When the Bassmaster Elite Series announced their return to Lake Fork in 2021, everyone knew Longview, Texas native and Lake Fork guide Lee Livesay would be a major contender. But no one knew that he would drop an astounding 42 pounds and 3 ounces on the final day to win his second blue trophy and throw down the third largest one-day limit in Bassmaster Elite Series history.
Thousands of bass fishing fans watched Bassmaster Live in astonishment as Livesay tossed around giant swimbaits and topwater plugs en route to a historic day, but what wasn’t evident during the big fish smackdown was the arsenal of other tools employed by the crafty angler to bring it home.
Leading up to the tournament, Livesay understood that being the hometown hero comes with a target on your back. “Other anglers keep a close eye on you and track you, hoping to discover your usual honey-holes,” said Livesay. Rather than leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the field to follow, Livesay opted to stay off of the good stuff in practice and utilize his Humminbird Lakemaster® mapping to find new spots heading into the tournament.
Using depth shading on his LakeMaster mapping, Livesay highlighted all the water that was three feet or less, giving him a clear picture of potential spawning areas for gizzard shad that would likely produce during a certain window each morning. His experience on Lake Fork told him the gizzard shad spawn was about to go off, and he knew the winning fish were going to be on those spawners.
“I could look at the LakeMaster mapping on my Humminbird HELIX units to find hard points and flats with hard spots that I could run to and continue running my pattern,” Livesay mentioned. “I knew I needed to have plenty of spots to cycle through over the four days of the tournament, and I knew I could trust my LakeMaster maps to give me an accurate picture of the depth across the entire lake.”
When running his pattern, Livesay was able to pull up to an area and either see visual activity of the Gizzard Shad spawn or use MEGA Side Imaging® on his Humminbird Helix units to quickly scan the area for any sign of life.
Once the tournament started, getting his fish to commit was no easy task. “These mature fish in Lake Fork are very smart, making them very difficult to catch. They hear countless boat motors and trolling motors every day. Once they hear that, they’re usually not going to bite,” said Livesay. “Maybe you can catch one, but once those big fish hear the boat noise, they just shut off.”
Livesay had a couple of strategies up his sleeve to trick these mature Lake Fork giants. The biggest key was being stealthy in his approach. Livesay mentioned that he would pull up to an area and drop his Minn Kota Ultrex™ from a far distance. Once he was within a castable distance, he would either hit Spot-Lock® on his Ultrex or, ideally, anchor his Minn Kota Raptor™ shallow water anchors, depending on the depth. From there, it was making extremely long casts to reach his target.
“The likelihood of catching these mature fish are slim to none if you are being loud and getting on top of them, that’s where the Active Anchoring on Minn Kota Raptors came in,” Livesay mentioned. “I was able to quietly hold my boat in place and make long, specific casts to reach my target.”
Silence was the name of the game for Livesay’s giant win on Lake Fork. “Once I had my Minn Kota Raptors anchored, I would put all my Humminbird HELIX units in standby and let the area settle for a couple of minutes before I started casting,” Livesay mentioned.
All this combined led to an impressive four-day total of 112 pounds and 5 ounces, earning him the coveted Century Belt, his second blue trophy in less than a year and a $100,000 check.
Livesay’s Humminbird and Minn Kota teammate Chris Zaldain also piggybacked off the gizzard shad spawn, using the highlighting capabilities of his Humminbird SOLIX to emphasize the lake’s shallow spots which he called “Ugly points” because “it doesn’t look like great fishing structure in general.”
These spots were long, sloping points that had the best potential to hold gizzard shad during their spring spawning season.
“I did a zero to four-foot highlight on my Helix units in red and then four to sixfeet in green,” said Zaldain. “This gave me a really clear picture of where the biggest, broadest spawning flats existed on the lake so I went all in going after the biggest bass on these spots by throwing the biggest, baddest swimbaits I have.”
With the locating of likely spots behind him, all that was left was for Zaldain to mine these spots during the tournament and he also credited his Minn Kota Raptors with keeping him planted to maximize each spot.
“I really noticed the Active Anchoring on my Minn Kota Raptors on day four of the tournament,” added the Texas-based pro. “With a cameraman and marshal in my boat and heavy winds blowing in on my spots, I could feel the Raptors adjusting as the weight shifted in the boat while we were moving around. With all that commotion and activity, I literally never moved an inch after planting the anchors, which is a huge advantage when you’re fishing against the best anglers in the world.”
Zaldain rode his big swimbait, LakeMaster mapping, and Raptors all the way to the final day and rounded out the top 5 in the final standings with a total of 93-0’.
After five events in the Bassmaster Elites Series 2021 season, Humminbird and Minn Kota pros have closed the deal on three wins, putting the entire One-Boat Network™ to work. With tournaments left on the schedule, we will see who will bring home the next Elite Series trophy.