by Holly Keen
I’ve gotten to Marshal/Judge for several of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros while they fished Lake Fork. For this event I was fortunate to be a Judge on Championship Sunday. This Sunday was particularly special to me for a few reasons: I got paired with Lee Livesay, someone I’ve known and been friends with for years and have been fortunate enough to fish Lake Fork with before he started on the Elite Series. I’ve been able to watch him on LIVE but was ecstatic that I would get to be in his boat watching him do his job in-person. Honestly, I knew he would have a good day. I just didn’t know it would end up being such a memorable Championship Sunday for everyone.
I’d always hoped to get paired with Lee over the last couple of years, and it finally happened — on Championship Sunday! Some of the phrases that could be heard on Lee’s boat were, "Oh my gosh what a bass; like a candy bar; another flip flop off fish; meat, baby whale." There were times that he’d make a really long cast and I wish I’d gotten photos of it because his stance at the end of some of those casts had me cracking up on the back deck.
Lee brought his first two fish in the boat before 7 a.m. When he landed the third one and I had to text Tim Cook to let him know we’d be bringing in an over, we knew we were going to have a great day. We were in areas that he knew were good, and he had talked about the conditions being almost perfect for the technique he was using. After he’d land his fish, he’d give the cameraman and me fist bumps although we were all so pumped up it was more like fist punches. There were times when we were both shaking after he landed the bigger fish and even times that he told me, “Take your time.” All I was worried about was getting his fish weighed, recorded and reported on BassTrakk as quickly as possible so he could make another cast.
Right before noon, he fished an area that he hadn’t been to at all day. Then it happened, he caught an 8-14, making his small fish a 4-01. About an hour later, he catches a 7-14, making his smallest a 7-06. Shortly after noon, we knew he had 38 pounds and 6 ounces. He had a check-in time of 3 p.m. Lee knew with that much weight it was very possible someone else was catching them too. From then on, he had limited time to catch what we hoped would be a double-digit bass, but unfortunately, he never found one. You know it’s a good day when even another 7-pounder isn’t going to help you.
Lee has started a tradition of giving his cameraman the winning lure. His cameraman mentioned wanting his swimbait if he ended up winning and Lee told him absolutely. I then jokingly asked him if he ended up winning, could have something too? Lee told me I could have whatever I wanted. I asked for the topwater lure. We ran back to check-in with him having 42-03, and the crowd that was gathered at the live release boat was absolutely phenomenal. Every fan, friend, family member, sponsor, B.A.S.S. media staff and even other Elite pros were standing there with cameras waiting to take photos of the overs brought in that day. Even Lee’s puppy, Bean, jumped on the front deck of the boat when we arrived.
As you know by now, Lee ended up winning the tournament, and I got to be a part of his historic Championship Sunday. Not only did he win, but he put on an epic topwater clinic. He won on his home lake, got redemption from a poor performance here two years ago, earned his way into the Bassmaster Century Club and weighed in the third largest five-fish limit in Bassmaster history!
After all the photos were taken, autographs were signed and interviews were given, we walked down to his boat and he cut off the spook he caught the majority of the fish on, signed it and gave it to me. He did the same with the swimbait for the cameraman.
This is going to be a weekend that I will never forget, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I love this sport and love getting to watch these guys do what they love to do. I do want to say thanks to all of the Bassmaster staff, editors and media crew for doing a phenomenal job covering these events. And a special thanks to Tim Cook who puts in long hours as the volunteer coordinator for the Lake Fork Bassmaster Elite Series events. I hope to see everyone at the Classic back here in Texas in less than two months.