Alton Jones, Jr. used a 1-2 combination of spinnerbaits to finish in the Top 10 at Lake Eufaula.
By Dave Landahl - February 14, 2020
EUFAULA, Ala. – Changing water clarity, cold fronts, warm fronts, heavy rain, rising water, dropping water…you name it, the MLF Bass Pro Tour anglers got it during Stage One of the 2020 season on Lake Eufaula.
The Top 10 anglers figured out how to deal with these conditions, and Lake Eufaula turned into the big-bass fest everybody was hoping it would be.
Here’s what the Top 10 used to catch ‘em on Lake Eufaula:
Jacob Wheeler (1st/68-0)
Wheeler’s event-winning bait was the 1-ounce spinnerbait, as detailed previously in this story, but he employed two other primary baits to work his way through the Qualifying Rounds: a Rapala DT14 and DT16 in Caribbean Shad, and a 1/2-ounce black-and-blue jig with a Googan Baits Bandito Bug trailer (also black/blue).
Wheeler’s jig setup included a 7-foot-6 Duckett Fishing Jacob Wheeler Signature Series heavy-action rod and 8.3:1 Duckett Fishing Paradigm reel spooled with 17-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon. His cranking setup was a 7-11 Duckett Fishing crankbait rod paired with a Duckett 5.3:1 Duckett Fishing reel spooled with 12-pound Sufix fluorocarbon.
Bryan Thrift (2nd/40-11)
The MLF rookie used a prototype Z-Man ChatterBait that he and the company have been working on for a few months: “This ChatterBait has a big blade and thumps like crazy,” says Thrift.
A new BTC-6 crankbait from Damiki in blue back and red craw colors, along with a 1/2-ounce black jig, were also part of his arsenal.
Thrift focused on points and hard-bottom spots in 3 to 5 feet of water, as well as docks.
The ChatterBait was fished on a Fitzgerald 7-foot 3-inch heavy-action Stunner rod with an Abu Garcia reel loaded with 20-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon. Crankbaits were fished on his signature series squarebill rod from Fitzgerald with an Abu Garcia Winch reel and 12-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon. For the jig, Thrift used his signature series skipping rod with the same reel and line as the ChatterBait rod.
Ott DeFoe (3rd/34-9)
“Crankbaits were my deal,” said DeFoe. “I used a Rapala DT6 and DT10 and the new Slim (crankbait). I used shad and red craw colors.”
DeFoe fished brush in 5- to 10-foot depths on the lower end of the lake.
“Making repetitive casts to the same cover was crucial to my success,” DeFoe said.
Alton Jones, Jr. (4th/26-12)
Jones ran all over the south end of the lake, hitting pockets and creeks. The top cover was shallow grass and shallow docks with brush under them.
Dustin Connell (5th/24-0)
Connell used two baits to crack the Top 10. First was a vibrating jig with a Googan Baits 3.8-inch Saucy Swimmer on the back, cut down to make it smaller (the key color was white and chartreuse). His secondary bait was a 3/8-ounce black/blue swim jig with a black/blue Googan Baits Krackin’ Craw.
“A big deal to me were my Favorite Fishing rods this week, especially the new Hex Series rods,” Connell said. “For the vibrating jig, I used a 7-foot-2 medium-heavy Hex rod with 20-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon. For the swim jig, I used a 7-2 medium heavy Summit rod and 50-pound Seaguar Braid.
“Biggest key for me was fishing the first quarter of a creek,” Connell said. “I caught none in the back of the creeks all week long. I dialed into a zone and fished anything hard: wood or dock poles were productive.”
Brent Chapman (6th/20-10)
“Every scorable bass for me was on a 3/8-ounce bladed jig,” Chapman reported. “Either white or black-and-blue with a matching swimbait trailer. I used a KastKing Speed Demon 7-foot-3 chatterbait rod and a KastKing 6.4:1 Bassinator reel spooled with 20-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon.”
Pads, pad stems, or whatever shallow cover was available in the mid-lake area were Chapman’s targets throughout the week.
Takahiro Omori (7th/16-4)
Omori used a Daiwa Tatula Elite 701MHRB cranking rod and a Daiwa Zillion reel filled with 20-pound Sunline Shooter to fish a Lucky Craft 1.5 crankbait in chartreuse with a black back and orange belly. He also fished a homemade white/chartreuse 1/2-ounce T. O. spinnerbait, and a white/chartreuse 3/8-ounce ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Z-Man RaZor Shadz trailer.
Primary targets were grassy banks, rocks, boat docks, and cypress trees near spawning areas.
Brett Hite (8th/9-13)
Hite used an EverGreen Flat Force crankbait in Cold Shad on the first two days when water was higher and cooler. He fished it in 3 to 7 feet of water next to deeper gator grass. His rod and reel combo was a Daiwa Tatula SB 6.3:1 reel and an EverGreen International 7-foot-1 medium rod and 10-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon line.
Gator grass and pad stem edges were his prime cover, along with a little action in the reeds. A Daiwa Steez A 6.3:1 along with his signature EverGreen Combat Stick heavy action glass rod and 20-pound Sunline fluorocarbon was the ticket for fishing the Jack Hammer.
Jordan Lee (9th/5-10)
Lee used a 1/2-ounce double Colorado blade spinnerbait with an orange kicker blade and a 4-inch pearl-colored Berkley grub as a trailer to get him to the Knockout Round.
“I was throwing at hard stuff, a boat ramp, just junk fishing,” Lee said. “For the Knockout Round and final day, I ran up the river to a flooded pond and fished lily pads and a little grass out in the middle, in around 2 to 3 feet of water. They were just giants there during the Knockout Round, I weighed 6 bass for 36 pounds on that day.”
Lee’s bait for the bruisers was an orange ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a green pumpkin 4-inch Berkley Chigger Craw that he dyed the tail orange. He fished it on a 7-foot-5 Abu Garcia Winch prototype rod and a Revo Premier 7.3:1 reel loaded with 17-pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon.
Adrian Avena (10th/4-3)
Avena fished a 1-ounce Ledgebuster spinnerbait with a 4.8 Berkley Power Swimmer. The color combo was white and chartreuse.