I got ‘Forked’

Lee Livesay

Now that I’ve had some time to evaluate how the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite on Lake Fork turned out for me, I’ve made peace with the fact I didn’t make the right decisions, and I missed some key opportunities.

Being at peace with something does not mean you’re okay with it. I’m certainly not happy about finishing 82nd, but a low finish on my home lake — the place where I’ve won two blue trophies — is a humbling reminder of a key fishing truth: It can happen to any of us.

No excuses — I made my decisions, and I have to live with the outcome. I’d just offer this advice: Don’t be stubborn with your fishing strategy. I like to fish my strengths and follow the patterns I know from experience. But there comes a time when you have to decide between doing what you want to do and what you need to do.

Coming into the event, I pretty much knew it would be won offshore with forward-facing sonar and that it would be dominated at the Top 10. I’m pretty good with this technology, but I tried to fish with and without it in practice.

On my first day of practice, I made three casts on my first spot and caught three giants. I shined my light over there and saw there were 30 more waiting on my next cast. I figured that, in the tournament, I could make five casts and catch 30 to 40 pounds.

Throughout the first and second days of practice, I continued to check key spots and determined I could catch them offshore. I could catch them on hard spots, I could catch them on timber with forward-facing sonar in the creeks, I could catch them just floating around the creeks — I kinda had a little bit of everything going.

The third day of practice, the wind blew 35-40 mph out of the North, so I went straight to the grass and I had 40 bites. I’d catch several 3- to 3 1/4-pounders, then I’d catch a good one. I’d catch a few more little ones, then another good one.

I wasn’t sitting in one spot; I was covering water. So I thought, “Maybe I can come in here and catch 23 or maybe I’ll come in here and catch 43.” I know what swims around in there — there’s 10-pounders everywhere.

At that point, I figured I had a pretty good game plan. Not necessarily a winning game plan, but a pretty good game plan to do really well. If one of my deals goes off, I could catch enough to win.

On Day 1, I was boat 24. I pulled into that spot where I started in practice expecting to catch five bass over 5 pounds each in five casts. I shined my light over there, and the school was gone.

My heart just sank.

I didn’t go farther into that pocket because other guys had already gone in there, so I went through my other spots. I didn’t want to back out and use forward-facing sonar yet because that takes time.

I wanted to run points with hard spots, catch five big fish and then go scoping where I know giants live and try to get some 10- to 12-pound fish. Long story short, that didn’t pan out.

My next thought was to fish the grass for a good limit and then look for those giants. This also fell flat, and I found myself with two little fish at noon.

I chose to stay in the grass because I thought I had a better chance of getting bit than I would have if I had gone scoping offshore. What really stung was watching other people catching fish around me. After catching a 4-pounder on a point, my day ended with three fish for 8-4.

Ultimately, it was just some bad decisions, bad luck and bad timing. I just didn’t catch ‘em. No excuses.

On Day 2, I figured I’d go to where the biggest bass in the lake live, put my Minn Kota Ultrex down and use Live all day to find fish. I figured I’d need about 34 pounds to get back in the cut and 40-something to get into the Top 10.

In the first five minutes, I hooked three 7- to 9-pounders, and I lost all three of them. An hour later, I caught a 7 1/2, then a couple hours later, I caught another 7 1/2. I caught a limit for 24-6, but I lost four to five fish in the 7- to 9-pound range.

I did what I wanted to do most of the second day, and I had the opportunity to catch that 40-pound bag. I just had some terrible luck. I made some bad choices the first day, and then I hooked the right ones to have an amazing day and lost them.

I came into the Lake Fork event knowing forward-facing sonar would dominate, but I tried to be hardheaded and do other stuff. So, when I know I have to use this technology to compete to win, I have to go all-in.

Going back to the venue on the last two days to do FS1 and Bassmaster LIVE and then work the Expo, I had a lot of fans come up to ask me for my autograph and talk fishing. Everyone was supportive, not critical, and that made me feel better.

After that, I was able to get home to my family, spend some time relaxing with them and doing what I had to do to learn from this experience and put it behind me.

Now, it’s time to get ready for the Bassmaster Classic. I can promise you I won’t be stubborn there.