Insider: Everything you need to know for Stage Four at Lake Eufaula - Major League Fishing Insider: Everything you need to know for Stage Four at Lake Eufaula
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9m • Mitchell Forde • Bass Pro Tour Insider: Everything you need to know for Stage Four at Lake Eufaula

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April 25, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Fantasy Fishing

Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula introduced itself to the national bass fishing tournament scene a little more than a year ago when the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals visited the sprawling impoundment in April 2023. The results were strong enough that it’s now the Bass Pro Tour’s turn. 

Seventy-nine BPT pros will take on Lake Eufaula for MillerTech Stage Four Presented by REDCON1 starting Tuesday. For many, it will mark their first time competing on the lake, which had hosted few national events prior to last year.  

The lack of a track record for many anglers on the fishery plus the fact that several different patterns could be in play means there are more viable options than usual to sort through for Phoenix Boats Fantasy Fishing players. As always, we’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know for Stage Four. 

How it will go down

Zack Birge thinks there will be plenty of traditional, shallow-water tactics on display at Lake Eufaula. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Could the jighead minnow finally take a backseat to other, more traditional techniques? A handful of anglers will likely try to replicate the forward-facing-sonar-based technique that has dominated three of the first four BPT events of the year, but it would come as a surprise if we don’t see some more diversity at Eufaula. The lake’s generally shallow, off-color water makes it ideally suited for shallow power fishing, and the timing of this event should see plenty of bass around the banks. 

The bigger question seems to be what spawning phase the majority of Eufaula’s bass will be in. Last year’s Invitationals event occurred about two weeks earlier on the calendar and was mostly a prespawn affair, although a few anglers caught bass off beds. So, it would stand to reason that there should be plenty of bass in the heat of the spawn when the Bass Pro Tour anglers take to Eufaula. 

Oklahoma natives Zack Birge and James Elam both expect that to be the case, but they’re not sure whether enough bass will be on beds to sustain anglers across the six-day event. Elam thinks the field will be able to target fish in all three spawning phases and likely have to mix and match throughout the event. 

“We’ve kind of had a weird spring,” he said. “It got warm early. We didn’t have one of those springs where it was really cold, and then all of a sudden it got warm, and a big bunch of fish flooded the banks. So, there’s probably going to be fish in all stages.” 

The other variable to keep an eye on is the conditions. Water level, water clarity and wind can all impact how Eufaula fishes. With storms in the forecast prior to the start of the event, Birge thinks there’s a chance the flipping bite could ignite, although a push of muddy water and/or gusty winds could also make certain stretches unfishable. 

“When Eufaula gets up – really, above normal, but when it gets a little bit more than a foot above normal, which I believe it’s around a foot above right now, or maybe just under – it gets really good in the bushes,” Birge said. “And the way everything is setting up right now, as shallow as a bunch of fish are around here, it could turn into a flipping and frogging tournament and guys just chunking and winding the bank like we’re kind of used to.  

“Now, that also means that if we do get the rain, that a lot of the water that can be good will get muddy, and that will kind of shrink the lake down a little bit. So, it’s kind of a Catch-22 with having an influx of water on the lake.” 

Like most tournaments, this one will likely come down to who can make the best adjustments during the event and identify an emerging pattern or area they can exploit during the Championship Round.

The usual suspects

Drew Gill notched his first Top-10 finish on a national tour at last year’s Invitationals stop on Lake Eufaula. Photo by Jody White

At some point, someone other than Jacob Wheeler or Dustin Connell has to win a Bass Pro Tour event this year… right? Until it happens, you can’t leave the CrushCity crew off your roster. Other anglers who have become no-brainers regardless of where they’re competing include Alton Jones Jr. and Jesse Wiggins. Jones has finished among the Top 10 in six of his past nine BPT events (and never finished below 14th during that span), while Wiggins is five for his past six in making Championship Rounds. 

A couple more who should be widely rostered this week are Michael Neal and Drew Gill. While both carry reputations as gurus when it comes to targeting suspended schools with forward-facing sonar, both have proven they can compete shallow if need be. Neal feels overdue to break through for another win after finishing 10th at REDCREST and second at Dale Hollow, and he notched a Top 10 in the Invitationals stop on Eufaula last April. Gill finished second in that event, and he simply seems to find his way into the Top 10 at every tournament these days, regardless of level.

The locals

James Elam is always a threat when competing in his home state of Oklahoma. Photo by Josh Gassman

Given Eufaula’s size and lack of tournament history, it would stand to reason that those anglers who have spent a fair amount of time on the fishery might have an advantage. The one variable there could be the spawn – anglers often say that local knowledge matters least when fish are on beds. 

Still, it’s worth considering the three Oklahoma natives in the field: Birge, Elam and Edwin Evers (all of which, strangely enough, fall in Group B). Of the three, Birge has the most MLF tournament history on Eufaula with five BFL appearances on the fishery through the years. Elam has been strong in his home state, with two of his three national wins coming in Oklahoma. Evers feels due for a bounce-back performance after missing out on the Knockout Round in the first three events of the season.

Looking to last year

Kelly Jordon pulled off the win at the Invitationals event on Eufaula last spring, while Michael Neal (right) finished 10th. Photo by Jody White

It’s rare that the rookie class has more collective experience on a fishery than the rest of the field, but that will be the case on Eufaula due to last year’s Invitationals event. Aside from Gill, the BPT newcomer who interests me most is Ron Nelson. Nelson finished third at Eufaula last year and might have won had it not been for a mix-up about off-limits areas. He’s also one of the best in the game at sight-fishing, which could well be the way to win. It would also be foolish to write off Kelly Jordon. Even though he’s struggled this season, Jordon won that event on Eufaula last year, and he also has a strong sight-fishing track record. 

Sneakier selections

Dean Rojas already notched one Top 10 by fishing shallow this season. He’ll look to add another at Eufaula. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Group A: 

Keith Carson – All indications are this is shaping up to be a shallow-water derby, and that’s Carson’s wheelhouse. He’s particularly strong when bass are on beds, but he showed last year that he could catch shallow prespawners on Lake Eufaula, too, when he made the final-day cut. 

Dean Rojas – We could see a sight-fishing pattern, a shad spawn, flipping/frogging flooded cover and wacky-worming all in play on Eufaula. Rojas excels at each of those techniques, and he’s putting together a solid season with a runner-up finish to his credit already. A bonus name to consider in Group A for all the same reasons (especially his sight-fishing prowess) is Alton Jones.  

Group B: 

David Dudley – Dudley is at his best when he can pitch a wacky worm around the shallows, and there should be plenty of opportunity to do that at Eufaula, regardless of what spawning stage the bass are in. He’s been fishing well of late, too, notching Knockout Round appearances at both Santee Cooper and Dale Hollow. 

Jeff Sprague – Sprague managed to pull off Top-20 finishes at Toledo Bend and Dale Hollow, both of which were dominated by forward-facing sonar, by power-fishing the shallows. On a fishery that figures to fit his skill set much better, don’t be surprised if he’s in the mix to win.