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HOOKED ON EAST TEXAS: Legendary largemouth bass on Lake Fork

We go in search of legendary Lake Fork largemouth bass

TYLER, Texas — Just before sunrise and ahead of a thunderstorm rolled over Lake Fork, CBS19 took to the water with guide Michael Samples. 

He's been a full-time guide for about five years. Samples runs about 250 trips a year, all on Lake Fork. 

Before his fishing guide career, he played pro-baseball then retired to work in the oil fields. He's also the father of two teenagers. 

When he got the chance to be a full-time guide and he took it. It means he gets to spend more time with his kids and coach baseball part-time. 

CBS19 Marketing producer Larry Magee and I ventured out to a spot on Lake Fork where you are surrounded by stumps. What we couldn't see were the brush piles under the water. The brush piles were home so a nice school of bass. Before a thunderstorm chased us off the lake, we caught two bass, including my personal best, a five pound largemouth on a Texas rig. 

We waited two hours for the thunderstorms to clear and for it to be safe enough to get back on the lake. The fish weren't biting so we started talking about fish habitat. Lake Fork used to be home to some invasive hydrilla grass. Anglers we've talked to say they used to find bass hiding out in the grass all the time. But now, the grass is mostly gone but Samples says he thinks the habitat was better for bass before the hydrilla disappeared. 

“Lakes really need it", Samples explained. "Because it’s like a nursery for the fish for the fry and stuff for spawn, those little bait fish, the fry the baby bass spots to hide and it just helps out the lake a lot.”

We try a couple of other spots but the lightning seems to have made the bass skittish. It takes about two hours before we get another bite. Samples catches a nice sized bass. The fish swallowed the hook. Samples shows us how to get a swallowed hook out of a fish's throat without yanking it out and possibly killing the fish. He pushes the hook out through a gill and then cuts the line and frees the fish from both hook and line. We released the fish it happily swam back to its home. Samples says if you can't get the hook out, simply cut the line as close to the hook as possible and let the natural digestive process of fish take over. 

 “A fish can pass and digest that hook, it will dissolve that hook, you just cut the line off above it if it’s too deep to get it out and that fish will survive," said Samples.

Lake Fork gets fished a lot. But guides such as Samples credit Texas parks and Wildlife regulations and its limit on the size of bass you can keep on Fork. You have to throw anything between 16 and 24 inches back into the lake. That means you have a better chance of catching a three to seven pound bass on you next Lake Fork trip.

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