Folks picking Phoenix Fantasy Fishing teams for Epic Baits Stop 3 at Lake Eufaula Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches don’t have a lot to go on. For starters, the season is a little young to fully believe that any of the newer, or nonstandard anglers inside the Top 10 in points are on a must-pick heater. To go with the early season uncertainly, the lake is a virtual unknown at a national level, and Grand Lake far outstrips it as the most commonly fished tournament lake in Oklahoma. So, basically everyone is taking some gambles in this one, either betting on locals with limited national history, or trying to sift through a mix of the current standings and what you think the actual talent levels are.
For Flight 1, I took Nick Hatfield, Justin Cooper, Brian Latimer, Kyle Cortiana and Shonn Goodwin. It’s a mix of Angler of the Year points considerations, some conditional factors, and local knowledge.
I have mentally put Hatfield and Cooper on the Bass Pro Tour in 2024, and to do that, they need to have a lot of good tournaments. Both anglers are very talented offshore, but that’s not all they can do. So, by hook or crook, I think they’ve got a chance find some way to do well in this event. I also think their relative youth could be an advantage in this one, as there are very few anglers in the field with much of any history here. So, they won’t be going up against quite as much accumulated knowledge as they do at a place like Okeechobee.
I will forgive anyone who has sworn off B. Lat after his bomb at Clarks Hill, but this event really could line up well for him. Having come up in a pre-forward-facing sonar era, Latimer is at his best grinding on the bank, and that should go a long way at Eufaula. The tournament could absolutely be won with a spinnerbait or a squarebill, and those are two baits Latimer loves to have on hand. Plus, if you’re looking for some Oklahoma mojo, he knocked out a Top 10 the last time the FLW Tour was at Grand Lake.
Not really a true local per say, Cortiana has actually never fished a BFL at Eufaula, despite his Oklahoma address. Still, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any history there, as he says he’s “as comfortable there as I am any lake we’ve seen on tour.” Goodwin’s name may be familiar from his Top 10 at the Harris Chain on the Pro Circuit last year, or from his many regional exploits. With a 2008 BFL win to his credit on Eufaula, Goodwin is truly a local hammer in the field, and he has some nice national seasoning to boot.
In Flight 2, I had the chance to put some real highflyers on the squad, plus some serious local talent. Dakota Ebare and Ron Nelson obviously need no explanation, and my other anglers on the roster are Drew Boggs, Brandon Mosley and Chris M. Jones.
If you’re looking for someone adept at grinding in the dirt, Boggs is your guy. He showed it off at Clarks Hill (along with quite a few other anglers) and he just feels like a good pick in this one, too. That said, he’s not alone in the flight as a good shallow grinder, and Cal Lane, Connor Cunningham, Kyle Weisenburger, Tommy Dickerson and Travis Harriman have all recently proven their prowess as well.
The Eufaula event will feature a decent number of jackpotters that aren’t also on the BPT, which should become a little more common as the season goes on. In this flight, Mosley, Jones, Derek Fulps and Mario Riojas highlight the bunch. Jones, who owns one of the most confusing names in bass fishing, has proven himself regionally time and again, and shown up big on the national stage as well. Mosely had a mostly unsuccessful career on the FLW Tour and Pro Circuit, but came up clutch in his one homefield event on Grand Lake. Both seemed like a good mix of national exposure and local savvy, with Fulps coming in right behind them in my super unofficial mental calculus.