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First off, congratulations to Brandon Cobb. He came to my home state of Texas and put together a dream week, totaling 114 pounds to win his second big blue trophy of the year. I don’t think we’ve ever had an event since I’ve been on the Elites where so many anglers caught their personal best big bass, their personal best limit or their personal best four-day catch. That’s what Lake Fork is all about.

I didn’t have that kind of week. I know that every angler loses fish and no one really cares about sob stories, but it seemed like I lost big bass every way possible during this tournament. In past tournaments on Fork I’ve lost some fish when they jumped, but that wasn’t what happened this time. Some of them were hooked in the tail, some came unbuttoned for reasons I still can’t figure out, and just about every big fish I landed had just one hook from the back treble keeping it pinned. At one point during the tournament when things weren’t going well, I honestly felt like I was going to throw up.

After practice, I thought I’d catch 30 to 35 pounds a day, and I had my shots. I just didn’t execute. It’s probably tough for many of you to understand how disappointed I am by 93-07 over four days (an average of more than 4 1/2 pounds per fish) but I’m feeling crushed. There aren’t many events this close to home, and even fewer where I get to fish offshore with a crankbait the way I think I’m most effective, so missing out on this type of opportunity to win is hard for me to stomach. 

The reason that a tournament on Lake Fork is so exciting is that even heading into the final day I was convinced that I could weigh in 35 pounds and make a charge at the title if Brandon stumbled. Of course, he didn’t — and I didn’t catch that kind of weight — but where else can you catch 23-13 on Day 4 and actually lose a place in the standings?

Fork has had that kind of potential, and it has held a mystique over thousands of bass fishermen for decades. I can remember the first time I went there when I was about 15 years old. It was a “destination” even then. Every tackle store had enormous fish in their tanks, with big eyes and big lips like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was a community built around bass fishing, with tackle stores seemingly on every street and just about every truck pulling a bass boat. It’s still that way 30 years later. The lake gets tons of pressure, has a huge number of guides and the fish have probably seen every lure under the sun, yet it continues to pump out big bags week after week after week. 

That’s a testament to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and proof that good fisheries management can pay for itself many times over and for multiple generations on end. The TPWD spoke at the registration meeting and they told us that through their testing they’ve determined that some of the ShareLunker fish that have been caught recently are the grandkids of the ones brought in around 2006, in the early years of the program. Those genetics are the reason why 30-pound stringers and double-digit bass like the 11-pounder Brandon weighed in remain an everyday occurrence. 

We are blessed in Texas to have access to a number of great fisheries. I’ve chosen to make Sam Rayburn my home, and I’ve guided at both Amistad and Falcon. There are plenty of others that don’t get as much publicity. Still, I don’t think there’s a better place to hold Texas Fest than at Lake Fork. It is the ultimate case study for proper resource management as well as a tremendous showcase for the Elite field’s many talents. We hit it at a weird time, and we still hit it out of the park. 

After I weighed in on Monday, I seriously considered hanging around and fishing another day or two, even though I’d been fishing basically a week straight from daylight to dark. That’s how invigorating I find Fork to be — you are always just one adjustment, or one spot or one day from that not-really-mythical 45-pound bag. I hope that when they’re considering the locations for the 2020 Texas Fest that someone with a bunch of pull speaks strongly on behalf of a return trip. I want a shot at redemption and an opportunity to earn another Century Belt.