It’s been a few years since a major professional tournament was hosted on Lake Fork. The memory of giant weights still hangs in anglers’ minds, and they know what could happen this time around. The 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department event at Lake Fork should make for some interesting fishing.
From prepractice reports, everyone’s preconceived thoughts could be spot on. Fishing is good down in Emory, Texas, and the century mark — 100 pounds accumulative weight across four official competition days — could occur at this event for the first time since 2013 on the Elite Series.
There are plenty of heavy hitters that are favored like Keith Combs and Lee Livesay. Meanwhile there are savvy veterans with quite a bit of experience on this fishery as well.
Choose wisely, because this could be a shootout for the ages.
BUCKET A: LIVESAY
My pick: Lee Livesay
It’s incredibly hard to pick against someone like Lee Livesay who has probably 100,000 hours of experience on Lake Fork. Yes, you read that right. Livesay has been a guide of Fork for years and has lived within an hour of the lake since 1996, minus a few years for college. It’s not every day that you have a major pro tournament on your home body of water, and Livesay wants to take advantage of that like Brandon Cobb did at Lake Hartwell. He has the temperament to handle the pressure as well.
Considered: Stetson Blaylock / John Crews
I couldn’t pick one angler as a secondary option, so I picked two great options. Stetson Blaylock may live in Arkansas, but he has extensive time on Fork via his electronics lessons and guide trips over the years. Both he and John Crews are fishing well this year. Both are in the top 10 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race, and should be considered at Fork.
Crews has a great track record on Fork over the years of fishing Toyota Texas Bass Classics there. Keep an eye on these Elite Series champions.
BUCKET B: FEIDER
My pick: Seth Feider
Sitting in 17th in AOY isn’t too shabby, but Seth Feider isn’t happy with that. After four events he is in a good position but wants to be a factor in the AOY hunt. Watch for him to shine at Fork. Feider has finished 22nd, 26th, 24th and 38th in the four Elites this year. He will break through for a Top 10 very soon.
Considered: Matt Arey
Matt Arey is another solid pick to consider in Bucket B. He’s fished the Toyota Texas Bass Classic in past years when it was held at Lake Fork. Experience on any body of water can help. Leaning on history shouldn’t be an issue for Arey since past events were at different times of year, but navigating a fishery like Fork can be challenging in a short amount of time. Sitting in 24th in AOY standings probably doesn’t sit well with Arey because he expects more from himself. He has stubbed his toe on both Day 3s he has fished this year. Expect a change from him on that front.
BUCKET C: WENDLANDT
My pick: Clark Wendlandt
Clark Wendlandt is one of the many Texans in the Elite Series field, and he should be thought of as a worthwhile alternative to Keith Combs in Bucket C. We should see Wendlandt fish a Day 4 soon. Maybe in his home state.
Considered: Keith Combs, duh
Keith Combs is taking up more than 62 percent of this bucket for good reason. He is the favorite for Texas Fest given his past success. If you are looking to gain points on friends or opponents, finding an angler that could get one or two spots higher than Combs could pay off. Many expect Combs to win, so picking someone else could also result in losing ground to a big share of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players.
BUCKET D: SUMRALL
My pick: Caleb Sumrall
At the end of a Bassmaster Elite Series season, anglers can often point to a day or a single fish that turned their year around. So far in the 2019 Elite Series season that fish and moment may be a 5-13 from Winyah Bay that helped him finish an Elite career-best 11th, narrowly missing the Top 10 cut. That positive affirmation and momentum will be good for Sumrall rolling into Fork.
Considered: Kelley Jaye
In 2017, at Sam Rayburn, Kelley Jaye cashed in big time with a Top 10 finish. They caught some giant bass that week, and more giants are expected at Fork. If there is a transition bite going on where fish are headed from the spawning grounds back to deeper water, Jaye could easily intercept some fish ready to feed.
BUCKET E: KENNEDY
My pick: Steve Kennedy
Many folks had Steve Kennedy on their short list for the 2019 AOY candidates when the 2019 season kicked off. Kennedy is mired down in 68th in AOY, but this could be his turn around event. Whether it’s up shallow with a swim jig and topwater or it’s deeper with big swimbaits, Kennedy could run into some giants. We know his ability when the final weights reach 100 pounds; he’s done it before.
Considered: Kyle Monti
Kyle Monti is right behind Kennedy in the AOY standings and has had some misfortune this season. His roommate Jake Whitaker had two bounce-back weeks in South Carolina to turn his season around. That should be encouraging for Monti as they head to a power fishing event where big baits and big equipment should be in play.