Proven Strategies for September Lake Fork Lunkers
By Larry the Lizard (Trophy Bass Hunter)
Part One: Main Lake Structure
September marks the being of the Fall Period for Bass Transitions, and is a proven time of the year to take True Giants here on Lake Fork, the Bass Fishing Capital of the World.
At the end of the summer here on Lake Fork, the bass transition quite a bit. What does that mean you say? Well I going to tell you. Not all the bass in Lake Fork do exactly the same thing, and for the McDonald’s Big Bass Splash here in September there are a few key elements that come into play.
A) Bigger Bass (i.e. Over Slot Limit Bass, 24" or greater only can be weighed in) Otherwise legally you can not weigh a fish between 16" and 24". You can go for small bass, and hope to get that special one that is just a fat little football at 3 lbs, but wouldn’t you rather go for the Monsters that are stacked up in this incredible fishery? So first you need to zero in on your personal strategy, one that fits you best. Go with your strength, there are plenty of big fish and quality under slot fish all over the lake.
B) Bass are in Transition Mode. Many bass at Lake Fork stay in the same general areas, and use the same fish highways to travel around to near by areas if need be. At the end of the summer, the weedlines start to digress, and as a result many of the big bass tend to stay on or actually in the outer edge of the main weedlines, which is to say any weedline that you see leading into a spawning cove, you want to concentrate you efforts on the outside weedline. The outside weedline is where the open water leading into deeper water is located. Many anglers are going to be making the mistake of trying to fish the inside weedline, which is the weedline edge going directly toward the bank, and not into open water. True there will some fish there, but the majority of those will be 2 lbs and some 4 to 6 pounders, which is not what your looking for, either way.
So, Transition means simply that the bass are starting to do something different. Here is the key, they don’t have a watch, and they go by instinct to make these transitions. Just because you get them at this location, on this bait, on a hot summer day, doesn’t mean they are going to be there the next day doing the same thing, and in the fall that is especially true.
Here are 5 Main Transition Points you want to key in on:
1) Main Lake Structure
3) Spawning Coves
5) Fish Highways
I will say first you need to find fish, so you have 5 key transition points here, the bass will be at all of these locations in September. And it is important to remember that not all the bass are doing the same thing. Here is how I would start.
1) Main Lake Structure : In September the Main Lake Structure I am looking for is Deep Water Fish Highways with Shade, Arms & Elbows, Large (Tanks) Under Water Ponds, and Trees, Trees on a Treeline, with depth changes from 40 ft. to 30 ft, to 20 ft. deep with Arms & Elbow, and more Trees.
There are many bridges on Lake Fork, and under everyone of them there are fish highways, the ones your looking for have at least 25 ft. depth, with main channel swings in or near the bridge itself. You want to find the channel swing point, on an Elbow or Arm of that channel swing. Focus on the areas that have a nice slop from the shallow water of 5 to 10 ft. into about 25 ft. plus. So basically your looking for a 45 degree angle for you slop, so keep that in mind when you find the Arms & Elbows in the Fish Highways the lay in the deeper channels. You want to find Gravel or Hard Rock bottoms, which are near and around most of the bridges. Ok, so now I have revealed the first Share Lunker location.
Now, how to pull a True Giant out of there?
I’m going to tell you. If possible, position your boat in the shallow water in 5 to 10 ft. depth area, in the center of the Elbow or Arm, your fishing. Fan cast out into the deeper water, and cover the entire area methodically. So if your fan casting into that Arm or Elbow, you want to start at what ever angle you have to work with, lets say you have a 45 degree casting lane available, which would be about average. you would start on one side or the other, and each cast progress about 3 to 5 degrees per cast, consecutively, until you reach the other side of you casting angle.
Now with that being said, use your electronics to first locate bass schooled up or suspending, or simply holding in larger numbers near or on the bottom.
Your going to need 3 different Rod & Reel set-ups for this deeper main lake water.
A) Long Rod 7 foot plus, Medium Action, Heavy, this one is for Carolina Rigging.
B) Another Long Rod 7 foot plus, Heavy / Fast Action, this one to Jig the Frog-N-Craw.
C) Another 7 foot plus Rod (Open Face Spinning Rod) Medium Fast Action Rod for this one to Drop-Shot with.
There are 4 Main Presentation I use at these locations with tremendous success in the Fall & Winter Periods at Lake Fork.
