Norfork Lake's fall fishing pattern is slowly moving toward the winter pattern. As the water continues to cool the fish go deeper following the bait. Over the last week I have noticed the bait moving from around 28 feet of water to anywhere from 35 to 50 feet of water. The bite over the last week has been good for most species. There have been continuous cold fronts, then warm air then back to cold fronts. Each time a system moves through the area the bite is affected.
The best bite on the lake, in my opinion, is as follows: white bass, largemouth and spotted bass, crappie, but the hybrid bass and striped bass bite are starting to pick up. Walleye and catfish have both been sporadic, but I have seen good signs that both are ready to improve.
I have been having a lot of fun over the holiday week fishing with family members. Our resort was partially filled with my wife's side of the family and the remainder of the resort was filled with guests fishing for all types of species. I was really impressed that the cold weather didn't stop many of our Texas, Florida and South Carolina family members and they all were able to catch a fish.
White bass have schooled and are located on flats in 35 - 50 feet of water depending on time of day. Early in the morning they are typically in the shallowest. As the day wears on they move to deeper water on the bottom and also have been found in very deep water, but suspended in the same 35 to 50 foot range. In the afternoons, look in the mouths of deep coves for this species. Within these schools of whites are hybrid bass and striped bass. Most of the stripers and hybrids are still suspended from 15 - 35 feet down. I have been fishing flats and mouths of coves from our resort up towards the Red Bank area, as well as, from the 101 bridge flat up to Bennetts Bayou area. The best striped bass bite has been up in the Bennetts area, but stripers have been caught in Pigeon Creek, Cranfield area and the mid lake major creeks, Float, Fall and Panther. Vertical jigging a spoon, casting out Kastmasaters and live shiners have been the best baits for whites, hybrids and stripers.
Largemouth and spotted bass are being caught in many different types of areas and structures and are being caught on different types of baits. I have a lot of fun looking for schools of bass on the flats and they are currently being found in 35 to 48 feet of water. If you can find a slight drop off out on the flat it will be holding fish. When I find these schools I vertical jig with a spoon and at times will catch one after another. They are also located on the bluffs and close to the transition areas from bluff to chuck rock. Most will be suspended on the bluff, so casting rattle traps, spinner baits and crank baits will catch you some nice fish. They will also be on the drop offs along the bluffs so throw a jig & pig, Texas rigged worm or a crawdad, all will pick up some nice fish. Work the bottom along the bluffs 20 to 30 feet deep. The bite has been very light, so if you see your line start to move set the hook, or if you feel a slight heaviness set the hook.
Walleye are starting to show up on the flats in about 40 feet of water, with the other species and some really nice fish are being caught jigging a spoon.
The crappie bite has been very good. Look at brush in 30 - 40 feet of water, on the main lake, as well as, part way back into the creeks. Early in the morning and mid day the fish have typically been buried inside of the brush. Late in the afternoon after the water has warmed a bit, they have a tendency to move up in the water column above the brush. Live bait is the best, but jigging small spoons or paddle tail grub are picking up some nice 13 - 14 inch slabs.
Norfork Lake level is currently fairly stable with a slight fall one day then a slight rise the next and currently sits at 552.65 feet above sea level. The lake surface water temperature is falling slowly and currently is 53 - 55 degrees. The main lake is fairly clear with some of the creeks and coves slightly stained.
Happy fishing and see you on the lake.