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Published: September 15, 2015
Tackling Fork's Fabulous Early Fall Bass Fishing Blitz
(Lynn Burkhead photo)
By: Lynn Burkhead, MajorLeagueFishing.com
Kelly Jordon is pretty good at this bass fishing thing, no matter what time of the year it is.
With an FLW Tour win in January, four BASS tournament victories scattered from March until August and a Major League Fishing triumph in October, there really isn't a time of the year where KJ hasn't been successful while fishing tournaments across the land.
And while each season has its own lure and attraction for the Flint, Texas, based MLF pro, Jordon really enjoys fishing during the autumn months, especially on his favorite East Texas bass water known as Lake Fork.
Because when it comes to autumn bass action, these Fork fish just have a difficult time saying no to bait that even remotely resembles a threadfin shad.
“At Fork, we smoke ‘em in the fall,” said Jordon. “You can just crush those schooling fish.”
In fact, Jordon’s best angling day ever – and that’s saying something for a pro with an impressive fishing resume – came during the late autumn period on Fork.
It was on a fall day when KJ literally hammered the bass by fishing a jigging spoon and a Sassy Shad.
“Here’s the bottom line, you’re trying to imitate a baitfish (especially in the fall),” said Jordon.
“Sure, you can occasionally catch them on something that looks like a crawdad, on something that looks like a bream or even by fishing stuff like a jig,” he added.
“But in the fall, it’s a feeding deal and they’re keying on the shad.”
In fact, largemouth bass almost seem to forget what piscatorial species they are at this time of the year.
“The bass will chase them around and there’s a lot of schooling activity,” said Jordon.
“In some reservoirs more than others, they’ll almost turn into stripers,” he added.
“They’ll run in the open water, they’ll suspend, and they’ll relate to bait.”
The bass on Fork do exactly that – mimicking the fall surface blitzing activity of striped bass – as they chase bait balls of shad around.
So how does Jordon fish for such energetic autumn bass?
Since covering the water quickly is a key to finding active fall fish, Jordon admits that there is certainly a place in his tackle-box at this time of year for a spinnerbait and a crankbait.
But most of the time, the nine-time Classic qualifier loves to give bass his own one-two punch for fall.
What’s that you ask? Simple – a topwater for when the bass are chasing bait to the surface and a soft plastic jerkbait when they are sounding and going deep.
“For a walking surface type of bait, I like a Lucky Craft Sammy,” said Jordon, a Lucky Craft pro-staffer.
“When I go to a soft plastic jerkbait or a fluke type bait, I will hit them with a Lake Fork Magic Shad in any shad color.”
For the latter bait, Jordon likes to fish it with a weighted hook that will help the bait fall in a more horizontal fashion.
“We designed the Lake Fork Magic Shad specifically for targeting schooling bass in the fall,” said Jordon.
“You can let it fall and you can swim it around, although you don’t tight line it,” he added.
“You want to keep the slack out of your line to feel it when they knock it (around).”
While crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters and soft plastic jerkbaits are all superb options for Fork's fall bass action, there’s another way that also works really well.
And that's when an angler uses a fly rod to toss a fly into the boiling surface mêlée as bass chase shad around on top.
Rob Woodruff, an Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide on Lake Fork (www.flyfishingfork.com ; (903) 967-2665), has found that the autumn months are a great time to tackle feeding bass with the long-rod.
Like Jordon, the Quitman, Texas, based Woodruff enjoys fishing for Fork’s autumn schooling bass on top, albeit with a slightly different set-up: he uses a nine-weight fly rod, a floating fly line and a stout leader that ends in 14- to 17-pound tippet material.
But when it comes to his fly selection, there’s little difference other than the fact that Woodruff actually ties most of the shad-looking imitations himself.
Specifically, Woodruff’s go-to flies for autumn bass on Lake Fork are his own Rob's I.C. fly, Woodruff's Patasa fly, the Dizzy Shad pattern, the RW Keel Fly pattern or various topwater poppers tied up by Orvis or by the late and legendary Texas fly tier named Charlie Cypert.
In all of the above, Woodruff hedges his fly pattern bets to shad colored hues, preferably in silver, white, chartreuse and sexy shad patterns.
At times during the fall season, the fishing – both with a fly and without – can be amazingly good on Fork.
“Pretty much, it’s a number thing,” said Woodruff. “It’s a lot of pound to three-and-a-half (pounders).”
“But if you have the discipline to throw a sinking line around the schools with a slow falling fly that looks like a crippled shad, you can pick up some (really) good fish (underneath the school).”
Keep in mind that for Woodruff, a good fish is a bass that is approaching – or exceeding – the 10-pound mark.
In fact, the guide's best fly rod caught Lake Fork bass is an 11.75-pound bruiser while his clients annually hook and land several fish in the 8-, 9- and 10-pound range.
On most early fall days, however, Fork's fly rod bass blitz is with small to moderate-size schoolie fish in the 2-, 3- and even 4-pound range.
And when the blitz is on, so sizzling can the action be at times that an angler's arm is painfully throbbing by day's end.
“I haven’t had a 100-fish day (yet), but I’ve had some 65-fish days,” Woodruff said of this sometimes frenzied fall fishing activity.
“It just can be incredible numbers. And it’s the kind of thing where they’re coming up all day long.”
In addition to surface blitzing bass, white bass – or sand bass as they are known in East Texas – have made serious inroads into the Fork fishery in recent years.
While nearly all bass fishing on Fork is catch-and-release, the growing abundance of sand bass provides some good eating and another early fall fly option. Especially if a hard pulling, bait busting fish in the 2- to 3-pound class is what an angler is hoping to feel at the end of his line.
If all of the above is not an ample enough reason to launch the boat and go fishing on Fork this fall – especially with a favorite shad-colored go-to bait tied on at the end of your line – then I don’t know what is.
But don't take my word on it.
Instead, take the word of one of the sport's best angling pros with wins on all three of the major bass fishing circuits.
Or take the word of a man who is able to make a full-time living guiding fly anglers to catch largemouth bass in a part of the country where the fly rod isn't as commonly used as it is in Rocky Mountain trout country.
Because when it comes to the fabulous early fall fishing action on East Texas' famed Lake Fork, there are few better times of the year to wet a line.
No matter what kind of line it happens to be.