The second really unknown stop of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season, Lake Eufaula is the largest lake by surface area in Oklahoma and poses a unique challenge for the pros at Epic Baits Stop 3 Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches. Being quite big, with little major tournament history on it, there aren’t too many sure things to be said about the event. Still, the one definite is that the timing should be about perfect, at least according to Oklahoma pro James Elam – “It’ll be great timing. It’ll be the best week of Eufaula fishing you can get, probably.”
April 14-16, 2023
Hosted by the Eufaula Area Chamber of Commerce
First built and filled in 1964, Eufaula is fed by the Canadian River, the North Canadian River, the Deep Fork River and a bevy of other large creeks. Eufaula is quite something to look at on the map, with major creeks and bays going in almost every direction. The lake is also pretty large, with more than 105,000 surface acres of water at full pool, which is more than double the size of Grand Lake, perhaps the most familiar Oklahoma fishery to anglers.
“It’s got a lot of diversity, it’s more of a lowland reservoir, especially in the mid- and upper reaches,” Elam said. “Further down south, and in some of the creeks closer to the dam, it’s more like an Ozark lake in a way. It’s predominantly sandstone, instead of limestone in an Ozark lake, so that’s a little different.
“It’s a real dangerous lake in terms of boating if you’re not paying attention,” Elam said. “There are a lot of really shallow areas you need to know your way around, especially in the upper reaches. There’s some timber in some areas, and the lake is notorious for getting real rough. It’s not really hilly, especially to the north, and certain sections get real rough with a north wind.”
Being a fairly flat lake, there’s a chance a lot of cover could be in the water given good spring rains.
“Eufaula for the most part is pretty flat banked,” Elam said. “It doesn’t rise really hard or fall really hard; for it to come up 2 feet, it needs to flood a ton of stuff. About 5-foot high on Eufaula can be really good, anything more than that is a lot of water on Eufaula, and it doesn’t usually rise or fall very quickly. Fort Gibson will rise and fall a lot, Eufaula isn’t like that.”
As a lowland impoundment with a lot of inflow, Eufaula is never gin-clear. Luckily, the bass still bite in the mud.
“It’s a muddy water lake for the most part, but it’s also got some clear sections, and some pockets that will clear up if we haven’t had a lot of rain,” Elam said. “I don’t know if that affects the fishing really – they’re not scared to bite in muddy water there. It’s like the textbook muddy water fishery when it’s had some rain and is flooding.”
A fairly regular stop for the Okie Division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League, there were three BFL events on the lake in 2022, with winning weights of 23 pounds, 6 ounces, 16-12 and 13-2. The two lower weights came on a set of back-to-back tournaments in May, but Tad Sweitzer knocked out some serious weight in late March. In fact, that March event featured 23 bags over 15 pounds, and a 9-pound big bass from Chris M. Jones, who is on the roster for this event.
To find another BFL event in the right timeframe, you need to drop back to late April of 2019, when back-to-back events saw winning weights of 21-2 and 18-8. So, at least based on history, you could hardly pick a better time for this event.
Spring on Eufaula is the best time to fish it for sure, and the pros should encounter bass that are ready to bite, with the biggest wildcard being the water level.
“Eufaula had some really good years when it was brand new, and in the 2000s it was as good as it had been in my lifetime,” Elam said. “It’s been fishing tough the last five or 10 years, but it’s a really good spring lake, it shows its colors. Some lakes in Oklahoma will fish really good at some points throughout the year. It seems like Eufaula has its time when it fishes really good in the spring, late March, through April I would say. Then, sometimes in May and June.”
One fun aspect about Eufaula is that it has some lunker smallmouth swimming in it. Elam once caught an 8-pounder there. Still, he thinks smallmouth as a tournament pattern are not likely to play.
“For a time being the state record was out of there, and the spring is when you’ll run into them,” he said. “They’re pretty inconsistent, they’re smart. You have to catch the right day to really catch them. The numbers are not there, but there’s some good size – used to be anyways. But, it’s not a multi-day tournament deal.”
Still, smallmouth aside, you can look forward to a classic Oklahoma springtime derby.
“It’s a full-bore spinnerbait type of lake, a spinnerbait is a weapon there,” Elam said. “A spinnerbait, a crankbait and a jig, it’s a meat and potatoes shallow water lake. Maybe a jerkbait if we get a cold winter. It’s simple shallow-water fishing.”
But, even with decent weights likely on tap and some fun baits in play, the real allure of the tournament might be Eufaula itself. This will be the first time a big national event with live coverage and a really diverse crew of anglers has hit the fishery.
“The cool thing about Eufaula is you can get away from people, it’s humongous,” Elam said. “I’ve wanted for years for a top-level national tournament to come there, just to see what kind of stuff we’d see. There’s always the thought that someone might find something super cool way away from everyone and just blast them. It’s one of the last frontiers in that regard, we haven’t had a ton of national tournaments to expose that lake.”