Fox Lake At Marben PFA

Small Lake Profile: This is the big lake at Marben. It is ideal for the full range of anglers—from bank fishermen to those with fully rigged bass boats wanting a small-lake experience.

Daryl Kirby | April 1, 2023

Alan Shultz with a solid Fox Lake largemouth that hit a rattling lipless crankbait first thing in the morning. This bass was on the old pond dam that separates the two major creek arms of Fox Lake.

A solid bass right off the bat is always nice—takes some pressure off when you need a picture fish. On the contrary, it’s a bad feeling when hours tick by and cast after cast go unnoticed. We know that feeling too, because after a bass that hit in the first 10 minutes of our morning, we didn’t get another bite. And neither did anyone else we spoke to who was fishing Fox Lake or any of the other Marben PFA lakes on Thursday, March 23. It was that kind of tough-fishing day.

At 95 acres, Fox Lake is the largest of the 20 lakes and ponds that make up Marben Public Fishing Area (PFA). Fox is 26 acres larger than Bennett, which is the second-biggest Marben PFA lake. For comparison, last month we had a ball fishing and profiling Marben PFA’s  12-acre Shepherd Lake. Say all that to say… Fox is a good-sized lake.

I fished Fox Lake with Alan Shultz, who I’ve known since college when we spent more time fishing any water within striking distance of Athens than we did on campus. Ironically, our most common destination was a Morgan County pond, and now Alan and I both live in Morgan. Alan is a great fisherman, and him joining us for some of these small-lake profiles means we’re going to get quality fishing information.

Our one bass and one other solid hit came on the pond dam of the old lake. At the ramp, you’ll see rip-rap lined earthen fishing piers that jut out into the lake. The old pond dam is directly off the far-right fishing pier. It has been about 30 years since I fished Fox Lake, and interestingly that old pond dam was the best spot in the lake back then. I was bumping a lipless rattling crankbait up the ledge of the dam when a fat 3 1/2- to 4-lb. bass smashed the plug. I got one other hit there but didn’t hook up.

Our morning started with a dense fog that didn’t lift until about 10 a.m. When it did lift, Alan said, “Where’s the timber?” We hadn’t fished Fox in decades, and we both remember the “new-lake” arm of the lake as being filled with standing timber. It was basically a creek channel winding through dead trees. While you now can’t see trees above the surface, you have to imagine there are stumps and some standing timber remaining below the surface.

Fox Lake is fed by two creeks. The creek arm at the top of the map is the “old lake.” More than three decades ago, a new dam was built on the lower creek, and a gap was busted in the dam of the old lake to form one 95-acre body of water. The numbered stars indicate WRD-placed fish attractors. Notice the concentration near the parking area that are reachable by bank anglers.

Fox Lake is fed by two creeks. If you look at the map above, the shorter, fatter creek arm at the top of the map is the “old lake.” More than three decades ago, a new dam was built on the lower creek arm, and a gap was busted in the dam of the old lake to form one 95-acre body of water. The main difference between the two was the standing timber. A similar characteristic of both creek arms is that the channels hug the left sides, and the right sides of the creeks have big, shallow flats. The deeper left sides of the creeks have some ditches and cuts that look like great spots to find April bass in all stages of the spawn.

The day we fished Fox was following a couple of weeks when it got very cold. It was 28 degrees in Madison two days before we fished, but it was warming that week. It got up to almost 80 degrees the day we fished. That warming trend should have been perfect, but what we didn’t expect was high-pressure conditions after a little front pushed through the evening before. Once the fog burned off, we fished under high blue skies without the slightest wisp of a cloud.

The next morning, Alan called to see if I was back at Fox—I had mentioned I might go back. Alan had just driven across the pond dam at his farm’s lake and saw bass in the shallows.

When the fish didn’t bite at Lake Seminole, Jack Wingate used to say “Shoulda been here yesterday.” For our trip to Fox Lake, we should’ve been there tomorrow.

For an April trip to Fox Lake, Alan said the first thing he’d tried to figure out is where the bass are with the spawning process. And he said he wouldn’t be surprised to find some bass in all stages.

“If they are prespawn, I would throw a lipless crankbait or a squarebill KVD 1.5 crankbait. If they look like they are farther along in the process, I’d be throwing a Trick Worm, fluke, Senko and a frog,” Alan said.

The topwater bite should be on fire for postspawn fish later in April and throughout May. A Pop-R or Spittin’ Image should work great, and I’d also try a Bang-O-Lure fished over those big shallow flats that have stumps on them. Later in the month, keep an eye out for bream beds, where you might roll a big one on a spinnerbait, ChatterBait or a chugger-style topwater like a Pop-R.

The entire area around the boat ramp, the dam and the earthen fishing piers is lined with rip-rap, so keep an eye out for shad spawning along the rocks first thing in the morning.

Fox is one of six Marben lakes that have black crappie, and the crappie get lots of attention from bank anglers. Fox has a gravel parking area, concrete handicapped parking and access, a primitive bathroom and a concrete boat ramp. You can launch your bass boat in Fox Lake, and gas-powered motors can only be run, but at idle speed only on Fox. That’s also the case for Bennett Lake. At the other Marben PFA lakes with concrete ramps, you can launch a boat with an outboard, but you can’t crank it.

A concrete ramp and dock make launching a full-size boat convenient. There’s plenty of parking and tons of bank-fishing access near the parking area and extending along the dam. The photo to the below shows the far-right earthen fishing pier that is along the old pond dam. That’s where our one bass of the day hit a green-back and gold Rattlin’ Rapala.

WRD Fisheries Biologist Brandon Baker said, “We are managing Fox as a balanced fishery. The bream (redear, bluegill and redbreast) populations and black crappie are doing really well. The earthen piers on both sides of the boat ramp are great bream attractors. The longest earthen pier to the west side of the boat ramp used to be part of an old dam. Some of the dam still remains as an underwater hump that holds black crappie in the spring when they move into shallower water for spawning.

“We’ve stocked hybrid striped bass at a low density to promote faster growth, and some have grown to trophy sizes. In the spring of 2021, we sampled two trophy hybrid striped bass at 26.5 inches and 24 inches and weighing 8 and 7.5-lbs., respectively.

“The largemouth bass are in good balance with regards to their sizes. This means that there are some bass in every size class. We recently changed the largemouth bass regulation at Marben PFA area-wide, which encourages largemouth bass harvest. The daily bag limit is five largemouth bass, only one of which may be 16 inches in total length or longer. Harvesting largemouth bass is a good thing if you want to grow bigger bass because there are more groceries for fewer mouths. The regulation allows anglers to harvest bass, which will improve the larger size classes.”

As we mentioned last month in our Shepherd Lake profile, coming soon to the Marben PFA lakes is GIS technology—depth profiles with detail of what the lake bottoms look like. That type of information will be valuable to anglers who, like me, don’t have electronics on their small-lake fishing setups.

If you have electronics, finding the creek channels and any remaining stumps and timber along those ledges should be money for postspawn bass.

We wish we had more “here’s how we caught ‘em” info from our day on Fox Lake, but  that’s fishing. If Alan—and nobody else on the lake—is getting bit, they aren’t biting.

For more info on Fox Lake or any of the other 19 ponds at Marben, visit

The back ends of both creek arms have buoys that say “Stumps.” Past those markers, it gets very shallow, particularly on the right sides of the creek arms.

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