EUFAULA, Okla. – Major League Fishing, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, is set to visit Eufaula, Oklahoma, next week, April 14-16, for the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Epic Baits Stop 3 at Lake Eufaula Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches. The Tackle Warehouse Invitationals feature a roster of 150 anglers competing for a top prize of up to $115,000 and an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024 – the Bass Pro Tour championship – for the chance to win up to $300,000.
Hosted by the Eufaula Area Chamber of Commerce, the tournament marks the third of six Tackle Warehouse Invitationals events in 2023, offering competitors a total season purse of more than $3.9 million. The field is also competing for valuable points to win the coveted Invitationals Angler of the Year (AOY) title. The top eight pros in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals AOY standings at the end of the season will receive an invitation to compete on the Bass Pro Tour.
“We appreciate Major League Fishing bringing a significant tournament back to Eufaula, Oklahoma,” said Serina Kleveter, Eufaula Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “We are excited to welcome all the anglers and look forward to showing them a slice of our hometown charm.”
This is the first major tournament MLF has held at Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma’s largest lake; however it is a fairly regular stop for the Okie Division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League, where local Tad Sweitzer of Eufaula racked up a winning weight of 23 pounds, 6 ounces in late March 2022. That same March event featured 23 bags over 15 pounds and a 9-pound big bass from Chris Jones of Bokoshe, Oklahoma, who is competing in this event.
The east-central Oklahoma lake has had two of the largest smallmouth bass in state history pulled from its waters, an 8-pound, 3-ounce smallmouth back in March 2006 holds the state record, while an 8-pound, 1½-ounce smallmouth caught in April 2007 is right behind it.
In late April of 2019, back-to-back events saw winning weights of 21-2 and 18-8, so historically speaking, the tournament will be hitting this fishery at a great time of the year.
B&W Trailer Hitches pro Kyle Cortiana of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, has history on Lake Eufaula and said he believes the tournament will hit the spawn window dead on, which should make for a great event.
“It’s really warm right now, and it’s going to continue to warm up fast,” Cortiana said. “There will still be plenty of fish in prespawn next week, but most will be right in the middle of their spawn.
“The lake was really low a few months ago, then rose fast, so there has been a 6- to 7-foot change in water surface elevation over the past few months,” Cortiana said. “It’s coming back down and should be more stable at a normal level by next week if we don’t have any heavy rains, which will set the fishery up even more for a stable bite. I think the fishing is going to be really good.”
Covering 105,500 surface acres with 800 miles of shoreline, Lake Eufaula is an enormous body of water, which according to Cortiana will play well during the event.
“You can run 10 to 40 miles in every direction from our takeoff and there are literally fish in every square inch of this lake,” Cortiana said. “The field should be able to spread out, which is something I’m looking forward to as well, because a lot of the places we visit, anglers end up on top of each other, all hitting the same locations. This fishery is unique in that it can be won in all kinds of places on the lake. There’s really no one spot you have to be on to win it, so it should be a lot of fun.
“Eufaula is kind of known to be a flat, muddy lake and I’d say probably 80% of the lake is relatively stained water, so there are a lot of flat, shallow, flooded bushes that come into play when the water isn’t really low,” Cortiana said. “All the typical muddy-water baits are going to be players here – dark-colored flipping baits, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, ChatterBaits and shallow square bills – anything that’s going to put off vibration and displace water.”
The Oklahoma pro said there’s also a small portion of the lake that has cleaner water where other tactics may come into play.
“There are a few big smallmouth in Eufaula as well, but it’s really hard to target them, so I don’t expect anyone to make that their game plan. However, reeling one in would just be a bonus fish,” Cortiana said. “We’ve got 150 anglers fishing this tournament and everyone in the group is solid, plus we have a handful of really good jackpotters in this event, guys from Oklahoma. I think to win the tournament, guys are going to have to be pushing the 20-pound mark per day, for sure, if not more. There will be multiple people who catch over 20 pounds on one day, so if they can back that up with multiple bags that size, or close to it, I think they’ll have a shot to win.”
Cortiana also said he believes it will be fairly easy to catch 14 to 15½ pounds per day, and the guys who can bring in around 30 pounds the first two days will make the Top 50 cut to move on to the final day.
“I’m really excited about the event being here in Oklahoma and on Lake Eufaula,” Cortiana said. “I don’t really fish the BFLs, so I’m excited to compete in a tournament on this lake in home water on a place that I have a little history with.
“I’m also a little nervous, because I’ve had the home field advantage bite me before on Grand Lake,” Cortiana said. “So, the whole curse of ‘knowing too much’ and running around too much is definitely a factor, but I suspect that we are going to crush them next week.”
In Tackle Warehouse Invitationals competition, the full field of 150 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Friday and Saturday in a traditional five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the Top 50 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight will advance to the final round on Championship Sunday, where they will compete for the grand prize of up to $115,000, including the lucrative $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus for qualified anglers. The winner of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Epic Baits Stop 3 at Lake Eufaula Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches will be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and will receive an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024.
In addition, the season-long Invitational AOY will also earn a berth into REDCREST 2024.
Anglers will take off at 7 a.m. CT, Friday through Sunday, from the Peter’s Point South Point Dock Boat Ramp, located on Dabbs Road in Eufaula. Weigh-ins will also be held at the boat ramp daily beginning at 3 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend the event or follow the live on-the-water action all three days of competition online on MLFNOW! beginning at 7:30 a.m. CT at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Epic Baits Stop 3 at Lake Eufaula Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches will feature live on-the-water coverage and a two-hour action-packed television show that will premiere on CBS Sports Network on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals on the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.