Humminbird® and Minn Kota® pros Brandon Palaniuk and Carl Jocumsen were riding high after the two buddies took first and second at the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Santee Cooper Lakes. Just one week later, another pair of Pro Team anglers from the leading brands in boat control and fish finding technology doubled down as Lee Livesay and Mike Huff finished first and second respectively at Lake Chickamauga.
Another fall tournament dealt the field challenging conditions during the four days of competition. Strong currents, thick grass mats and heavy fishing pressure meant that finding the winning fish required a combination of skill, experience and the right equipment.
Livesay and Huff proved they had all three by closing out the top two spots on Championship Monday. Both anglers relied heavily on Lakemaster® mapping to isolate areas that they felt would produce the kind of bites needed to compete.
From there, their paths diverged, one targeted skinny water fish and using his Minn Kota Talons™ to stealthily pick apart shallow grass mats with a frog and the other staying pinned with Minn Kota Spot-Lock™ while near steep bluff walls.
Adapting to the conditions was key on Chickamauga and no one did that better than Lee Livesay. Starting in 10th place after day one with 13-0, Livesay found more of the shallow water hotspots that would propel him to his first career victory with a total weight of 58 pounds, 2 ounces on Chickamauga Lake.
Realizing that shallow areas deep inside grass mats were producing more bites, Livesay worked to locate other areas with the same features and operated in stealth mode once he found the spots with the right ingredients for his success.
“Once I realized that the fish were living in less than a foot of water with a little algae on top of the grass, I looked on my LakeMaster map and marked from 0 – 3 feet in the red highlight on my HELIX®,” Livesay said. “I found another eight to nine locations in a relatively close proximity that offered the same features. Then I’d either push pole in real quiet and Talon down or sometimes bust through 500 yards of grass mat with the my Ultrex™ trolling motor as fast as I could to get back in the mat, and then I’d try to be as quiet as possible letting everything settle down for at least 20 minutes or so.”
Persistence also paid off for Livesay by focusing on these small shallow areas he was confident held fish. Slowing down and really taking the time to pick apart each spot, he made long casts and kept working on new ways to present the bait until he got the reaction he was looking for.
“My Minn Kota Talons were huge, probably one of the most important tools I used this week,” said Livesay. “After I got to the spot, I’d cast in some of the areas the size of my boat deck 30 or more times before getting bit, but then it would be on. I’d sometimes fish these little spots for 30-45 minutes before I’d get them fired up and I even stayed in one spot for 2 hours.”
With Livesay finding his pattern of success sneaking through grass mats with his Talons and operating as quietly as possible, his fellow Humminbird and Minn Kota Pro Team member Mike Huff was working on an impressive comeback with another strategy, targeting bluffs and lay downs to keep him in the hunt.
Finishing day one in 50th place and fighting back to 33rd on Day Two, Huff turned it all around by fishing jigs on bluffs he identified with his mapping, and ultimately turned in the event’s second heaviest bag (19-1) to propel him to 3rd place on day three. Huff finished the weekend in second place just behind Livesay with a total weight of 56 pounds, 6 ounces.
“One of the main things for me on Chickamauga was the LakeMaster mapping – it is just absolutely amazing on the Tennessee River system,” said Huff. “I found fishing bluff walls was getting it done for me and I studied my map to find every contour line and rock slide out there, which was really important in finding the areas I wanted to target.”
Fishing these rockslides on bluffs was proving successful but also a challenge with stronger currents. “Spot-Lock was huge for me fishing the way I was in these areas,” Huff said.
“The current was so strong there and the Ultrex was working hard all day on my boat. I was able to just hit Spot-Lock every time I got a fish in the boat and would stay right where I needed to be and on the fish. The amount of time we get back with that is invaluable and allows for more casts and time with the bait in the water.” Spot-Lock made tasks like culling and retying a breeze and kept him in the game.
With LakeMaster providing a roadmap to the exact depths and contour features Huff was looking for on the bank, he was now able to focus his attention to MEGA Side Imaging® and locate other fish-holding cover in the same areas or on the way to his next spot. And his story was reminiscent of the one Brandon Palaniuk told about the 7-pounder he found using Humminbird MEGA 360 Imaging™ on the final day at Santee Cooper.
“I was done fishing a bank and idling out getting ready to take off and I noticed a tree that looked really good with three fish in it,” Huff said. “I thought to myself, I really should have fished that, but I marked it on the Humminbird unit and saved it for the next day. I ended up catching two crucial fish off that same tree on Day Four.”
With one fall tournament left in the revised Bassmaster Elite Series schedule at Lake Fork on November 5-8, there is no question these pros will continue to face a challenging bite and weather conditions. With a full head of steam heading into the final event and the best mapping, imaging and boat control on their side, the Minn Kota and Humminbird Pro Team is on track to finish strong.