A) Carolina Riggin the Magnum 10" Rattlin Larry the Lizard. You are going to use the Medium Action, Heavy Rod for Carolina Rigging the Big Larry the Lizard and the 6" Rattlin Lizard for smaller profile option. Use Braided Line, I would go with 20 lb Power Pro Black in color. Use a Mono Leader, any where from 18" to 36" long. Your going to want that Rattlin Larry the Lizard to fall pretty fast, so your going to need at least a 3/4 oz. to 1 1/2 oz weight for your Carolina Rig.
I use a poor mans’ Carolina Rig, which is to say I use a regular Bullet Weight 1 oz to start with and behind that I put a big 1/8 to 1/4 oz split shot on to keep the length of the leader and allow for extra knocking to call the bass into the target area, as the 10" Rattlin Larry the Lizard has an extremely slow fall ratio with a 1/2 bullet weight, I need a . I want to oz or better to get to the bottom quickly, and invoke any reaction strikes from the aggressive fall feeders, which tend to swim around these main lake channel elbows and arms in wolf packs at this time of the year. They will move into the deeper water in the Arm or Elbow in packs, suspend and stage allow out attacks on the shad.
Start fan casting your bait, If your bait makes it to the bottom, you want to just let it sit there for about 2 minutes, with slack line ( there should be a bow in your line) at this time, just enough to see if your line starts to swim off by itself. After 2 minutes start your retrieve. Use your rod and just sweep it back to one side, as if your getting ready to swing a bat almost, let your rod tip do the work. When you finish your sweeping motion back, reel down slowly to tighten the bow that has developed from you sweeping retrieve. This is important, bass tend to hit baits on the pause, so you want to allow for a long pause during this part of the presentation. It is important to note, that if you get a strike, or strikes, that you fail to set the hook on the bass, there is a good chance you either need to do one or two things to start reeling them in left and right. One, down size from the 10" Magnum Lizard to the 6" version, and be you may want to vary your color up. I like to have these colors in the Rattlin Larry the Lizards for Lake Fork specifically in Bloody Fork, Black & Blue, Green Pumpkin Chart tails, and Rayburn Red.
Most Bass fisherman only thing of a lizard for the spawn, but this is false, these lizards, the "Rattlin Larry the Lizards" work all year long, in even the worst conditions. In fact I average 4 to 8 lbs on every lake I have ever fish it, no matter what time of the year or the weather conditions. Don’t forget to use the Rattlin Frog-N-Craw on the Carolina Rig, you could very well end up winning the McDonald’s Big Bass Splash on this presentation.
B) Rattlin Frog-N-Craw as a Jig Trailer (mimics a crawfish to a tee) ticking it slow, with long pauses, and deadsticking it.
You want your 7 foot Heavy / Fast Action Rod on this, with Braided Line, I would go with Power Pro 20 lb or better, in Black color. Rig you Jig strait on the braided line, with no Mono Leader, or a 16" 12lb Mono Leader will give you an second to react on a strike due to the giving nature of the Mono. Your going to need at least a 1 oz Jig or more. Rig the Rattlin Frog-N-Craw up and start fan casting your pattern out there. Keep your line tight when the bait is on the fall, as aggressive bass will take it right on the fall.
If your bait makes it to the bottom, again little you would with the Carolina Rig, let it just sit there for a minute or 2 deadsticking it. This is key on bodies of water that are heavily pressured year round. Most anglers will move that bait strait out of the prime strike zone way to fast. In this situation your going to be casting from a shallow water position, into the deeper water channel, and bringing the bait back up the slow into the shallower water.
Then after you 2 minute deadstick, start ticking the Jig & Frog-N-Craw with variable lengths in your pauses, switch it up, the bass with tell you how they want it. Go fast, slow, but constantly vary your presentation until you get about 3 in the boat, then you’ll know exactly how they want it. I would start with a Black & Blue Rattlin Frog-N-Craw on a Black & Blue Jig oz or better. I would also go with Bloody Fork, and Baby Barf on a Jig Presentation, all year long on a jig at Lake Fork.
.C) Rattlin Frog-N-Craw as a Chatter Bait Trailer as a search bait.
