Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Fork should produce fireworks once again
YANTIS, Texas —

If Lee Livesay had a say in where Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments are held, there’s zero question which lake he’d pick first — and second, third and so on.

“I’m not gonna beat around the bush,” Livesay said. “I want to fish at Lake Fork any day, every day and any time of the year. I’ll take it over anyplace else. That’s never gonna change.”

Well, well, well.

As if Livesay drew up the schedule himself (note: he didn’t), the second stop of this year’s tour will be Feb. 29-March 3 with the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork, less than an hour from Livesay’s hometown of Longview, Texas. In all, 103 Elites are scheduled to compete in the derby, with a $100,000 first-place prize at stake and thousands more in cash prizes for top competitors, as well as all-important points in the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

The field will include many of the world’s best bass anglers, including Livesay, the four-time B.A.S.S. winner who has, to put it mildly, feasted at Fork the past few times he’s competed here.

How dominant has the 38-year-old Texan been on his home water?

Consider this: Livesay cracked the ballyhooed Century Club in Elite Series tournaments here in 2021 and 2022, each resulting in runaway wins. He caught an incredible 112 pounds, 5 ounces over four days in 2021 (a full 10 pounds better than second-place finisher Patrick Walters) and came back a year later with a winning total of 113-11 (a full 11-9 better than the second-place angler for that derby, two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk).

Though both were double-digit victories, competitors were pounding Fork as well, with six total Century Club performances across those two tournaments. The 2022 derby was especially productive, with each of the Top 10 anglers catching more than 90 pounds of bass over four days.

Livesay is confident he can three-peat at Lake Fork but knows any Elite finding a consistent big bite could hoist a blue trophy when the fishing is done.

“I know a lot about the lake, but there are going to be many guys who will find fish out there,” he said. “I think we could see huge weights again. It’s the right time frame. There will be fish in the timber, in the grass. You can fish deep or you can fish shallow. People will have their pick.”

Livesay wasn’t pointing to the wealth of possibilities to disguise his own game plan. Matter of fact, he hasn’t actually fished the lake since last spring.

“It was last May or June,” he said. “I drove around about a quarter of the lake recently, before it went off-limits, and it was full pool. We’ve had a lot of rain and I saw some things that make me believe we’ll have good fishing. I like to fish shallow and that’s probably my best chance there. But that could change.

“I really don’t want any preconceived notion of what to expect,” he continued. “It’s all affected by temperature, fishing pressure. Forward-facing sonar is a real factor now. I know what to look for, so I’ll show up, practice hard, look shallow, look deep and everywhere in between.’

Livesay said he had a “bad day” in both of his Elite Series wins on Lake Fork. The key for him, and likely every other competitor, is to be “open-minded.”

“Lake Fork is more of a mental game for me because a million variables go through my head,” he said. “When the schedule came out, I thought I might spend all winter there. But where the giants are in December and January is not where they’ll be in February. So, I just backed off. I know how to get around and I know what’s there. When we start, it’s just about reading the conditions and finding the bigger bites.

“I just have to get into a flow.”

The AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork will have a full field for Day 1 and Day 2. The group will be cut to the Top 50 for Day 3 and the Top 10 will compete for the tournament title on Championship Sunday.

Bassmaster LIVE will be streaming on all four days, and coverage will also be available on FS1 on Saturday and Sunday.

Wood County Texas is hosting.