LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas angler who recently won a Bassmasters Elite tournament in Dayton, Tennessee, is living the dream. He gets paid to do something he has loved his entire life.
Lee Livesay, who lives in Longview, won the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Chickamauga near Dayton, Tennessee on Oct. 19.
On Sunday, Livesay sat down for an interview with KLTV photographer Arthur Clayborn.
Livesay said the tournament in Tennessee got a great deal of coverage. He said it aired on ESPN 2 and EPSN 3 and the network’s app. He said the tournament got several million views.
“It was an exciting tournament because it was so tough,” Livesay said.
Normally, the last of the Bassmaster Elite series in that part of the country are held in late summer, Livesay said. However, they had to re-schedule several tournaments because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked how he first got involved in fishing, Livesay said," I’ve been fishing my whole life since I was old enough to hold a rod. I grew up in Oklahoma, and I fished in ponds with my parents and my grandpa – brim, catfish, and croppy."
Livesay said his parents moved to Liberty City, which is near Kilgore, when he was eight or nine. As a boy and a teen, he fished in Lake Gladewater and Lake Fork.
“I fell in love with Lake Fork,” Livesay said. I loved being around the fishing guides."
Livesay’s first fishing boat was a small Jon boat, he said. Since then, he has been steadily upgrading, he added.
Briefly, fishing took a backseat to high school and college sports, Livesay said. Even so, a certain Division 1 college coach can probably attest that he occasionally skipped practice to go fishing, he added.
Livesay said nobody that he went to school with here in Texas is really surprised that he became a professional fisherman.
“All I’ve ever done is fish,” Livesay said. “Even though I was all-in on sports, there were always a couple of pictures of me fishing or hunting in our yearbooks.”
After college, Livesay worked seven years as a full-time fishing guide on Lake Fork. While he did that, he fished in local and regional tournaments.
“I always knew that fishing was going to be what I did for a living somehow,” Livesay said. ‘I didn’t know if it was going to be on the coast, as a guide, or as a professional angler.’
Livesay said Matt McMillan, one of his clients on Lake Fork who is now one of his sponsors, once told him, “Man, you’re really good. You ought to try fishing professionally.”
Livesay decided to give it a shot. He was hooked after he almost won the first Bassmasters tournament he fished in, adding, “I think I got 5th or 6th.”
Livesay qualified for the Bassmasters Elite tournament series a year or two later, and last year was his rookie season as a full-time professional angler. He earned Rookie of the Year honors.
“It’s a lot of travel, but I like it,” Livesay said. “I enjoy traveling across the country, seeing new places, and meeting new people. I also love figuring out new bodies of water.”
As a professional angler, Livesay has fished in lakes all over the country – mountain lakes, desert lakes, lakes in wooded areas, clear lakes, and muddy lakes.
Livesay said the downside is that the travel means he spends a lot of time away from his family.
People from all over the country and all over the world follow his career, Livesay said.
He explained that he’s had high school and college students contact him via social media to ask about fishing for a living. Livesay added that times have changed since he was in high school and college; these days, anglers are getting full-ride scholarships to fish.
“I give back to the kids as much as I can,” Livesay said. “I love talking to them.”
Livesay said he’ll continue working hard and perfecting his craft. He also plans to keep growing his brand and his business.
“Success comes with hard work,” Livesay said.
To watch the whole interview, click the video above.