A congratulatory tip of the hat to Brandon Cobb and a resonant drum roll for legendary Lake Fork are in order following the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, held May 2-6 at the 27,000-acre reservoir near Quitman.
Both turned in remarkable showings during the four-day event benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife's fishing-focused youth outreach programs.
Cobb, a 29-year-old Bassmaster Elite Series rookie, further solidified his career as a big league basser with a century belt performance. Lake Fork, meanwhile, made a little more history to add to its much fabled reputation as one of the best big bass fisheries on the planet.
Cobb is a wiry angler from Greenwood, S.C. who is hardly new to the sport. He competed for five years on the FLW Tour before jumping ship to the Bassmaster Elite Series just ahead of the 2019 season.
The former Clemson University fishing team standout fared pretty well during his FLW stint, earning more than $351,000 through 31 tour events, including four FLW Cup appearances. Amazingly, he racked up all that bread without notching a single win.
Cobb has fished off the charts since swapping leagues. He's reeled in $292,500 in cash and prizes through five Elite Series events since February. Most of it has come in the last 30 days on the heels of convincing wins at Lake Hartwell, and most recently at the Lake Fork Texas Fest.
Notching a big league tournament win is an amazing feat that most pros are never fortunate enough to accomplish. Pulling it off twice in a month means you're on fire.
Several anglers were ablaze at Fork, but Cobb was too hot too touch.
Keying largely on an early morning shad spawn, Cobb caught, weighed and released dozens of fat fish under the tournament's unique format, sometimes reeling them in two at a time. He fooled fish on assorted baits, many of them coming on a jerkbait cast to underwater hard spots so shallow that the bait's bill repeatedly nosed into the mud.
Weights were tallied based on each angler's five heaviest bass from each day. Cobb's 20 heaviest bass weighed a whopping 114 pounds. It's the most weight recorded in any Elite Series event since Paul Elias set the four-day weight record of 132 pounds, 8 ounces at Lake Falcon in 2008.
Breaking it down, the South Carolina weighed in 31-11 on Day 1; 14-07 on Day 2; 37-15 on Day 3; and 29-15 on Day 4. He averaged about 28 1/2 pounds per day and nearly 5 1/2 per bass, even with the subpar Day 2.
It was a truly spectacular performance that saw Cobb break his personal best five fish weight mark three different times. He also caught a new personal best lunker weighing 11 pounds, 1 ounce off a spawning bed, and became one of only two anglers to earn a BASS "Century Belt" trophy since 2013. BASS awards the coveted trophy belts to anglers who crack the 100-pound mark during a four-day Elite Series event.
Cobb's big victory at Fork won him an equally plump payday -- $125,000 cash, plus a certificate for a 2019 Toyota Tundra pickup for catching the tournament's biggest bass. Remarkably, he'd never laid eyes on the lake before coming to town for the Texas Fest.
Though Cobb stole the show at Texas Fest, he wasn't the only angler in the field to find big bass nirvana at a lake has been dishing it out since the 1980s. Fork is responsible for 261 Toyota ShareLunkers and 30 of the 50 heaviest bass ever reported in Texas, including back-to-back state records.
Michigan pro Garrett Paquette also earned a century belt trophy with 101-15. Weights gradually fell off from there, but eight of the Top 10 finishers still tallied upwards of 90 pounds. Drew Benton of Panama City, Fla., grabbed the 10-place spot with 83-8 -- better than a four-pound average per fish.
Benton's 10th-place weight is noteworthy because it was only an ounce shy of what it took to win the FLW Tour event that played out on Tennessee's Lake Chickamauga the same week.
Chickamauga ranked No. 2 on Bassmaster's 2018 Best 100 Lakes in America list. Fork wasn't among the Top 10, but did rank No. 25 in the Central region behind other Texas lakes including Sam Rayburn, Falcon, Toledo Bend, Conroe, Lake O' the Pines, Ray Roberts, Palestine, Caddo, Belton and Texoma.
As good as the results from Texas Fest may look and sound, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Jake Norman of Tyler said the quality of the fishing fell a little short of his expectations going in. Norman said he thinks foul weather and heavy rains that rolled just as the tournament got underway may have slowed the bite.
"Lake Fork still showed out, especially for the top 15-20 anglers in the tournament," Norman said. "Did it fall a little short of my initial expectations? Slightly, but the top end of the leaderboard still had phenomenal weights. I think the storms, rain and subsequent high water definitely hurt the bite, especially for the first two days."
Meanwhile, due to flooding conditions on the Trinity River, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is temporarily prohibiting fishing for alligator gar in portions of the river between the Highway 287 bridge near Cayuga and State Highway 7 near Crockett.
On May 6, Executive Director Carter Smith issued the emergency order to temporarily prohibit taking or attempting to take alligator gar in order to protect spawning alligator gar, which is a species of conservation concern in the Trinity River. The order will remain in effect for not more than 30 days. It could be rescinded before that date if conditions warrant.
While the order is in effect, anglers cannot fish for or harvest alligator gar in the Trinity River and flooded backwaters in the reach of the river specified above.
The temporary prohibition does not affect alligator gar fishing in parts of the state other than the area of the Trinity River detailed above.