A North Texas Carper's New Year
Location: Bridgeport Lake, Texas
By: Nicholas Anderson
Bridgeport Lake, located approximately 50 miles northwest of Fort Worth, was my swim of choice. With almost 12,000 surface acres and a depth that reaches almost 90 feet in certain parts of the lake, there is plenty of space for the fish to hide. It is by no means a big fish lake, with the records for carp and buffalo both being below 20 pounds. Bowfishing is extremely popular on this lake, which drives down the big fish population. But when I do fish Bridgeport, I almost always catch, and catch often. It’s a great lake to experiment with different presentations or to boost your confidence after a blanking session.
Due to a late New Year’s night, and staying up well past midnight, I had a delayed start, not waking up until 10:00 AM. Luckily, I was staying at a lakeside property, so getting to the swim was just a 60 yard walk from the front door. With my rods already made up and sitting on the rod pod, I simply had to make up some method and attach my rigs.
The method mix I chose for this session was a “sweet heat,” which consisted of old-fashioned oats, creamed corn, chili powder, and poppy seed pie filling. I’ve experimented with poppy seeds before, and I believe that it can keep the fish rooting around in an area. The chili powder comes from a theory that it helps a fish “warm up” in the colder months.
For my hookbaits, I decided for the following 3 separate presentations: an 8 mm fluro-pink Cell pop-up, stacked 6 mm white and yellow Rosehip mini pop-ups, and a Megaspice tigernut tipped with a dull pink Korda floating maize.
The wind was blowing mildly towards the rods and the sun was out almost in full force. Fish had to be in the area because once I threw in, the bait was taken in less than 5 minutes. The bite came in typical smallmouth buffalo fashion, which was a series of steady drop-backs, followed by a slow rising of the swinger. The first fish of the new year was landed at 10:15 AM and was a 9 pound, one-eyed buff. I’m not sure if this was a good omen or a bad one, but I convinced myself it was the former.
My next run wouldn’t come until 12:25 PM, but it was a proper carp run. I was very excited running down the 100 feet of dock, since it had been a couple hours since any action. Unfortunately, that was enough time for the sub-freezing temperatures to do some nasty work, and when I pulled up on the rod, everything went slack. At first, I thought it was a bad hook-up, or maybe a hook-pull. However, after closer inspection, I found the 12 pound mainline had snapped somewhere close to the rod pod. There had been enough moisture to freeze the mainline to the swinger, so when I pulled up, it simply broke the line. Lesson learned and for the rest of the day, whenever I had a run, I gently pulled up on the rod to slowly break any ice that may have formed.
From the hours of 2 to 4 PM I pulled in 3 more smallmouth buffalo. The first buffalo of the set was sandy brown, which I seem to only find at Bridgeport Lake. It was landed at 2 PM and weighed in at 8 pounds. The second of the group came in just 15 minutes later, and was the biggest, weighing in at 11 pounds. The eyes on it started to glass over from the extreme cold, so I quickly got it back into the water after a picture. The third buff evened out at roughly 10 pounds. None of the fish are extremely big on Bridgeport Lake, but considering the conditions, I was happy to be pulling them in.
The sun would set around 5:30, and I was hoping the “power hour” would produce a common carp. At 6 PM, I heard an alarm scream out unlike the other beeps earlier in the day. There was no break in the alarm’s screech from the first beep until the moment I grabbed the rod. When I pulled into the fish, it also felt heavier than the others. Now I was smiling! The fish played differently too than the previous fish; more side-to-side movement and stronger lunges. Sadly though, the hook pulled at the halfway point.
With the sun gone, and the cold weather, it felt that I may have blown my one chance to bring in a carp. But with the full moon rising, I reset the rod and went inside with a hopeful attitude. Something would come, it just might not be a carp.
Inside the house, I was sitting down to eat a Hawaiian-style pizza. One Shiner Bock beer and 2 slices in, I heard a couple beeps from my receiver. Having already caught 2 channel cats previously in the day, and with night coming on, I thought it was probably another catfish. But when those slow beeps, turned into a steady tone, I shot out the door with a renewed sense of anticipation of what was on the end of the line. After the 60 yard dash from doorstep to rod pod, I pulled into a fish that felt like it was a fighter. Of course, at range, even the smallest fish can feel big. However, this fish didn’t disappoint, and it put up a struggle the entire way into the landing net.
Once in the carp cradle, I saw that the carp had chosen the yellow and white pop-up combo, which made sense. The buffalo tended to favor the pink baits, and the carp prefer whites and yellows, at this particular lake. With a picture of the capture secured and the scale zeroed to the weigh sling, I placed the packaged carp on the scale. It settled on 8 pounds, 12 ounces. More than satisfied with the result, I said a quick goodbye, and sent the carp back on its way.
I left the other two rods out until 10 PM, but then gladly reeled them back in, ready to retire for the rest of the night. This was my first CAG-FFF event and I know it will be forever remembered, thanks to the abnormally cold conditions. Looking forward to next year’s event and the new carp it will bring!