A look at Lake Fork 2024

Take a look at this legendary Texas fishery before the kickoff of the 2024 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite on Lake Fork.

After a Century Club belt in the Elite season opener, the top circuit of B.A.S.S. heads to Texas’ top lunker lake for the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork, Feb. 29-March 3. It again is a catch, weigh and release tournament where double-digit bass and 100 pounds are anticipated.
The Elites are visiting Lake Fork for the fifth time. In each of the previous events there, 2019-2022, anglers earned Bassmaster Century Club belts by weighing more than 100 pounds over four days. There’s a good chance this could be the first back-to-back 100-pound events in Elite history. Last week, Kyoya Fujita earned a belt with his 100-13 winning total in the Gamakatsu Elite at Toledo Bend, a Sabine River impoundment downstream from Lake Fork.
Fork is a big bass factory, producing Texas’ largest bass at 18.18 and more than half of the top 50 entered in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker program. Much of the timber was left standing in the 27,000-acre lake, about an hour east of Dallas, providing excellent habitat that’s helped them grow.
The timber makes Fork tricky to navigate, but it might be a bit easier as water levels are just shy of full pool. Lake Fork guide Lee Livesay, who has won the past two events here, said he will reassess the fishery during the three days of practice. “We’ve had a lot of rain, and I saw some things that make me believe we’ll have good fishing,” he said. “I like to fish shallow, and that’s probably my best chance there. But that could change.”
Competition days are Thursday through Sunday, with launches, weigh-ins and expo activities at Caney Point Recreation Area, 3685 W State Hwy 154 in Yantis. Launches are scheduled for 8 a.m. ET with weigh-ins set for 4 p.m. ET. All B.A.S.S. venues are free to attend. The Lake Fork Family Fest, with live music from Eric George and Neal McCoy, runs Saturday and Sunday.
In 2019, Brandon Cobb got the big hit parade rolling in the early May tournament. Cobb is shown replacing an 8-pound, 13-ounce “over” with an 11-1. As required by TPWD, bass must measure 14 inches to count. Judges weigh them on the boat with immediate release unless the fish is over 24 inches.
Cobb’s 11-1 was the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the event and the largest bass the Elites have weighed in the four Fork tournaments. He had 37-15 on Day 3 en route to winning with 114-0. Garrett Paquette also earned a belt with 101-15, which were the first in B.A.S.S. since 2013. “That was the most amazing four days of fishing I’ve ever had,” Cobb said. “When you set the hook at Lake Fork, you never know what you’re in for.”
With COVID scrambling the 2020 Elite schedule, the Fork event was moved to November as the season finale. With 29-4, Rick Clunn took a Day 1 lead of 3-6 over Patrick Walters, who then turned on the jets. Walters figured out how to entice huge bass from the timber, reeling in 26-14 and 29-6 for a 25-pound lead heading into the final day.
While Walters struggled early and sweated his shot at 100 pounds, he made a move and had a dramatic flurry to finish with 104-12. His 29-10 margin of victory nearly doubled the previous largest in Elite competition. Walters earned another belt at Fork in 2021, losing to Livesay, and gained a third belt with his 2023 victory at the St. Lawrence River. Walters became the first belt winner on both largemouth and smallmouth, a feat Fujita duplicated at Toledo Bend last week after topping 100 at the St. Lawrence last year.
In 2021’s April event on Fork, Walters’ 32-14 on Day 1 put him 7 pounds up on Livesay, who fell to ninth after Day 2’s 17-14. Walters dropped as well with 15-7, but both rebounded to stand fourth and fifth, respectively, heading into Championship Sunday.
Making long casts with a Super Spook, Livesay had an incredible final day, landing “baby whales” weighing 9-2, 7-6, 8-15, 8-14 and 7-14. His Day 4 total of 42-3 total stands third all-time in Bassmaster history.
Livesay’s 112-5 total topped Walters by 10 pounds, even though he had 31-3 and also earned a belt. “It’s a little deflating catching 31 pounds” and not winning, Walters said. “If you’re going to get beat on Lake Fork, it has to be 40 pounds. Big hats off to Lee, he is the man.”
Livesay was astounded by his day that thrilled the hometown crowd. “I never thought I’d catch 42 pounds,” he said, “so, doing it in front of family and friends, and a lot of sponsors were here, too, it’s just amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Taking the top spot in the 2021 Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes, Fork produced four belts in the May 2022 Elite. Gerald Swindle earned his second career belt with 102-2 and shared the Yeti Hot Seat with Brandon Palaniuk, who had the same weight but won the tiebreaker with his first 30-pound day. Shane LeHew finished fourth with 100-9.
Livesay, who opened with 32-0, went into Day 4 needing only 12-1 to breach 100 pounds, and he hit it midmorning. Hoping to defend his title, Livesay sweated out a slow period but had a great afternoon, including an 8-3 that gave him 25-12 and his 113-11 total for his fourth Elite crown.
Fork moved into second for most Century Club belts awarded in B.A.S.S. with nine, passing Santee Cooper Lakes’ eight. Falcon leads with 15, Clear Lake has seven, Amistad six, Guntersville five and there have been one each at Toledo Bend, Okeechobee and Kissimmee. Starting at Fork, the current stretch of consecutive seasons with 100-pound events is now at six, surpassing the five-year run of Elite belts when the series began in 2006.
Livesay expects Fork to show out again. “I know a lot about the lake, but there are going to be many guys who will find fish out there,” Livesay said. “I think we could see huge weights again. It’s the right time frame. There will be fish in the timber, in the grass. You can fish deep or you can fish shallow. People will have their pick.”
It has been warm at Lake Fork, presenting conditions conducive to bass moving up shallow to spawn. However, a cold front hit the final day of practice, which will have temperatures only reaching near 50 on Day 1 of competition after being close to 90 when the Elites arrived.  
Catch all the action on Bassmaster.com beginning Thursday at 8 a.m. ET, and Bassmaster LIVE airs on FS1 weekend mornings. Livesay hopes to three-peat but said he doesn’t have a preconceived notion of what exactly to expect. “It’s all affected by temperature, fishing pressure,” he said. “Forward-facing sonar is a real factor now. I know what to look for, so I’ll show up, practice hard, look shallow, look deep and everywhere in between.’