It’s Lee Livesay’s world on Lake Fork right now, and the remaining nine other anglers are just renting space in it for the remainder of the weekend. At least it seems that way. Obviously, a 40-pound bag could show up tomorrow in any of these anglers’ hands and make it quite competitive, but right now Livesay is in the driver’s seat.
That was abundantly apparent shortly after noon. Brandon Palaniuk, currently in 2nd, just 3-08 behind Livesay, landed a 6-13 chunk, and two minutes later Livesay caught an 8-02 (his first 8-pounder of the event) to reestablish a lead. Every punch gets counterpunched, every seeming setback or snagged fish ends up working in his favor.
What could go wrong?
It’s not so much a matter of what could go wrong for the defending Fork champion. After all, to the extent that history predicts the future, you can expect that he’s going to catch 20-plus tomorrow. Even Vegas isn’t taking the under on that bet at any odds. It’s just a matter of how right it goes for someone else if he slips at all. There is a record-setting bag out there to be caught, and after everything we’ve seen so far it’ll be hard to be surprised – even if 10th place angler Derek Hudnall comes back from 17-15 behind to win.
Today’s Tally – Of the 46 anglers who fished, 25 caught over 20 pounds. Ten of those were over 25 pounds. Four of them were over 27 pounds. Palaniuk caught the only 30-pound bag. We’ve yet to have more than two 30-pound bags in a day.
Triple Twenties – Through three days last year at Fork, only three competitors caught at least 20 pounds a day, and all of them qualified to fish on Day Four. This year, 13 have done so, including 4 who won’t compete tomorrow. Can you imagine being Mark Menendez, who’s caught 20-13, 21-13 and 21-03, and still ended up in 22nd?
Century Belt countdown – Right now we have four anglers – Livesay, Palaniuk, Gerald Swindle and Bryan New – ahead of the 75-pound pace necessary to catch 100-plus. Everyone in the top 10 is 30 pounds or less away.
Where’s the beef? We still haven’t seen a 10-pounder cross the stage this week. One – or two – of those could be a legit game-changer.
Stracner leaps in with both feet – Alabama pro Josh Stracner won the Rookie of the Year award last year, so it was hard for me to believe that this is his first Elite Series top 10. His previous best? He finished 16h here at Lake Fork last year. That complements a 2nd and two 3rd place finishes in Opens competition. Today he whacked 30-10 and jumped up from 20th to 5th, which has him 13-03 behind leader Lee Livesay. Another “dirty thirty” may be possible, but missteps by the four anglers above him seem less likely.
Step up to the bar – Brandon Palaniuk caught bass on several different lures today, including multiple crankbaits in different color palettes, but my favorite was his “barfish” colored lure. We hear lots of talk about how bass feed on threadfin shad, gizzard shad, bluegills and crappie – along with white bass — but not so much about the Texas staple yellow bass, also known as “barfish.” It’s a color that produced my personal best Mexican bass, on a lake where to the best of my knowledge there aren’t any yellow bass, so it’ll always have a place in my heart and I figure that a hammer-like BP using it means it’s less likely to be discontinued for when I need some.
Act now, supplies may be limited — “The two bite windows on Lake Fork right now are the first two hours of the day and the last two hours of the day,” said Scott Martin on the Live Mix.
Late May in Texas – Mark Menendez reported onstage that “50 to 60 percent” of the fish he caught this week hadn’t spawned yet. As noted above, he finished 22nd with 63-13.
The window opens – Despite Martin’s prognostications above, tournament leader Lee Livesay struggled early and didn’t have a fish at 9 am, but by 9:39 he had four for 17-03. “The Fork gods were working on my mind today,” he said a moment after landing his first keeper, which weighed 4-04. Mark Zona seemed less worried. “IT was not if, it was when, with Lee Livesay, today,” he said.
Double digits for the Bass Boss? “Let’s catch a 10 for Ray,” said Brandon Palaniuk on camera today, referring to the recently-passed Ray Scott. Notice he didn’t say, “I hope someone catches a 10 for Ray.” BP is as genuine as they come, and certainly values the heritage and history of the sport, but make no mistake that he clearly wanted to be the one with an “over” in his hands for that history-making moment.
The Promised Land — “This is a weird place. When you get to 28 pounds, you start thinking, ‘What do I need to do to catch a big one?’” Gerald Swindle, who caught his second 29-pound bag of the tournament today.
Day 4 promises some sort of shootout — “If I were to win this tournament, I’d probably have to shoot my way out of this place,” Swindle again, noting that hometown favorite Lee Livesay has a large and arguably well-armed fan base. Brandon Palaniuk took a more pacifistic approach to the possibility, nothing that he’d try to outrun them. “I’d have to be pretty quick on my feet like a rabbit,” he explained.