Jerry Reed didn’t have tournament bass fishing in mind when he sang, “When you’re hot, you’re hot,” but anglers certainly are in accord with that line.
For years, pros have vocalized that success breeds success. Momentum, a catchy chorus creating bankable tunes, is real in bass fishing.
“A million percent,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Lee Livesay, who’s been humming along with four wins in his past 21 B.A.S.S. entries. “Momentum is definitely something in fishing.
“It’s something you can’t even describe. You make all the right decisions. You end up around the right schools of fish, the right quality. You make the right decisions in practice and then in the tournament.”
Jason Christie also sings praises of bassin’ momentum. He orchestrated a win in March’s Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, then a month later scored his eighth B.A.S.S. title at the Chickamauga Lake Elite. With a win at the 2021 Sabine Elite, Christie claimed three titles in a span of 11 entries.
“Bass fishing is a sport like everything else, where momentum, you kind of build on it whether it be wins or high finishes,” Christie said. “I think the higher finishes you get, the more you get a taste of it, the more likely you are to stay up there.
“Momentum is a big thing — it has a lot to do with it. You just don’t think about it as much, you just react.”
There’s been some winning ditties strung together the past few years. In 2019, Brandon Cobb and Jamie Hartman each scored two Elite titles. Brandon Palaniuk won two Elites in 2020 and added an Open in 2021, the same year Hank Cherry repeated as Classic champ.
Seth Feider didn’t win an event but played a consistent tune in earning the 2021 Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year crown. Since 2018, Patrick Walters has won three Bassmaster titles, while the duo of Paul Mueller and Buddy Gross doubled up on Elite titles the past three seasons.
Bryan New, Caleb Kuphall of Brandon Lester have won an Open and an Elite. Lester, who kicked off 2022 with the Kissimmee Open title then won the most recent Elite on Pickwick Lake, said perhaps he’s finally put everything together and learned how to win, but he agrees momentum can jazz up a career.
“Absolutely, for sure,” Lester said. “It’s momentum. It’s confidence. It’s trusting your abilities, trusting your instincts. Fishing is so much about instincts. We call it momentum, but it’s just getting in a good rhythm, being in a good pace, not getting in too big of hurry, fishing free and doing your job.”
Getting on a catching streak is similar to making runs in other sports, said Livesay, who hopes to continue his stretch. The Texas pro fished 30 B.A.S.S. events before breaking through with a victory in the 2020 Elite on Chickamauga. In 2021, he reeled in the third-largest bag (42 pounds, 3 ounces) in the modern era to win on his home water of Lake Fork. Mired deep in the AOY standings this year, Livesay won the Central Open on Ross Barnett in April and its automatic qualification to the 2023 Classic.
“That makes you dangerous,” he said. “It makes you not worry about points or a check as much, obviously because you made a chunk there. Like the rest of the year, when I get an opportunity, I’m going to try to win.”
That came in the next verse. Just 22 days after hoisting the Opens trophy and 19 events after his first win, Livesay repeated at Lake Fork, earning another Century Belt in the process.
“It’s the same thing with a pitcher when he’s hot, or a quarterback when he gets on a hot streak, just making completions,” Livesay said. “You just got the groove, feeling right, making all the right decisions, fluid. It’s the same thing with fishing.”
Livesay proved the baby pattern is also a thing. Before Pickwick, Livesay was two for two since wife, Taren, gave birth to daughter, Lane, in late March. (Happy Father’s Day all.)
Christie and Livesay both said competitors can also get on the opposite side — rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ turns to flopping and folding.
“Bass fishing has a snowball effect,” Christie said. “If you’re not catching them, it’s so hard to get out of that. If you’re catching them, it’s really easy to keep catching them. The biggest thing is you get confidence in yourself and the decisions you make.”
“It goes both ways,” Livesay concurred. “When it ain’t happening right, you don’t make the right decisions, you start second-guessing yourself, and it goes the other way quick.”
Christie said he thinks there is a moment at each tournament when the winning angler makes one critical decision that puts him over the top. As examples, he pointed to his last three wins, including his final day stop on Hartwell and shutting down at an old spot because of fog at Chickamauga. At the Sabine, after a slow Day 3, he had to decide between running farther up the river or staying close to takeoff and fighting out Day 4 with Brock Mosley.
“I had a decision, stay close in areas I hadn’t fished or go back to my area,” he said. “Those are hard decisions to make. I think you’re more apt to make the right decision with more winning experience that you have. That one time, it worked out. Next time, it might not.”
In the Pickwick Elite, anglers were heard on Bassmaster LIVE contemplating whether they should stay or go from areas. Christie said that’s an age-old question that no matter how it’s answered, whether moving or not leads to winning or losing, one truly never knows if the decision was 100% correct.
“How many times in my career have I been asked that question by fans and even pro anglers, ‘How long do you stay in an area before you go?’ That is the $10 million question,” Christie said. “If I only knew the answer to that.
“You just kind of have to trust your gut. I really think you can overthink it. I know the last year or two, I haven’t been doing a lot of thinking. I’ve just been reacting to the conditions. I think you can overthink and have too many places to fish.”
That’s one of the reasons Christie said he keeps to himself on tour. He said he doesn’t want the ideas of others, who may or may not be truthful, getting in his head and luring him to try to catch somebody else’s fish.
“It’s a lonely place sometimes, but I really feel like that’s the reason I’ve been able to win. I do my own deal,” he said. “Sometimes it bites me, but a lot of times it works out.
“Fishing is a hard sport for your ego. You always hear the going gets tough. There’s more tough than fun — 90%, it’s not working out. Playing sports and coaching, if you’re decent, you tend to win half the time. Bass fishing you get beat way more than you win.”
That’s why he finds it important to try to take away something positive from every event. Christie said he felt OK about his 25th-place finish at Pickwick, even though he started Day 1 in second. He said he really wasn’t on the winning fish and his self-imposed rule to not fish near anybody made Days 2 and 3 difficult.
Livesay left Pickwick happy just to make the cut. He launched as boat 72 on Day 1 and passed a number of anglers sitting on areas where he located schools. Livesay drove around the first two hours, not wanting to fish next to somebody who could win or might need a top finish to get in Classic contention.
“It would have different if I had been fishing to get in the Classic,” he said. “I made sure everybody knew. I texted, ‘I didn’t come in there because of this.’ Everybody was appreciative of it.”
There’s hope that favor is returned someday. Almost everything works out when an angler is on a roll, when they’re on the Big Mo.
“You can feel it,” Livesay said. “Sometimes it just happens, and you can’t even control it. Things always seem to work out, whether it’s the first hour or the last hour. When you’re hot, you’re hot.”