rather than removed. While I was aware of the proposal, I had no idea what the bridge even looked like, let alone the prospect of actually relocating such a structure.

 

The plaque above notes that the dream became a reality in 1992. Later, in 2016, the bridge from the 1890s was dedicated as “Ken Russell Bridge.”

 

It’s been a fun walk down Memory Lane in revisiting a bit of the history of Warren County’s Citizen’s Lake. My aim for the blog has always been to educate, entertain and escape. Hopefully, this collection of posts was able to cover all of those bases. Talk to you later. Troy

Citizen’s Lake Revisited Pt. III

I must admit it was kind of cool to see myself in a local paper during the Citizen’s Lake rehabilitation project. Honestly though, what was even cooler was hanging out with that other guy in the above photo.

Fisheries biologist, Ken Russell, was the primary caretaker of all of the local fishing holes where I cut my fishing teeth. By 1990, I would guess that he probably had twenty-five years of fisheries work on his resume.

And you talk about still going strong at that point?

Sure thing, as the Illinois taxpayers got their money’s worth out of that man. His work ethic was unmatched and he gave me a work out during the month or so that I had the honor of being his sidekick. His grasp of his craft was incredible and I was always impressed with his willingness to answer any question I had as we traveled between fishing holes on the roads of West Central Illinois.

 

Prior to the Citizen’s Lake project I had been able to work with Ken on a couple other occasions as a volunteer fish dipper during some electrofishing surveys. Thanks to a mutual friend at the Galesburg Park Department where I worked college summers I was able to get those evening gigs. Once upon a time, that mutual friend told me that Ken ranked me as his second best fish dipper of all-time.

Seems that Ken was a popular subject for the local papers

Who was the best fish dipper, you might ask?

Of course, it was that mutual friend. I still take it as a feather in my cap, you may take it as you wish.

Talk to you later. Troy