Fantasy Fishing: Texas two step

Lee Livesay

We have a quick turnaround for anglers that fished Championship Sunday on Toledo Bend. The drive from Toledo Bend to Lake Fork is a pretty manageable three hour drive. If you tuned into Bassmaster LIVE, you saw shallow bass were close to being a factor at Toledo Bend but it didn’t happen fast enough for anglers committed to shallow cover related fishing. As the anglers start practice they will be greeted with amazing warm sunny conditions, but then on the last day of practice and first day of the event, we will see a classic Texas Two Step in the weather, where we will have a moderate dip for two days and then a warming trend into the weekend.

With Lake Fork being a bit further north and water temperatures trailing behind Toledo Bend by a few degrees, I am hesitant to think we will see much different techniques prevail this week, but I am still optimistic we could see more than we did at Toledo Bend. Lake Fork has filled back up to full pool and there is plenty of cover in the water if fish do make a move and all indications are that fishing is on the up swing again at Lake Fork and we should see some massive fish catches.

There is not doubt that the 2023 Bassmaster Open EQs left their mark on the season opener, but it is worth considering that this was a repeat venue for most of them as Toledo Bend was the second event of last years Bassmaster EQs where the majority of them invested a bunch of time in resources into Toledo Bend which most likely only improved their odds of success in 2024. I know many of the EQ anglers did the work to pre-practice Lake Fork before the cut-off, so we will see if it slows down this crop of rookies coming to a fresh fishery.

My suggestion is to balance your roster with some experienced Lake Fork anglers, but balance it out with some younger fresh talent. Either way, there should be several anglers cracking the 100-pound mark instead of just one like Toledo Bend.


It might get redundant, but there is a good chance I pick Patrick Walters every single event this season in Bucket A and maximize what I think will be his first AOY season. Walters has won on Fork, has other strong finishes, super good with the new technology and is still savvy enough of a veteran to put the scope away and head to the bank if needed.

He is back!

Hard to believe that Jordan Lee could be a value pick, but with fan favorite Ben Milliken stealing the limelight, Jordan Lee coming off a return debut Top 10, could be sneaky here. You won’t find much Lake Fork history in Lee’s Bassmaster stats, but he has high level tournament experience and success on Lake Fork around this time of year on.


Taku Ito is clearly the fan favorite in Bucket B and I would not be surprised to see him have a very good event at Lake Fork, he has had success here before. To keep my roster balanced with the young savvy anglers, I am going with super sneaky value pick Kyle Patrick. Plus it saves me a ton of time sorting through past Lake Fork results trying to figure out what veteran is most likely to catch them in early March. I am pretty sure Patrick did his homework on Lake Fork before the cut-off and I think he will be ready to show out.

The other rookie

If you are not buying what I am selling on Patrick, maybe JT Thompkins is more your flavor. The 2023 Bassmaster EQ AOY seems like a good value after a solid performance on Toledo Bend. There are a lot of other tempting veterans with tournament data, but I for the most part believe in this youth movement.


Many of the locals call Lake Fork the GOAT Lake, and by the end of the weekend we will find out if Lee Livesay is the King of Fork. It seems like a statistical long shot that he can win three in a row on his home pond, but I am not betting against him in Bucket C. Sometimes the smart move in Fantasy Fishing is the chalk pick.

Big Bait Energy

Matt Robertson visually looks like a new angler, but we need to see a few more events to see where he is at mentally in 2024. Robertson is a super talented angler that can win just about any event he gets into. Mix that with his love for the big baits, and he could be a sleeping giant in Bucket C.  Also, the risk may not be that high considering he has gone 2 for 2 in weekend cuts at Lake Fork.


John Garrett was the only rookie not to make the top 50 cut at Toledo Bend after a solid Day 1. The Tennessee angler is the most seasoned Bassmaster rookie with 43 total Bassmaster events fished. I expect Garrett to adjust and rebound at Lake Fork and rejoin the majority of the rookies above the Bassmaster Classic AOY cutline.

Statistical Safety

Joey Cifuentes‘ 65th place finish was his 2nd worth finish of his young Elite Series career and only the third time he failed to make the weekend cut. It should fit his strengths and the wind shouldn’t blow too hard where he can’t fish in his cowboy hat, so if you want to join the crowd Cifuentes is probably a pretty safe pick in Bucket D.


This is one of the Buckets I am going to go more on history. Chad Pipkens has been a consistent performer on Lake Fork from March to November in his four total events. I will be stoked with anything above a 50 cut from Bucket E.

Which Version?

This tournament may tell us which version of Kyle Welcher we will get this year. Will it be a motivated Welcher showing us he is still in 2023 AOY form and Toledo was just a blip or will this season look more like his 2022 campaign? I tend to lean blip. If so, he could be a strong value in Bucket E.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

Now onto season four of the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge. This additional Fantasy Fishing game not only offers a fresh way to play the game, but a completely separate prize pool. Drain the Lake is an elimination or survivor style game where you can only use an angler once all season. 

Do you want to use Ben Milliken like I did early in Louisiana or do you want to save him for a key event at the end of the season?

Here is my Lake Fork Drain the Lake roster:

Lee Livesay
Pat Schlapper
Keith Combs
Matt Robertson
Matty Wong
Chad Pipkens
Stetson Blaylock
Chris Zaldain