Elite Analysis: Championship Sunday means Must-See-TV

You can argue as to whether Livesay was clutch here, or whether he just did what he was supposed to do, but his finale wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy.

Lee Livesay, who led this tournament on Days 2 and 3, opened the door just wide enough for the compact-sized Brandon Palaniuk to squeeze through, but the gap ended up being a mirage. The Lake Fork winds, with an assist from Livesay himself, ended up slamming things shut.

In baseball, the stats geeks tell us that there’s no such thing as “clutch” hitting. It may appear that some batters come up big in pressure situations, but our memories trick us into thinking that’s a skill rather than a one-off or two-off. You can argue as to whether Livesay was clutch here, or whether he just did what he was supposed to do, but his finale wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy.

“Everybody has 20 pounds except the guys we thought would have 20 pounds at this time,” Davy Hite reported a bit after after noon. Shortly thereafter Livesay made multiple culls that brought him up to his final weight of 25-12. You might think that it was just a matter of waiting them out, but he once again showed veteran poise in not getting spun out when things weren’t going his way.

Here are some notes and quotes that stood out to me today:

John and Kate Plus Eight – Over the years, much has been made of the so-called “Baby Pattern” where an angler wins a major derby after he – or rather his wife or girlfriend – has a child. Lee Livesay has outdone all the past beneficiaries of this trend with two wins in the short period since his wife gave birth to their first child, a daughter. Are they considering a second child, or does this one have another win in her? Either way, second-place finisher Brandon Palaniuk will become a first-time dad sooner rather than later, so the oddsmakers tell us we can expect another win or three out of him in the near future. Marc Frazier (or, rather, his wife) also had a first child just two weeks ago. The result? His best Elite Series finish. [Note: Ronnie Moore has won nothing since his lovely wife gave birth, but his coverage and commentary get better with each event.]

Game of Thrones – Gerald Swindle has won an Open and an FLW Tour event, but despite seemingly always being in the mix, he’s yet to win an Elite Series tournament. That has to sting, but of course, it’s eased more than slightly by the fact that he’s won two AOY titles, generally considered the most difficult feat to achieve in the sport. Would he trade one of those trophies for a new big blue one? Probably not, but I bet he’d at least have to think about it.

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been – After winning a Central Open in 2002, Rick Clunn went 14 years until he won again – when he claimed the crown at the 2016 Elite Series tournament on the St. Johns. Gerald Swindle had a longer gap, albeit between Century Club achievements. Prior to sacking 102-02 this week, he last hit the 100-pound mark 15 years ago at the record-setting Clear Lake Elite Series tournament in 2007. He finished 4th in that tournament and tied for 2nd in this one.

One Day at a Time – With this runner-up finish, Brandon Palaniuk earned his fourth BASS 2nd place check, to go along with three 3rd place finishes and 6 wins. I’m sure he’s disappointed, but it’s also more proof that “the process” works. If you’re always nibbling around the edges, the wins will come here and there (the curious case of Gerald Swindle, above, notwithstanding).

20/20 plus 20/20 – Eight anglers caught 20 or more pounds all four days. No one caught more than 30 twice. Gerald Swindle was the only angler who had more than 29 twice. If you take each angler’s lightest weight, Livesay’s comes out on top – his 25-12 over four days still would have had him in the Century Club….again. In fact, it would have come to 103-0, enough for the win. His weight went down every day, but that’s not necessarily disqualifying when you bring 32 pounds to the scale on Day One.

Eight is Enough – Lots of 6- to 8-pounders were weighed in during this event – with 9 of 10 anglers today landing a bass over 6 pounds — showing the health of Lake Fork, but the field produced none of the true giants the fishery is known for. Through yesterday, an 8-11 from Chad Pipkens was the best fish of the event. Today, right at noon, Mark Frazier topped that by an ounce – 8-12. Had this tournament taken place a month earlier or a month later, either of those fish almost certainly would have topped 9 pounds. 

Silver Spoons – Brandon Palaniuk mixed up a number of baits to earn his 2nd place finish, including a flutter spoon – “Not the magnum spoon, just the regular size,” he reported. It added a vertical presentation to the crankbaits that were his workhorses. Notably, Lake Fork is where the big spoon bite really developed, thanks to the work of Joe Spaits. The cat was let out of the bag by former Fork guide and former Elite pro Kelly Jordon, who used one successfully in a made-for-TV tournament. 

The Odd Couple – The pairing of Matt Robertson and Cory Johnston on the Live Mix is pure semi-unintentional comedy gold. Seriously, these two should have a call-in show. At one point, Johnston noted that Bryan New had 18 to 20 rods on the deck of his boat. “Can you count that high, being from Kentucky?” he jabbed. “We don’t have the best schools in Kentucky,” Robertson agreed. “But it’s still better than what’s in Canada.”

As Seen on TV – Every Elite event has a just-under-the-radar product that gets exposed. This week it was the 6th Sense 300DD. If there’s an offshore bite where you live, grab ‘em while you can.

You Must Be Present to Win (or finish second) — “Somebody call Tiffanie. Tell her to do some calisthenics.” Gerald Swindle, imploring Palaniuk’s wife to give birth pronto so BP would have to leave Texas prematurely.

Batting a Thousand — “She’s been to two weigh-ins and she’s got two trophies,” Lee Livesay on his newborn daughter.