A real slugfest

Obviously, the fish are biting this morning. Lee Livesay is hammering them, big fish after big fish.

Zaldain just caught his third. A 6-15 or so that he boat-flipped. And Patrick Walters caught the big fish of the day so far with a 9-5.

It’s turning into a real slugfest with giant bass unlike what most folks have ever seen.

The propensity for these giants to show up makes this even more compelling to watch.

With Livesay already over the century mark, you would think that he could coast into his second Elite win. But when 9-5s start showing up anything can happen. And likely will.

Card working the shad spawn

As soon as Brandon Card pulled up to his primary area this morning, he noticed a major shad spawn going on in his area. Rather than stopping deep on his point, he headed straight to the bank to try to capitalize on the obvious shad spawn.

Card has yet to boat a keeper early on this morning.

“There’s too many of them, it’s hard to trick,” said Card referring to the amount of shad.

Another thing that may not be in Card’s favor is the massive crowd following the hometown favorite Lee Livesay. How could Livesay’s crowd negatively affect Card? Well, Livesay is fishing well over a mile away from Card but every time Livesay boats a fish you can hear the crowd erupt.

“He must have caught another big one,” he said after the crowd erupted the second time.

Not an ideal start to Championship Sunday for Card, but it’s a long day and everyone is aware of how quickly it could turn around.

Livesay’s lament ends with a 9-2

Saturday long-time Lake Fork guide Lee Livesay couldn’t believe he’d fished three days on this lake and hadn’t caught a single bass over 7 pounds.

“It’s almost impossible to fish Lake Fork for three days without catching a 7-pounder,” Livesay said.

Livesay’s lament ended on Day 4 at 7:14 a.m. when he landed what he called a “baby whale." "It’s not the whale, but it’s the baby whale,” he said.

Lake Fork is exploding in the first half-hour. Chris Zaldain has two weighing 9-15, Taku Ito has three weighing 10-6 and Seth Feider has caught a double on a crankbait. The two fish totaled 6-12.

Photo by Bassmaster Judge Holly Keen

Zaldain swinging for the fence

Chris Zaldain this morning told me that he is "laying it on the line," and his choice of baits proves it.

Zaldain just scored with a largemouth weighing 5 pounds 6 ounces. He caught it on an 8-inch Megabass Magdraft swimbait, a rig that he often uses throughout the spawning cycle.

"There's a full moon, a largemouth spawn, a shad and bluegill spawn," he said. "What more could you ask for on Lake Fork?"

Not much, considering Zaldain is off to a good start. Wind works in his favor when using the swimbaits, including the other bait he showed me this morning when doing the to lures gallery. He described it as a Hog Father, made by Tater Hog of North Carolina.

Livesay catches 3-13 on first cast

Lee Livesay started the day in 5th place, 6-15 behind leader Brandon Card. He made up the deficit in the first 10 minutes this morning. Livesay caught a 3-13 on his first cast and a 3-10 shortly after. Livesay is looking at bass blowing up on a school of shad.

“They’re blowing up,” Livesay said. “I was not expecting this, I’m not going to lie. I’m in the same pickle I was yesterday. Do I stay out here or go up there where they’re blowing up?”

Livesay is throwing a swimbait. He mentioned wishing takeoff had been 45 minutes earlier. He knows this won’t last long.

Zaldain: 'It’s going to take 30-pound bag'

Unlike the first two days at Lake Fork, there wasn’t a 30-pound limit caught on Day 3 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite. Chris Zaldain got close with 29-3. He goes into Championship Sunday in third place, 5 pounds, 3 ounces behind leader Brandon Card.

“Anyone in the top 10 could win this tournament,” Zaldain said. “I think it’s going to take over a 30-pound bag. Hopefully, it’s me. We’re coming up on a full moon (Monday). It just feels like that’s what it’s going to take.”

Zaldain got the wind he wanted Saturday. He’s expecting it Sunday as well. It’s not the direction that matters, it’s simply a change from the day before. Like most of the top 10 finalists, Zaldain is concentrating on feeding fish – both pre-spawn and post-spawn – in shallow water, rather than focusing on spawning bass on beds.

“Bass are spawning, shad are spawning and bluegill are spawning,” Zaldain said. “When the wind changes directions it creates an opportunity for big bass to feed up shallow. It’s like a tide change.”

Zaldain is throwing big baits – an 8-inch Megabass Magdraft swim bait and a 10-inch glide bait. It produced a best five Saturday as follows: 7-3, 6-2, 6-2, 5-9, 4-3. If Zaldain’s prediction is accurate, it’s going to take something similar, plus a pound or so, to win at Lake Fork on Sunday.

Runnin' and gunnin'

For everyone that wanted the wind, they got it. And then some. Here's Gerald Swindle rocketing across the lake in his Phoenix 921 Elite. Photo by Andy Crawford.

Zaldain thriving in north wind

Chris Zaldain was talking about it yesterday, when he was struggling. He knew the weather forecast for today included a north wind, and it would make all the difference in the area he was fishing. Zaldain began the tournament in 4th place with 27-1. He fell to 12th yesterday when he weighed only 15-10. But the north wind is his friend today. Zaldain has 23-7, including a 7-3, a 5-9 and the 4-3 pictured here. His three-day total of 66-2 has him in 6th place and has him in good position to make Sunday’s top 10 final.

Card survives double shot of pain

The old saying in football is, you gotta play hurt. Brandon Card dealt with a double shot of pain just after the noon hour. The first came in the form of mental anguish when he lost a 6-pounder that he’d hooked on a crankbait. Then Card caught a small bass on that crankbait. As he was preparing to release it, the fish wiggled and impaled Card’s right index finger with a single hook. It got ugly from there. Two failed attempts at the “string trick” left the hook deep in his finger. Finally, Card pushed the barb out the other side of his finger. Matt Herren arrived with some wire cutters to clip the barb off, and Card was able to pull the hook out.

“Dang, that hurt,” Card said. “It’s a blood bath at this point.”

Card is still leading the tournament at 1 p.m. He just declared that his finger is “actually not hurting that bad right now.” You gotta play hurt.

It's starting to happen now

Brandon Lester

In the previous two days at Lake Fork, there has been an early flurry of fish catches, probably linked to the shad spawn, followed by a mid-morning lull. Somewhere around the noon hour, a feeding frenzy has begun. That pattern is holding true today, and it could be even more explosive with this combination of sunshine and wind.

Here’s a sample of what happened yesterday, when fishing time was shortened by an hour and 20 minutes due to the storm forecast. Taku Ito kicked off the afternoon bite with an 8-pound, 14-ounce bass at 12:38. Clifford Pirch caught the big bass of the tournament so far - a 9-13 - at 12:44. Stetson Blaylock landed a 7-2 at 1:57. The big bass bites continued right up to the last minute for at least three anglers. They all mentioned catching the following on their last cast: Cody Hollen landed an 8-3 at 2:25; Matt Arey caught an important 5-0 at 2:34; and Shane Lineberger caught a 7-15 at 2:37 with a 2:40 check-in time. That big bass squeaked Lineberger into the top 49 by two ounces.

Today, with check-in times back to normal, beginning with the first flight at 3 p.m., it could really get crazy at Lake Fork.