Fork tougher than a game of checkers with Sumrall and Livesay

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Alan McGuckin

If you need two guys to accompany you on a five-mile jog, help you move furniture, catch you a fat largemouth or simply share a laugh and a cold beer, you’d be wise to get ahold of Bassmaster Elite Series roommates Caleb Sumrall and Lee Livesay.

Just don’t play checkers with them. 

“I still have a scar by my eyebrow from when I kicked Sumrall’s butt in checkers at Guntersville last month,” grinned Livesay over coffee at Lake Fork’s iconic Minnow Bucket.

Sure enough, the scar is still visible, but neither would confess exactly how the surface wound got there, only that checkers and laughter were involved. 

The good news is, it didn’t prevent Livesay from winning $100,000 two weeks later at the Bassmaster Elite on Lake Chickamauga, and a congratulatory banner now hangs proudly on the front face of the Minnow Bucket, where Livesay met clients each morning for guided fishing trips 300 days a year.

Sumrall actually does some guiding too, but on Toledo Bend Reservoir, where flooded timber, a lack of aquatic vegetation and the presence of trophy bass remind him of this week’s scene at Lake Fork for the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“It’s tough, like real tough. I’d give Fork a letter grade C- right now,” says Sumrall.

Livesay is fast to confirm Sumrall isn’t sandbagging. “Caleb’s being too nice. Obviously, I love this lake. It’s been part of my life since I was 9 years old. But this week, we’ve got low water levels, no aquatic vegetation, a full moon, high pressure and light winds – and that all equates to about a letter grade D by Lake Fork standards,” says Livesay. 

Both agree that averaging 13-pounds per day on Day 1 and Day 2 of competition Thursday and Friday should be good enough for a Top 40 cut, and that squarebill cranks, ChatterBaits, spoons and a time-proven Texas rigged worm will all play a factor.

But so far, no single lure has yielded super impressive results – to the point Livesay says at least 40 fellow pros have reached out to him for wisdom the past couple of days. 

Big limits may be hard to come by at Fork this week, but the magical vibe of this 27,000-acre lake 90 minutes straight east of Dallas never ceases. Everybody knows giant bass live here – like the 13-pound, 8-ounce beast Livesay once guided a client to using a Carolina rig one magical November day. 

For now, all 85 Bassmaster Elite Series pros can only hope for a little Lake Fork magic, and all would be wise to avoid a game of checkers with Sumrall and Livesay.

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