Fantasy Fishing: Two schools of bass, two schools of thought

I have to admit, I learned a pretty tough lesson at Toledo Bend and it resulted in me sitting with around a D+ average at the moment with a ton of ground to make up. In fact, I got a little extra rub in the face when after Day 1, good ole Rich Lindgren decided to give me a hard time for giving him a jumpstart. That said, now I’m mad and ready for some revenge.

Lake Fork is an insane fishery. Records have been set and broken several times over. This trip to the timber-filled promised land is looking to threaten all the records. I have been spending a ton of time on neighboring Lake Tawakoni, just 20 miles to the west, and I have seen some interesting developments on the stage of the fish right now. The water temperatures have consistently been starting off in the high 50s and climbing over the mid-60s mark each day.

We have a pretty significant cold front coming in on Wednesday that will go through Thursday. Even with the full moon last weekend, I am predicting that the largest group of spawners may be waiting until the days get a little bit longer to start their ritual. That said, I’m sure there will be some mega-mammoths caught off the bed this week.

So, while I am certainly going to anticipate some good old fashioned bank beating to come into play, there will absolutely be loads of fish setting up to hit the banks when their bellies start to tingle.

I am approaching this one looking at two distinct schools of thought. There will be plenty of fish caught on and around the banks using typical baits like Texas rigs, crankbaits, chatterbaits, drop shots, etc. But, these days you cannot overlook the forward-facing sonar crowd. They will be wielding jerkbaits, swimbaits, jigheads with tiny minnows and the like, looking to trick giants into jumping in the livewells.

Each bucket will consist of who I consider to be the best bank beater and the best ‘scoper’ in the group.


Kyoya Fujita shocked no one when he grabbed his Century Belt and took the title at Toledo Bend. I’m not sure he ever spends time in less than ten feet of water. He will be in the sticks throwing his secret baits and will find himself in position. Even if he doesn’t get a Top 10, he is basically as much of a shoe-in for a top 50 as anyone in the field.

Don’t Forget About: Chris Zaldain

While Chris Zaldain can certainly hang with the scoper-squad, he tends to lean a little more old-school in his approach. The dogwoods are definitely starting to bloom in this part of the state which means there will be some decent group of fish moving up. Big swimbaits will be sure to get a few oversized bites. He has great momentum coming off a solid finish at Toledo Bend as well.


If there is one angler to have in your corner for this event, it’s Lee Livesay who just happens to be Caleb Sumrall’s running buddy. Sumrall fits squarely in the bank beater bunch. It was not clear how he caught them at Toledo, but he had a great event, slipping a little on day three, but cashed a solid check. He has three results here in prior Elite events, 57th, 58th and a 21st. The 58th place finish was in the fall, so you can consider that one an outlier.

Don’t Forget About: Taku Ito

An angler who has both history on this lake and mad forward-facing sonar skills is Taku Ito. In 2021, he found himself wrestling bass that were too big for him (by his own admission) and finished 7th. It would be shocking if you didn’t find him out in the sticks targeting big female bass roaming around.


Lee. Livesay.

If that isn’t enough, you probably are brand new to the sport. Livesay is a guide on this lake during the off season and has won two Elite events here. He also holds the record for the 3rd largest bag in Elite history in one of those derbies. He spent the better part of a decade chasing big bass during the pre-spawn on this lake. He’ll be competing against a lot of anglers with a lot of technology, but he can certainly hold his own. His worst finish on Fork is 7th.

Don’t Forget About: Brandon Palaniuk

Brandon Palaniuk owns his very own century belt on Lake Fork. In 2022, he finished second to Livesay. He seems to have something figured out here, because his worst finish is 14th with a fourth place right in the middle. The most dangerous thing about Palaniuk is that he can absolutely drift around looking at them on his electronics, but his eyeballs are just as deadly, if not more.


Joey Cifuentes III let me down slightly at Toledo Bend which is why this electronics guru has found himself gracing Bucket D. He doesn’t have any tournament history with the Elite Series on Fork, but he has shown how good he is at fishing the timber with forward facing sonar given his win on Lake Seminole last year. It should be almost the same technique to catch them here.

Don’t Forget About: Scott Martin

If you want a care-free angler who is perfectly content swinging for a big win right now, look no further than Scott Martin. With his win on Okeechobee in the Opens, he has locked up his Bassmaster Classic berth for 2025, so he can fish a lot more freely this year. He is an incredible sight fisherman and can break down shallow cover better than most, but can adjust and catch them offshore too.


Speaking of sight fisherman, Jacob Powroznik is one of the best in the business. A whole heap of his top 20 finishes came during the spawn and many of those fish were caught off the bed. His skillset tends to be more shallow power-fishing, so if the majority of the field is off in the depths, he may be able to have more big bedding bass to himself.

Don’t Forget About: Kyle Welcher

At this point in his career, I’m considering Kyle Welcher more of a hybrid fisherman. The 2023 Progressive Angler of the Year winner had to learn to use his forward-facing sonar up north and was a huge factor in his victory. His heart though, is in shallow power fishing. He did not have a great event at Toledo Bend, which was dominated offshore. This one might take some sort of balance between offshore and bank fish. He can do both well and that makes him dangerous.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Drew Benton
• Keith Combs
• Robert Gee
• Lee Livesay
• Brandon Palaniuk
• Jacob Powroznik
• Caleb Sumrall
• Chris Zaldain