Your going to need that 7 Foot Fast Action Heavy Rod with braided line you just used for your Jig Presentation for the Rattlin Frog-N-Craw on the Chatter Bait. Simply rig the Rattlin Frog-N-Craw on the Chatter bait as a trailer, and start fan casting. You want to see what depth they want this one at, some times your casting into 20 foot plus of water, so you most likely want to start by letting the chatter bait fall, until its almost at the bottom, before you start your retrieve, once you get near the bottom, rip it with long sweeping side arm motions, slowly reel down the slack line on the pause, as that’s when they tend to hit this the most.
If you see large schools 25 to 65 fish stack up and suspending, let the chatter bait fall into the middle depth at which they are holding, and start swimming it at that exact depth, vary you speeds, and depth slightly while fan casting past the bass, and bring the bait into them at the same level they are suspending to start with, and change up from there. Some times they want this thing moving extremely fast, by that I mean as fast as you can possible reel it in, with no pause, just strait out power and speed baby. Prepare to "Get Your Arm Broke!" I did.
Color Selection: Start with Black & Blue/ Chartreuse Skirt & Blue Gill Rattlin Frog-N-Craw. Next I would go with Green Pumpkin Chartreuse color combo, and Bloody Fork or Baby Barf Combo.
If it is Raining or Cloudy and Windy, change over to strait White for the Chatter Bait & Rattlin Frog-N-Craw combo. Work it high in the water column, on top and through the rolling waves. Work it through the tops of the waves, then kill it for about a thousand 3 count, and start ripping it up to the top of the next wave, and repeat. I have taken absolute monster with this presentation during the hurricane storm fronts that typically hit Lake Fork in mid-September.
D) Drop-Shot the "Pro-Tour Rattlin Worm" as a search bait.
This is where you need that 7 foot Rod with an Open Face Spinning Reel, I like 8 lb test P-Line Mono, Green Moss Color. The line has a ton of memory, so you have to actually stretch it out before you fish it on an open face spinning reel. I stretch it out in the yard, once I have rigged my rod with the 8 lb P-Line Mono, I tie a hook on and stick the hook it the fence post walk out about 50 yards of line, and tighten the rod and line down, so as the line it tight and stretching a bit, and let it set there for a few hours in the sun, best when 70 degrees or warmer air temperature. This line will give you the power of about 14 lb test, so not enough to horse them in, but enough to keep them from breaking you off if you play the fish. I can’t stress this enough, you can’t horse them in using this presentation. I recommend tightening your drag all the way down, and then turning it back 2 to 4 notches, so you have enough there to set the hook, but when they run, the reel will give lack out slow and steady like, not to fast, but slow and steady. Check this by pulling the line out with your hand, you want it so that it is not easy to pull, but doesn’t take everything you have to pull the line out under your current drag setting. You can also back reel on these fish, or loosen your drag after setting the hook, but I don’t personally recommend trying to do that when you have a fish on the line.
I am going to Drop-Shot this, so I want a Drop-Shot Weight, or my Poor Mans Drop-Shot. Poor mans Drop-Shot, is a bullet weight, with a split shot pitched to the bottom of the lane, with a small knot under it to secure it. Place the Bullet weight above the Split shot, and keep it so it slides free, like it would on a Carolina Rig. Then tie you "Off-Set Worm Hook on with about 10" to 16" of leader. No I don’t use a Drop-Shot Hook in the nose of the bait, I use a regular off-set worm hook for this. I don’t miss the fish, and I get a prefect hook set almost always. You can take that to the bank. I start fan casting, using the same type search presentation, cast out, let it fall, make sure to keep the line tight enough to fell them if they take it on the fall. You do not need to cross there eyes with this presentation. They will not let go of the bait, unless they feel you first, so when they strike, just start reeling in at a good steady pace, don’t try to set the hook, as most times you will end up ripping the bait right out of their mouth.
I work the bait in with gentle sweeping movements, always using the rod tip to do all the work. Nine times out of ten they hit this on the pause, so at the end of each retrieve sweep, pause, and reel line in slowly, until the bow in the line disappears, and pause for a few seconds, and get ready to just reel down, and not try to cross their eyes.
Shad are a big time food source right now, so I would go with Winter-Shad or Electric Shad, Black & Blue, Bloody Fork, Rayburn Red, and Blue Gill in the Pro-Tour Rattlin Worms. I would go with the 10" Pro-Tour Rattlin Worm first, then switch up to see if down sizing brings any change to the bite.
For more information visit: www.LarrytheLizardCustomBaits.com