In the closest finish in the three-year history of the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour (BPT), Mercury Pro Team member Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, won the BPT Berkley Stage Two at Lake Travis Presented by Mercury by ...
The local guide wins on his home lake in front of friends and family
For three days, Lee Livesay caught quality fish, but nothing close to the Lake Fork potential he intimately knows. It wasn’t until Championship Sunday at the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Fork that Livesay, a local guide, was able to showcase his home lake’s treasures. Livesay caught a massive 42-pound, 3-ounce limit of five fish – all on topwater – to win the tournament with a total weight of 112 pounds, 5 ounces.
As the 32nd individual to enter the prestigious Bassmaster Century Club (anglers that have caught 100 or more pounds in a tournament), Livesay outpaced second place by a 10-pound margin after starting the day more than 7 pounds behind. Along with earning his second Elite Series first-place trophy – his first came last fall at Lake Chickamauga – Livesay also won $100,000.
His monster final-day limit ranks as the third-heaviest single-day weight in Bassmaster history. The catch was the biggest ever filmed for the Bassmaster television show. And because the catch came on a topwater lure and was broadcast live, it ranks as one of the all-time most epic days of tournament fishing.
Spending his tournament in Little Caney Creek, Livesay rotated among several secondary points where bass were chasing big gizzard shad. His main spot was a bar extending off a small island. He was able to use the island to sneak into range of bass schooling on the opposite side without spooking them.
“I started off with big ones and ended with big ones,” said Livesay, who caught a 9-2 at 7:14 a.m. and a 7-14 at 1:10 p.m. “It was just one of those surreal days.
“Those fish were feeding up, and they were seeing so many swimbaits. They were just not eating them,” he added. “I kept getting bites, and I kept throwing a topwater. Working that big topwater really erratic and just getting them to react was the deal.”
Fans tuning in live on FS1 and Bassmaster.com were thankful the giant bass continued to eat Livesay’s topwater bait all day long.
The third-year Elite Series pro kept himself in the hunt all week, starting with a seventh-place bag of 25-6 on day one. He slipped two spots on day two after catching 17-14, but put himself within striking distance on Saturday by adding 26-14 and improving to fifth.
Overcoming the hometown curse — succumbing to the pressure of local expectations — made Livesay’s victory even sweeter.
“I’ve spent thousands of days with clients and fun fishing on this lake,” Livesay said. “I’ve caught literally hundreds of bags over 40 pounds here before, but it just wasn’t fishing that well in practice. I knew I was around big ones, but I never thought I’d catch 42 pounds.”
From nearby Longview, Texas, Livesay made no assumptions and fished hard until the last minute on Sunday. But when the smallest bass in a five-fish limit goes 7 pounds, 6 ounces, good things are likely.
“I fished up until the final few minutes of competition because I know how many big fish swim in this lake,” Livesay said. “Last fall on Chickamauga, I didn’t know if I had enough weight to win and got back with less than 30 seconds to spare. I didn’t quite cut it that close this week, though. But it goes to show I have absolute confidence my Mercury Pro XS will fire up every time.”
Livesay was back out on Lake Fork on Monday morning, thankful to guide again following a mandatory 28-day off-limits period that was in place before the tournament. Before he qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2019, Livesay guided full time on Lake Fork for close to 310 days a year. He guides and competes in a Ballistic Boats .223 powered by a Mercury 4.6L V8 250hp Pro XS outboard.
As he reflected from the waters of Lake Fork on another guide trip following the tournament, Livesay thought back to the scene on Championship Sunday.
“It is so surreal. I couldn’t ask for anything better; a gigantic bag on a topwater,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything wrong. There were 44 boats following me at one point. In the cheering section were my mom, my dad, my sister, my fiancé, a bunch of my sponsors, my old team tournament partner. My dog was even out there. You couldn’t dream up a day like that.
“I was fishing a spot I have a lot of history on that I didn’t fish the first two days of the tournament because I was waiting until I thought it got right. Another angler told me before my win last year at Chickamauga not to worry because if you’re going to win, you can’t stop it. Well, after a day like this, I know that is absolutely true. It was just amazing.”
Yes, it was, Lee. On behalf of fishing fans and everyone at Mercury, congratulations on a great day, and thank you for putting on such a show.
Livesay’s next tournament will be the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Neely Henry in Gadsden, Alabama, May 6-9.