The Rookie – Lake Fork

With three tournaments in the books, it was time to visit the great East Texas impoundment known as Lake Fork for the next event in the NTXKC series. The reservoir, which holds fifteen out of twenty state fishing records, is located about sixty five miles east of Dallas and is known mostly for its population of large bass. The lake is also home to one of my favorite YouTube personalities, the Lake Fork Guy.

After holding sixteenth place in the standings, I was really hoping to get on some big fish, and Lake Fork was a place where this could be accomplished. Still being fairly new to kayak fishing, I knew from word of mouth that the lake had several different areas where the fish would be hiding. What mainly got my attention were the lily pads, especially since I enjoyed top water fishing so much. I was almost as excited about my pre-fishing there as much as participating in the actual tournament.

In the weeks leading up to it I had planned to learn the lake and try to find some productive areas of where I could fish, but I dragged my feet and got a two-week late start on my practice fishing. This forced me to get off work in the morning from a 24-hour shift and drive straight from work to the lake; sometimes I would camp overnight and wake up early, to fish for several hours before heading back home. The hype of Lake Fork was there, but in all honesty for the time I spent there practice fishing it was a huge disappointment.

It was difficult and I struggled to find fish needed for a good limit. While out on the lake I continually told myself that I was just one cast away from catching my personal best. But unfortunately, this never occurred. Out of five separate locations, I was only able to catch one decent fish in each spot. I jokingly told myself if there was a way to clone my body I could get to the top of leader board with ease.

Towards the end of my practice fishing, I found a great area with lots of cover and lily pads, and I was able to put together a small, but respectable limit. Most of these fish were caught on top water lures. I knew that since this was my main way of catching, I would stick to this pattern come the morning of the event.

I didn’t get much sleep the night before the tournament. I had decided to drive to the lake and sleep in the back of my truck, to avoid a two hour drive early in the morning. I would later regret this as sleeping in the back of pickup truck in the middle of the Texas summer obviously doesn’t work well. I tossed and turned that night and continually woke up while other anglers continued to arrive by vehicle and light up the parking lot. I woke up that morning at three thirty, one hour before the check in, and fought hard to get back to sleep. But with the noise of everyone, it was nearly impossible.

After the usual morning meet up and check in, the rules were explained and then we were quickly released to begin fishing. Several anglers launched from the marina and made their way around the corner to begin there day. I had other plans though. I hopped into my truck and headed fifteen minutes away where I had found a creek that flowed into the lake. I was the only angler at my launch site, and I quickly began to unload my gear. While unloading I noticed a hard wind, blowing towards the back of the creek. It didn’t phase me at first, but would later prove to be a pivotal change in my plans.

As I finished unloading my things, I looked up and the number one angler in our series backing his truck onto the ramp. I greeted him and offered to help unload his kayak. It was good to see him there, because I knew I had to have found a decent location on the lake. After all, the top angler in the series wouldn’t be there if he didn’t think it was holding any fish.
I climbed into my back-up kayak, a Jackson Cuda 12 and paddled quickly to my spot. As the sun began to shine its morning light, I noticed that there was a drastic change in the area’s appearance. All of the cover on the top of the water was gone and had been pushed back into the back of the cove. During practice I was throwing a Whopper Plopper, and some buzz baits in between the cover, and had several hits. The fish were using the cover to hide and attack their prey. Now with the cover gone, and the high winds, I knew my first plan of attack was ruined.

I made my way into the back of the cove and tried to get out of the wind, and started with my initial plan. I was throwing a black buzz bait with a loud clacker, when I finally connected with my first fish. It was a healthy dark green largemouth bass, measuring right around seventeen and a half inches. This was a huge relief after being hunkered down in the cove almost two hours. I quickly measured him and grabbed my photos that I would need to turn in, and released him back to his habitat.

Now with the lack of action on my buzz bait I decided to start throwing bottom baits, but because the wind had drawn a lot of the cover underneath the water surface I was getting hung up on a lot of slop. It felt like nothing was going to work in this area, so I thought it would be a good time to make a move to my next location. Normally in a tournament I try to stay localized to one launch site, this way it gives me more time to fish and I don’t lose anytime driving from one spot to another.

I made my way back to the ramp and to my surprise I ran straight into the number one angler again. He had the same idea and was searching for a good location on his phone while sitting on the bank next to his kayak. We both jokingly talked about the poor conditions in what would otherwise be a great spot, and then we wished each other luck loaded up the kayaks and headed to the next launch site. While driving over to the new spot, I was hoping the wind would behave itself out there. I had a total of three separate locations picked out just in case.

It was a short twelve-minute drive to the next location so I didn’t lose much time off the water. In practice I had caught some decent fish off some standing timber in this area and I was hoping to do so again.

Within a few minutes I was back on the water and came in contact with two tournament anglers who had been fishing that spot all morning. Both of them reported not having much luck and were making their way back down the bank to the other side of the ramp.

It was only about thirty minutes when I casted a Shakey head with a Senko worm under the walkway of a boat ramp. With just a few twitches of my rod handle, something struck lightly and pulled my line down into the water. It wasn’t a very hard pull but enough to give you some hope on what had been a very difficult morning. I quickly reeled the fish to my kayak with ease and noticed that the fish was small and so I was unable to score the fish since he came in at just under the minimum length requirement. I tossed him back in and continued on. This was a good sign that what I was using was working and hopefully I was going to catch another fish.

For the next several hours I made my way back into the cove and worked hard at trying to get a limit. I fished docks, heavy timber and some rock wall ledges, but all proved unsuccessful. Now being at Fork, and sitting on only one fish has got to be the most frustrating feeling in the world. All I could I think about was all the prize fish that been caught in the lake. After several unsuccessful hours and with only one fish recorded, I slowly made my way back to my truck to load up for the day. I felt terrible, and tried to replay the day in my mind to see what I might have done wrong.

I loaded up and made my way back to the marina for the award ceremony where I heard a lot of guys talking about how amazing the fishing was that day and how they all caught their limits. What a kick in the face this was after not only struggling at one location, but two. What made it worse was the thirty hours I had spent on the lake pre-fishing prior to the tournament. A lot of the guys I had talked to had maybe fished the lake one day or hadn’t pre-fished it at all. It just goes to show you that fishing can be really be a hit or miss kind of sport. There are good days and bad days, and good locations and bad ones. But all you can do is never give up and quickly start planning to improve at your next event.

I left Fork that day frustrated to say the least, but was proud of myself for not giving up. With a forty-first place finish and only one fish to measure, I knew I had a lot of room for improvement and I began preparing for my next challenge, Lake Granbury.

Lone Star Chronicles — Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish

About the Author

A native Texan, Darrin Collins calls Fort Worth his home. He works as an EMT-Paramedic with Careflite Ground Services, and when he’s not working, he enjoys the outdoors and being a father to his three boys.

Darrin also hosts a YouTube channel highlighting his kayak fishing adventures and helping beginning anglers get into the sport. You can find him here as The Paramedic Yakker: (

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