McKINNEY – Jason Conn of Anna has been fishing for black bass on Lake Fork since 1994. He’s been a guide there for nearly five years and also fishes professionally around the state. He’s appeared on television fishing shows multiple times, as well as numerous YouTube channels, and his Facebook page, Jason Conn Lake Fork Fishing Guide, has 16,000 followers.
At McKinney Grain near downtown McKinney on July 11, Conn, 37, talked fishing — and Fork.
“Lake Fork is the No. 1 bass lake in the nation — I mean, as far as big fish,” he said. “They had a pro tournament out there a couple of years ago … and set a world-record for a three-day tournament: 110 pounds in three days. The old record was 85. If you look up the Top 50 bass caught in the state of Texas, over 30 of them come out of Fork. … I’ve had clients who come here from New York, Canada, the East Coast, West Coast — all over — to fish Fork.”
How well does Conn know a bass?
“About like I know a woman,” he joked. “You just never know. … They’re not the easiest fish to catch. When you go out and you catch a big fish, especially big ones like I’ve caught, it can be rewarding at the end of the day.”
Conn’s three main tournament sponsors are Buck Ration Wildlife Feed, which he has a part in manufacturing through McKinney Grain; J. Earnhart Inc. of Van Alstyne, which builds custom and commercial steel buildings; and Hank’s Texas Grill in McKinney. Other sponsors include Falcon Rods, which he uses exclusively, and V&M Baits. Conn’s 20-foot Triton boat is equipped with a 225-horse Mercury motor and is wrapped in Buck Ration. He’s set to buy a new 21-foot Phoenix this year.
Conn competes professionally on the Texas Team Trail, “probably the best trail in Texas,” he said, noting that its contingency money is quite good. That’s money paid by sponsors to entrants who use their products and place near the top of a tournament field. For instance, Triton and Mercury pay Conn for placing well. Also on the pro side, Conn competes in Fishing League Worldwide (FLW).
Conn grew up in West Texas and has fished since he was 4 or 5.
“Me and my sister, when we were little, that’s all we did,” he said. “Whenever I would wake up, I’d start fishing.”
So how did Fork become so prominent for bass fishing? Conn said one theory is tied to dairies at its north end.
“When it would rain, all the manure would wash off into the lake and that would act as a fertilizer. It helped the grass grow and it was good for the fish.”
Now barns must have concrete floors and manure is washed into sanitation systems instead of the lake.
“That’s one of the reasons the lake has kind of fallen off,” he said. “There’s hardly any grass on the lake anymore.”
Another factor, he said, has been fishing pressure on the lake.
“So many people fish it,” Conn said. “… There’s probably not the number of big fish there anymore but you can still catch 10-plus-pounders all the time.”
Conn’s biggest bass? Lake Fork 12-pounders — two of them, and he landed them in the same August week.
“I caught them on a drop-shot with a little 4-inch finesse worm,” he said.
Besides Fork and Sam Rayburn, Conn also likes Bonham, Ray Roberts and Toledo Bend.
“I’ve gone down there tournament fishing at Toledo and gotten eighth place out of over 300 boats,” he said. “And most of them are locals that fish that lake every day. It’s a big lake. It’s got a lot of fish in it.”
Conn openly admitted to having a million stories, before recalling one in particular: One time at Fork, when his clients had bailed mid-trip due to the heat, Conn got with a guide friend who was free. They headed to a spot they’d yet to try that day — and hauled in three 10-pounders in 30 minutes.
“We ended up having 48 pounds that day,” Conn said. “Our best five fish: 48 pounds. That’s a bag. You don’t ever hear that.”
Of course, Conn sent pictures to his just-departed clients. They were fairly dismayed.
“I try to do good things for people around Anna,” Conn said.
He offers Anna police half-off on fishing trips and also finds time to coach Anna youth sports. Soon, he’ll serve as mentor/coach to Anna’s new fishing club being planned by Jason Adams. Adams’s 11-year-old son Jamison, who recently made news as national Select30 baseball pick, has fished with Conn.
“He’s just as good a fisherman as he is a baseball player,” Conn said.
Conn’s advice to beginners is to just start fishing.
“In my boat,” he added, “I’ll have three or four different poles sitting on the deck, all with a different bait when I’m searching. I start at the top and I’ll go to the bottom. Or I’ll start at the bottom and go to the top. Depending on the weather, there’s a lot of factors that go into bass fishing.”
During the spring spawn they’ll be near shore, he said, and now they’re mostly in deep water.
“Especially the bigger fish,” Conn said. “The big ones come up, they do their thing and they go back out deep. They don’t hang around up there so they can get caught 15 times. The smart ones don’t.”
“Pond fishing,” Conn said, “is the easiest way to fish. A spinner bait or a topwater or a worm, I mean, you can’t go wrong with those three baits, at the right time of year. You can throw a top-water on a pond all year.”
Bass, he noted, “eat just like a deer does, by the moon.”
For this, Conn relies on Solunar Tables that chart the best times to fish or hunt, based on moon and sun position. This theory, that wildlife are more active during these solunar periods of high gravitational pull, is well-accepted by sportsmen. Conn has an app for it on his phone.
“Every morning before I go out, I’ll look at it,” he said. “… The thing is not always right, because it doesn’t know the weather. Cold fronts, northers, are always the worst thing that can happen when you’re trying to catch fish. It shuts them off, especially at Lake Fork because it’s Florida-strain (bass). They’re a lot more finicky to weather.”
“There’s lots of different things you can do, just based on the time of year,” Conn said. “The best thing to do is just pay me $400 dollars and I’ll take you out and show you,” he laughed.
For more information on guide trips with Conn, visit fishingwithjasonconn.com.