DAYTON, Tenn. — The tournament’s shortest fishing day yielded Lee Livesay’s biggest bag, which allowed the angler from Longview, Texas, to take the Day 3 lead of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake with a three-day total of 43 pounds.
After a 2 1/2-hour fog delay, Livesay backed up his first two weights of 13-0 and 13-3 with a Day 3 limit of 16-13 and overtook Day 2 leader Stetson Blaylock by a margin of 1-15.
He did so by fishing a frog around matted vegetation — and was very specific in the type of vegetation he sought.
“I’m doing what I like to do. I like to pick up a big rod and a frog and hunt them,” Livesay said. “I’m not just fishing, I’m hunting individual fish. I know which mats they’re under; it’s just whether they eat it or not.”
Livesay said he’s targeting mats in two main scenarios. The first are located off small main-river bars. The key is what he calls supershallow water.
“Everybody’s fishing the deep mats, but you can’t catch them there,” Livesay said. “You might get a hit every now and then, but it’s random. I fish around the shallowest mats with a little rock under them and two of them have current under them.”
Livesay’s other mat scenario is on the back side of an island bar with a small depression in a flat. The area has scattered rock and tiny cheese mats (topped-out grass coated with a bubbly yellowish algae) within a larger mat.
“It’s 100 percent confidence, knowing where the fish are and not leaving,” he said. “Also, I’m being quiet; I’m push poling into some areas, keeping my trolling motor up and sitting there for (long periods).
“I’m casting as long as I can throw it. I caught a couple close today, but my best bites are coming way, way out there. Also, I’m trying to throw upriver and bring it down on my current-related spots.”
Livesay caught all of his fish on a Scum Frog Launch Frog. He alternated between black and white baits and made key modifications to each.
“I’m adding two 1/8-ounce tungsten weights and trimming the legs down really short; I don’t want them to have anything to miss,” Livesay said. “If you put this frog in the water, it sinks like a rock, but it makes a trail in that mat.”
Livesay’s starting spot was close to takeoff, so he was fishing while many of his competitors were still running. His first fish was a 4-pounder, followed by solid keepers.
He has great confidence going into Championship Monday.
“This is the first time I’ve felt it,” he said. “I’ve been third, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, but this is the first time I’ve felt like I had a shot. I’ve never had the right fish left and the confidence level.
“The good thing is I only had to hit my main spot one time. I missed one other big one in there and never went back.”
Livesay said he’ll follow the same general game plan, but he’ll have a Zara Spook on his deck in case he sees schooling bass like the ones that surprised him Sunday.
“On my first spot where I caught that 4 (pounder), some big ones came up schooling out in the open behind me,” he said. “Tomorrow, I’m going to have that frog on my left side and I’m going to have that spook on my right side.
“I may also have a 3/8-ounce football jig with a NetBait Paca Craw for the bluffs, in case I’m not feeling the frog bite.”
Blaylock added a 13-pound limit to his previous weights of 16-1 and 12-0 for a total of 41-1. Starting on the same offshore points with hard patches in 15 feet of water that he fished Saturday, he caught three keepers on a crankbait.
Transitioning to grass mats, he added his fourth keeper on a Booyah Pad Crasher frog and finished his limit with a bass that ate a 1/4-ounce Scrounger with a YUM Pulse swimbait. He caught the last one in a small pocket where he’s found bass schooling on baitfish both days.
“This pocket is the only place that I’ve found where you have a creek that gets 3 to 4 feet deep and it’s not choked out with grass,” Blaylock said. “There are fish schooling in the grass, but in the particular spot I fished, the shad are staying out in the open, so all those fish have them corralled up there.
“It’s just a matter of being there when they’re ready to bite. If your timing is right when you get there, if there’s one up there ready to bite, it’s going to happen.”
Mike Huff of Corbin, Ky., is third with 38-0. After a tough Day 1 yielded only three fish for 6-12, Huff added 12-3 on Day 2 and rose to 33rd. Today, he caught the event’s second-heaviest bag — 19-1.
He started his day with a frog and caught a 5-pounder and then moved to a steep bluff with laydowns where he filled his limit with a 3/8-ounce Cumberland Pro jig and a Berkley Creature Hawg.
“The key to that presentation was cutting down that Creature Hawg for a smaller profile,” Huff said.
Chad Pipkens of DeWitt, Mich., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with a 7-11.
David Mullins of Mt. Carmel, Tenn., remains in the lead for Bassmaster Angler of the Year with 623 points, while Austin Felix of Eden Prairie, Minn., follows in second with 613. Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, is in third with 607.
The Top 10 remaining anglers will take off at 7:30 a.m. ET on Championship Monday from the Dayton Boat Dock. The weigh-in will be held at Point Park at 3:30 p.m., with $100,000 going to the winning pro.
Live coverage of the event will be available starting at 8:30 a.m. on Bassmaster LIVE at Bassmaster.com and ESPN3.
The tournament is being hosted by the Rhea County Economic Development & Tourism Council.