With some redemption on his season, Lee Livesay is shooting to settle a couple more scores.
Mired in a trying second year on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Livesay washed away that awful taste with his victory Oct. 19 in the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake. It was not complete redemption, he said, from a year in which he won’t qualify for the Bassmaster Classic via the Angler of the Year point standings, but:
“It didn’t hurt, that’s for damn sure,” he said. “I knew I was out of the points. Everybody can sit there and be cliché all they want, but I wasn’t swinging for the fences. I did what I like to do. I like to frog and catch big ones on big braid.
“Everybody just kept saying how bad (Chickamauga) was. When I saw the grass and how good and green it was on the mats, I knew they were in there somewhere. It just took me until the second day to figure out how good it really was.”
After that morning of catching an early limit and being able to search for more fish, Livesay decided he had to keep the frog in his hands. When he weighed in his second bag over 13 pounds, he said he got that winning feeling anglers often experience.
“I felt it for the first time ever,” Livesay said. “I’ve been in the Top 10 six times in the last year, from Classics to Opens to Elites, and never felt like I was going to win. I felt like I had to do something special or somebody had to trip up.
“I don’t know what it was, but after the second day weigh-in, I felt, ‘Ok, I got a shot.’ It was just coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t even stop it. I was just telling people, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever felt it, first time I’ve felt it.’ And sure enough, I was just so confident the rest of the time, and it worked out.”
Despite plenty of fish missing his frog in their reactionary bites through the mats, Livesay was encouraged because that made him realize there were bass there. He knew he’d eventually hook up. As one of only two anglers to catch five-fish limits each day, he took the lead after Day 3 with 16-13.
The night before Championship Monday, Livesay received a text from the previous week’s winner, Brandon Palaniuk, and he took the insightful words from a five-time Elite winner to heart.
“Brandon told me to stay patient, and if it’s meant to be, it will happen and you won’t be able to stop it,” said Livesay, who closed the deal with 15-2 to total 58-2. “I expanded every single day, and it was my time. I ended up the guy nobody messed with, everything worked right, I didn’t lose any fish. Every choice I made was the right one. When it’s your turn, you cannot stop it.”
Next on his list is qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic at Lake Ray Roberts in his home state of Texas. Livesay, who had a great start in last week’s Basspro.com Central Open on Neely Henry before finishing 24th, has two more attempts in the Opens’ win-and-in format. He also has a great opportunity in the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Nov. 5-8.
The season-ending tournament offers a Toyota Tundra for the biggest bass, and the first-place prize is $125,000 plus a berth to the Classic. Livesay will be seeking redemption from last year’s Texas Fest on Lake Fork, where he guides. He was among the favorites in the May 2019 event but finished a disappointing 39th.
“I’m confident. I’m ready to roll. It is what it is, I might get last place or middle of the pack, but I’ll take it any day to be in my back yard fishing. I’ll take knowledge over no knowledge any time,” he said. “It’s going to be tougher than anybody realizes because of the time of year, but it will be better than our last two or three.”
Knowing the lake from numerous client trips gives Livesay some tricks up his sleeve, but he said fishing for the five biggest instead of putting several anglers on bass is a different animal. Timing and knowing what to do when and where will be key on Fork, where Livesay expects it will take around 86 pounds to win and a 10-pounder to take the truck.
“It’s going to be real similar to the last three, but the weights are going to be a little bit better because we have so many big ones — they’re just not as easy to catch this time of year,” he said. “For me, it’s just keeping an open mind.”
It might be a bit easier now that Livesay experienced that winning feeling. He summed up his victory as being able to manage fish, knowing which ones to try to catch, being able to practice each afternoon and just having everything work out.
“I only lost one fish the whole time frogging, that’s crazy,” he said. “It was just controlling what I can control and just rolling with it. And fishing for big ones. Just stay in a couple areas, fish for big ones. It was a good way to win.”
Also a good way to bolster the bank account. His $100,000 prize was his largest in 32 Bassmaster events and jumped his total earnings to almost $300,000.
“I cashed it and felt like I was doing something illegal,” he said. “I felt like the cops would show up.”
The winner’s cut is always nice, but having and parading around with an Elite trophy is almost as sweet. Before Fork, Livesay said he and the blue hardware are making the rounds to his local sponsors, like the Shipps Marine dealership where photos were taken with the owner, his salesman and all the mechanics. His truck sponsor, McKaig Chevrolet is next.
“Let everybody enjoy it, see it, play with it, after that it will go up on my mantle and be done with it,” he said.
Then it’s back to work, back to concentrating on gaining some redemption at Lake Fork, and the biggie of securing his second Classic berth.