My Finest Hour: Livesay dials in monster bite for dominant Lake Fork win

In many Elite events, success hinges on seizing the moment, rising to the occasion and turning in a truly memorable performance.

While Bassmaster Elite pros strive for excellence throughout each event, the right combination of variables occasionally align to create the opportunity for superlative performance. Success hinges on seizing the moment, rising to the occasion and turning in a truly memorable performance. Here’s an example from Lee Livesay.

Event: 2021 Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork

Scenario: With this April event bringing a mix of spawn and postspawn activity, Livesay built his plan around the latter. Knowing his home lake intimately, the Texas pro split up his time between two major bass forage species and ended up winning the event by a 10-pound margin.

“I spent the first two days on the threadfin shad spawn and that evolved into a gizzard shad spawn,” Livesay said. “If you fish the threadfin shad spawn, you’re guaranteed to place high in the cut. Gizzards are less predictable, but there’s a greater potential for giant fish.”

Here’s how it went down.

Spending the tournament in Little Caney Creek, Livesay rotated among several secondary points where bass were chasing baitfish. A solid opening round delivered a seventh-place limit of 25-6, but after slipping to ninth with a Day 2 bag that went 17-14, he knew it was time to shift gears.

“I also found the gizzards on secondary points; they were just farther up north,” Livesay said.

Sacking up a Semifinal Saturday limit of 26-14 sent Livesay into Championship Sunday in fifth place. Building on what he had observed toward the end of Day 3, Livesay stepped on the gas and caught a final limit of 43-3.

The third heaviest single-day weight in Bassmaster history, Livesay’s Day 4 bag held nothing lighter than a 7-6. Claiming his second Elite title — after winning at Lake Chickamauga in 2021 — Livesay tallied an astounding 112-5 and earned his first Century Club belt.

The decision: Early glimpses of big fish predation encouraged Livesay that he was in the right area and that solid Day 3 bag affirmed his belief. The challenge was reaching the whopper fish he could see blasting the gizzards that were pushed into a shallow area.

A full-frontal assault would’ve scattered the fish, but keeping a safe distance meant his casts fall short of the juice. As Day 3 was winding down, Livesay discovered that a bar extending off a small island provided just enough buffer to allow him to approach from the back side and close the distance without spooking the giants.

“The third day, I caught ‘em pretty much all day, but I got two or three of my biggest ones the last hour,” Livesay said. “I got my timing right on a couple of points, and the wind was blowing right. I saw a bunch earlier in the day, but they were always out of reach.”

Riding this benefit as long as he could on Day 3, Livesay knew exactly what he needed to do to finish strong.

“The final day, I just had them figured out where I could sneak up on them,” Livesay said. “I saw some of those big ones on the third day, but I just didn’t catch them. I knew there (had to be) a way to set up and catch them.

“There were fish all over the bar, but the 7-pounders were in a certain little zone, so I realigned my boat with the wind and used my Minn Kota Raptors to (position) at the right angle from where I caught them the day before.”

Notably, Day 4 saw Livesay give his main spot a rest and end up catching an 8-4 right off the trolling motor. His secondary spot comprised an expansive flat known for holding big fish.

“I was really quiet; I didn’t troll in there, and I didn’t use my big motor to get in there,” Livesay said. “I got the right angle with the wind, I shut my motor off and I floated 30 yards in there. I put my Raptors down in advance and let them eventually grab the bottom.

“I wanted to be as quiet as I could. It’s such a big spot, you cannot make any noise.”

Game changers: Once he got the giants going, Livesay may have made it look easy, but his success hinged on several critical pieces. Location was clearly one of them, but the right tools made all the difference.

Baits: Earlier in the event, Livesay caught fish on a glidebait, a Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait, a Carolina rig with a Netbait Little Spanky and a 6th Sense Magnum Squarebill.

For the ones chomping giant gizzards, he threw a bone-colored Heddon Saltwater Super Spook and a big line-through swimbait rigged with a 1/0 Gamakatsu treble hook.

“Those fish were wanting to feed up,” Livesay said of his ending bait choice. “In the shallow water, they wanted to eat that topwater and swimbait only.”

Long casts: Noting that he was throwing as far as he could, Livesay credits his tackle for the superior launch capability. Throwing his baits on 40-pound Sunline braid, Livesay used his signature series 7-foot medium-heavy Halo HFX cranking rod.

“I designed that rod to throw a crankbait and a topwater a long distance,” Livesay said. “Most of my fish came at the end of a long cast, so that was really important.

“Also, that rod is really parabolic, so when those big ones were jumping out there, the stay hooked.”

Takeaway: Playing it relatively safe on Days 1 and 2 positioned Livesay to swing big in the final two rounds. Once he transitioned to the giant fish, he exercised the right balance of patience and response.

“You just have to know what you’re working with,” he said. “It would have been real easy to leave quicker or be on the trolling motor making noise. But you can’t catch those gigantic mature fish when you’re in a hurry and driving all over the place with your trolling motor and lifting your Raptors up multiple times.

“You just have to be confident, be patient and pay attention. A lot of those big fish I saw with my eyes — I’d see a gizzard shad jump here, or I’d see a big fish swirl over there, and I’d just take my time knowing I was going to get those bites.”

Lastly, Livesay said, despite the carnage he witnessed, even giant bass gobbling gizzard shad keep their radar running. The fish may, at times, appear to be lost in reckless abandon, but such is not the case.

“They’re crazy and stupid for a few seconds when they come up schooling, but after that, you can spook them,” Livesay advised. “So be quiet, but be quick to respond when they do come up.”