EUFAULA, Okla. – The 2020 Pro Circuit Angler of the Year, Ron Nelson, has been in top form so far in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals. The only pro to come particularly close to averaging 20 pounds per day at Lake Eufaula, Nelson sacked up 20-2 on Day 2 for a 40-6 total and the lead. He’s now an even 4 pounds ahead of rookie Cody Spetz and 5-1 ahead of Oklahoma pro Jeff Reynolds.
Day 2 of Epic Baits Stop 3 Presented by B& W Trailer Hitches was headlined by the contrary conditions. Whistling winds were constant early, and made travel on the main lake far from easy, especially in the afternoon. There were some highlights – Blake Martin caught a 7-11, and there were a handful of 18-pound bags, but overall the day was much tougher. And with the amount of pressure on the lake, and the up-and-down nature of the leaderboard so far, it doesn’t feel like Nelson has a lock on things, even with a solid lead and one day left.
On Day 1, Nelson did most of his damage off the bank, keying on a shad spawn and staging areas with a vibrating jig, a football jig and a Scrounger. Day 2 saw him lean into his prowess around the spawn to salvage a tough start.
“I feel very grateful for what I caught today,” Nelson said. “When I rolled down this morning, things didn’t turn out like I wanted them to. The fish were there, but guys were on my spot, I had to adjust, and I had to catch little fish. When I caught that giant, a 6 ½-pound fish, I said ‘Thank you, Lord.’ That was new water. So, I told my camera guy, ‘Let’s go over here.’”
Easing to another similar spot, Nelson put together a rally.
“I went over there, and there were some dark spots, and I pitched out the wacky (rig) outside of one of the dark spots, and I shook it once,” Nelson said. “It was one of the hardest bites I’ve ever had on a wacky, that was my second big fish. Then, I saw a fish moving around in the grass. I took my time, and it was locked on, and it was a 3-pounder.”
Nelson later caught another good fish on a point with a football jig. He caught a solid fish with minutes remaining near takeoff. Nelson says he had a lackluster practice, and it sounds like his plan for Day 3 is up in the air.
“(Practice) didn’t go well,” Nelson said. “I had to go to the service yard on Day 2, I didn’t find any big males on beds. I knew there were some on bed, but I didn’t want to bed fish and chase around all these docks. But, the ones I found today were just so easy to catch. But, I might just start at the break wall tomorrow, we’ll see.”
Of the highflyers on Day 1 in the non-Nelson category, Spetz did the best on Day 2, sticking in second place with 14-12 on the day. From the sounds of it, the wind really hampered him today.
“A lot changed today,” Spetz said. “The wind really made it hard to set up properly on my big fish areas. I know the big fish are there, and I tried to chuck and wind at ‘em, but I need to be throwing something slow at them. I just couldn’t do it.
“I was fortunate to get my five out of my starting spot, so, if the wind keeps up like this tomorrow, I’m going to have to milk that spot for what it’s worth. It’s got big ones in it, but it has a lot of small bucks.”
Spetz has been sharing a backwater area with a few other pros, and he’s coming out on top pretty convincingly this far.
“I’m just finessing them,” he revealed. “I had a spinning rod in my hand for the first four hours today. I’m just pitching around a weightless Senko. The water is dirty, but they still bite the finesse stuff.”
Originally from Southern California, Spetz picked up stakes and moved to Missouri in January to chase a career as a pro angler. Now he’s in the hunt to win his third pro tournament.
“It’s nerve-wracking, no doubt about it,” said the rookie. “I’m not a seasoned person for this kind of position. But, it’s what I strive to do, and I’ve always wanted to do it, ever since I was a kid watching TV. And, we’re here doing it, there’s no other place I’d rather be right now.”
Between Reynolds and Nelson, there are five total Toyota Series victories in the top three. The Oklahoma pro has won twice in his home state; once at Texoma, and once at Grand. Now, he’s looking to make his mark as one of the most multi-tooled Oklahomans around. With some decent experience on Eufaula already under his belt, Reynolds has fished with a lot of strategy thus far.
“I had a pretty decent practice in different areas of the lake,” he said. “I really felt like I was keyed into what they were doing. I had one spot a long way from here, up a creek, and I wanted to save it for the third day if I made it. But, I saw several boats there in practice, so I decided to go there the first day.
“It worked out, but it wasn’t as good as I thought. I caught a 7-pounder up there, but I didn’t catch the 3-pounders I thought I would catch. I thought I would have 15 pounds of 3-pounders, but I didn’t, but I still had a good sack.”
Day 2 saw Reynolds use entirely different parts of the lake.
“Today, I stuck to my game plan,” he said. “I fished around here on the main lake and went toward the dam. Things are changing. Fish are starting to lock down on beds more. They were biting moving baits in practice, and today I struggled to catch them on moving baits.
“I slowed down, started dragging a worm around and got fortunate. I checked one of the bucks I’d seen in practice, and when I looked at the bed, I saw one and it wasn’t the buck. I sat down and rigged up to sight fish, and caught that 6-pounder.”
Going into the final day, Reynolds is definitely one to watch. A superlative sight fisherman, he’s won under similar conditions before, and his experience with this sort of lake certainly bodes well.
“I think I know how to catch them if I can slow down enough,” he said. “They’re getting tougher. This lake doesn’t hold up to pressure that much, and they’re catching them a lot better than I thought they would.”
1. Ron Nelson – 40-6 (10)
2. Cody Spetz – 36-6 (10)
3. Jeff Reynolds – 35-5 (10)
4. Kelly Jordon – 34-10 (10)
5. Drew Gill – 34-8 (10)
6. Blake Hall – 34-3 (10)
7. Scotty Villines – 34-2 (10)
8. Braxton Setzer – 33-13 (10)
9. Clayton Batts – 33-10 (10)
10. Shonn Goodwin – 32-11 (10)