The right side of the cut line in Bassmaster Elite event

After a couple of tough finishes, I was motivated to turn my Bassmaster Elite Series season around this past week at Lake Fork, Texas. Through four events I had fallen outside of the Bassmaster Classic cut line so that was where the motivation to catch some fish was mostly coming from. We get points based on where we finish in each event and at the end of the nine event season, the top 40 anglers in points qualify for the Classic. After a good start to the year, my two bad finishes had dropped me to 48thheading into last week.

It was recently announced that the 2022 Classic will be held at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, a body of water that I have some good history with so I really want to be in that event. The reality heading into the tournament last week was that I needed to have a good finish to get back above the cut line. 

This would be the third year in a row that we were visiting Lake Fork. It is a legendary lake known for producing more 13 pound plus bass than any other lake in the state of Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife have a program called “Share a Lunker”, where they will come and pick up 13 pound plus fish wherever they are caught during the fall and winter, then take them to a breeding facility where they breed the big fish genetics for stocking into lakes across the state. It is because of programs like this that Texas has such great bass fisheries.  

For me, it is always exciting to get to fish a lake where a ten pound bass is possible on any cast you make. While you don’t catch them every day, there are plenty of them in this lake. In early May two years ago I had a great event at Fork, finishing 5th with over 92 pounds for four days. When we visited last November I had the worst tournament of my career, only managing to catch a single fish each day. My confidence heading into the tournament last week was not awesome because of the tough event last fall but I knew that it would be a lot better fishing this time of year.  

My practice went okay but I was a little disappointed to find that a lot of the fish were spawning and mostly shallow. I caught a lot of my big fish in deeper water two years ago and we were just a little bit early for that program to be really good so I had to adjust my game plan somewhat and fish shallower than I had planned. I ended up catching quite a few fish every day, eventually ending up with a 30th place finish, which earned me some solid points and a good paycheck.  

At the top end of the leaderboard, Texas angler and Lake Fork guide, Lee Livesay won the tournament with a four day total over 112 pounds. His first three days were somewhat human, averaging a little over 20 pounds per day but on the final day he caught the third largest limit in Bassmaster history, weighing 42 pounds, 3 ounces! He had a limit of seven to nine pound fish, it was pretty incredible. The best part was that he caught most of the fish on a topwater bait! If you want to see some incredible strikes, Bassmaster has footage of his entire day on their website, it was really amazing to watch. Lee is a friend and a good dude so it was awesome to watch the action happen. There were some monster fish and they earned him a $100,000 payday!  

My wife and I are hanging around Lake Fork for a few extra days to have some fun before we start heading back east to Alabama, we were fish again next week at Neely Henry Lake. We are back on the right side of the cut line for the Classic, in 35th place, but we need to keep the foot on the pedal because there is not a lot of breathing room with four events remaining in the season.

Jeff Gustafson with a five pound largemouth that was part of his catch at Lake Fork, Texas over the past weekend. – Submitted photo