Lee Livesay of Longview, Texas, may have effectively retired the notion of a "hometown curse"--the vexation of too much local knowledge dooming an angler's performance--by winning his second consecutive Bassmaster Elite title on Lake Fork. After posting a winning 2021 total of 112 pounds, 5 ounces, on the lake he grew up fishing--and the one where he now guides--Livesay earned his third Elite trophy with 113-11. Livesay won his first Elite Series event in 2020 on Lake Chickamauga.
"This place is special to a lot of people, but it's special to me because it's home," Livesay said. "It's hard to win on your home lake, but I'm a very blessed man."
Livesay set a strong opening pace by turning in a Day 1 limit of 32 pounds, which trailed first-round leader Cliff Prince by 5 ounces. From there, Livesay caught 28-10 on Day 2 and moved into the lead. A limit of 27-5 on Semifinal Saturday kept in the top spot and Livesay closed the deal with a Championship Sunday weight of 25-12. In addition to the coveted Elite Series trophy, Livesay collected $100,000 and another Century Club belt (awarded to an angler catching 100 pounds or more in a four-day event). His first came at last year's Lake Fork Elite event. Livesay has had a busy spring, as he and wife Taren welcomed their daughter Lane about four weeks before he won his first St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Ross Barnett back in April.
Where He Fished
Livesay spent most of his time fishing a modest little point on the west side of the Lake Fork Creek arm. Reaching into adjacent timber, the barren spot covered an area of about 40 feet by 40 feet and seemed to be attracting quality fish because big gizzard shad were congregating on the hard bottom.
The interesting story here was the fact that, in all of his years on Lake Fork, Livesay had never fished this spot. He found it during practice after staying off his better known areas to avoid disclosing anything to anglers fishing a local tournament during the Elite's practice days.
"Most of the fish I caught this week have come from a spot I've never even caught a bass on," Livesay said. "I found them the first day of practice and thought they were little, but they grew."
Livesay also caught some of his fish off a deep point. This spot, which yielded one of his biggest fish, held a large population of white bass--a common forage for hefty largemouth.
How He Caught 'Em
Livesay caught his fish on a 3/4-ounce 6th Sense Divine Hybrid Jig with a Netbait Paca Craw, a Hog Farmer Magnum Shaky Head with a Netbait C-Mac worm and a 6th Sense Crush 300DD crankbait. On Day 4, he caught his biggest fish--an 8-3--on a 5-inch 6th Sense Flutter Spoon.
In the timber, Livesay chose his casting angles carefully. Tackle preservation and fish extraction were the key motivators. Lake fork is down 5 1/2 feet for dam repairs, so with less water over the wood, precision was ever more critical.
"I tried to position the boat so I had the best chance of getting the fish out of the cover," Livesay said.
Rest of the Best
Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, placed second with 102-2. With daily limits of 26-09, 30-01, 27-13, and 17-11, the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year earned his first Century Club belt. Palaniuk committed to two inconspicuous points in the lake's lower end and caught his fish in 10-25 feet. A Rapala DT-16 and a flutter spoon produced all of his fish.
Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Alabama, finished third with 102-2. (Ties are broken by heaviest single day weight.) Swindle, who won AOY titles in 2004 and 2016 earned his second Century Club honor. His first came in 2007 at California's Clear Lake. With daily weights of 29-07, 22-05, 29-02 and 21-04, Swindle caught his fish on a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm on a 3/4-ounce shakey head, deep diving crankbaits and a 1/2-ounce Boss jig with a Zoom Z-Craw trailer.
Shane Lehew of Catawba, North Carolina, finished fourth with 100-9 and claimed the event's final Century Club belt. Marc Frazier of Newnan, Georgia, was fifth with 99-01.
Frazier also won the $1,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award with his 8-11.
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