Lake Fork is most commonly associated with high-powered bass boats racing up and down the boat lanes, soft plastic baits and big bass.
However, once a year for the last two years fly fishing and Lake Fork have not been exclusive terms. It happens again May 12 when the lake hosts the World Championship Bass on The Fly fishing tournament.
Don’t expect the lake to be overrun with fishermen swinging 9-foot poles during the six-hour tournament. It only attracted 20-something fishermen the first year and 30-something the second. This year it could be 40.
The tournament is the idea of Ted Warren, a fly fisherman who lives at Lake Fork from fall through spring, before moving to Colorado for the summer fly fishing season.
Whether for trout or other species, there are some fly fishing purist who sneer at the idea of competitive fishing. Warren sees it as a PR tool for the sport
“The argument I make is look how BASS helped grow bass fishing,” Warren said.
So he created the first fly fishing bass tournament, but not just a bass tournament, the world championship. Let’s just say it is a small world.
The rules aren’t quite as strict as most bass tournaments, but that may be a nod to fly fishing ethics.
There are two categories of participation, boater and non-boater. Boater may be a one- or two-man team. Non-boaters are allowed to fish from kayaks, float tubes, the shore, anything but a boat.
Team fishing with a fly rod can be difficult if not in some way synchronized.
Fishing from a bass boat also creates a situation where if not careful the line will end up wrapped around the trolling motor. On the other hand the trolling motor is important because most fly fishermen don’t have the casting distance of traditional tackle so they need to work in closer.
Compared to traditional tackle, fly fishermen are restricted in where they can fish by their equipment.
“They are best fishing shallow. Some are good at fishing in 20-25 feet, but it is harder to get their lures down. Most are going to fish down to about 10 feet,” Warren said. And unlike traditional bass fishing reels with their drags and gears that let fishermen rip their catch through the timber and back to the boat, fly fishermen have to wear their catch out before getting them in. This means losing a lot of the bigger fish to a stump.
Warren said about a fifth of the field last year fished from kayaks in the non-boater division. He said while there are limitations to where they can go, they like the catch, photo and release rules because it allows them to count slot limit fish along with those above and below the slot.
Fishermen from Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma have competed in the tournament. The bulk has come from Dallas-Fort Worth. That has developed a friendly rivalry for the club competition between clubs from the two cities. That competition is open to any club. The club’s best three fish are counted for the championship.
Warren said there was also a Colorado couple that competed the first year. They typically fish regular bass tournaments with fly rods, but in those events are restricted to 8-foot rods.
Kayak demonstrations and other vendors will also be at the marina during the event.
Warren said he would like to see the tournament concept expand and is getting support from the Federation of Fly Fishers — Southern Council in trying to start competitions in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and other parts of Texas.
Complete rules and registration for the tournament are available online at www.bassonthefly.org. Fishermen may register from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. May 11 or from 5-6 a.m. the morning of the tournament.
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