Despite a rising mid-day wind that made life a little more challenging for kayakers, a few dozen fly anglers cast topwater poppers, deer hair bugs and streamers last weekend at big bass roaming legendary Lake Fork as the 10th annual World Championship Bass on the Fly fishing tournament was held again in East Texas.
Headquartered at Lake Fork Marina, organizers say that the May 25 event drew a total of 62 competitors this year. That included 37 in the team boater division and 25 in the solo kayak division with participants coming from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and California.
As a catch-photo-release (CPR) style tournament based on total inches rather than weight, boating teams and kayak competitors competing in the event were allowed to enter their five longest fish. A total of 52 bass were entered at the one-day event, including 43 fish in the boating division (including four five-fish limits) and nine in the kayaking division (including two five-fish limits).
When the proverbial dust had settled following the conclusion of the 2019 event, the Boating Division team of Bubba Headrick and Dennis North had won, taking the $800 top check after entering 78.5 inches of bass caught on the fly at Fork (cash payouts are based on the number of entries in each division). Johnny Martinez — a fly fishing guide on Lake Athens — and Suresh Venu came close to taking home the win themselves, capturing the runner-up spot ($400) thanks to 77.5-inches of bass. Third place was occupied by Don and Kim Penick ($325), fourth place was held by Rex White and Eric Dilts ($240), and fifth place was taken by Timothy Kapp and David Howse ($140).
In the Kayak Division, Kevin Fuller was the winner, taking home the $400 top check thanks to the 63.5 inches of bass he entered in the CPR format. Peter Maddox was the runner-up ($285), Andrew Wesling finished in third ($225), Wade Peterson was in fourth ($170), and Louisiana Sportsmancolumnist Catch Cormier finished in fifth place ($80).
The Big Bass Honors for the event were won by Matt Lough in the Boaters Division with a 21-inch largemouth, good enough for the $180 Big Bass check, while Wade Peterson and Greg McMullen tied in the Kayak Division with a pair of 17-inch bass worth a $125 check.
After last Saturday’s event, most successful fly anglers said that their bass came on Fork’s windy points or around grass and/or lily pads. Headrick and North got on their winning bite quickly, pulling up on a windy point early in the day where a school of Lake Fork bass was chasing baitfish in the waning stages of the shad spawn on the 27,264-acre reservoir near Quitman. That fortunate start allowed the championship winning team to capture a limit in only 20 minutes of competition.
Last Friday afternoon, Catch Cormier won the event’s annual Bluegill Tournament when his 10.25-inch bluegill paid $120. That Lake Fork bluegill will likely be a new catch-and-release record for the water body pending certification by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Along with the Bluegill tourney, the event’s casting accuracy contest was won by Michael Schraeder, Jr. and the casting distance contest was won by Matt Lough. Each of the casting contest winners received a TFO NXT Combo fly rod and reel package.
In addition, the Lone Star Fly Fishers club out of Tyler retained the event’s Team Trophy with three of their participants scoring solid finishes. In that same spirit of teamwork, the 2019 tournament donated $1,005 to Reel Recovery (which holds fly fishing retreats for men battling cancer) and $405 to the Texas Council of Fly Fishers International.
Tournament organizer Ted Warren noted in the event’s press release that this year’s sponsors include: Sage Fly Rods, Skeeter Boats, Umpqua Flies, Tailwaters Fly Shop in Dallas, Redington Fly Rods, Rio Fly Lines, TFO Fly Rods in Dallas, Bass Pro Shops — Garland, Simms Fishing Products, Lake Fork Marina, Ranger Boats, Gypsy Jack Lures, Lone Star Fly Fishers, Gray Wolf Fly Shop, Sight Line Provisions, East Texas Fly Fishers, Mudfish Adventures, Flymen Fishing, Pultz Poppers, Bream Bugs, Mike George, R&M Associates, and the Wood County Industrial Commission.
Normally held the first Saturday in May, this year’s event was moved to Memorial Day weekend due to a big bass tournament held on Fork earlier this month. Plans are already in place to return the 11th Annual World Championship Bass on the Fly event to its earlier time slot with next year’s event tentatively scheduled for May 2, 2020.
For additional information on the event, please see the tourney’s website at www.bassonthefly.org .