Stoker, Cunningham wrap practice at Eufaula - Major League Fishing

Stoker, Cunningham wrap practice at Eufaula

Stop 3 of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals kicks off on "new water" to most of the field
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Eufaula offers a lot of pregame uncertainty, but things will clear up fast on tournament day. Photo by Jody White. Angler: Spike Stoker.
April 13, 2023 • Jody White • Invitationals

EUFAULA, Okla. – When Epic Baits Stop 3 Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches kicks off on Lake Eufaula, most of the pros fishing the event – and especially those fishing the full Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season – will be competing on the big impoundment for the first time. Sprawling across Oklahoma to the south of Tulsa, the start of the MLFNOW! live stream will show the world what Eufaula is made of, and likely clear up a few mysteries. After three days of practice, some of the pros think they know what’s coming, and others are still looking for answers.

Practice for Spike Stoker hasn’t been half bad.

Stoker’s scouting report

Having pre-scouted the lake for half a day with higher water, Spike Stoker rolled into town with about the average amount of experience for the field. According to Stoker, who’s sitting second in Angler of the Year points, this week’s playing field is pretty interesting.

“It’s definitely gigantic,” said the Texas pro. “In three days, I’ve ran as much as I could. I kinda got on a little pattern and tried to expand on it, and it seems like every time you go under a bridge, it’s an entirely different lake. Nothing is holding the same anywhere I went.”

As far as what lake he compares it to, the rookie pro thinks it mimics a Red River reservoir to the south.

“It feels like I’m at Texoma,” Stoker said. “It’s almost identical. Shallow crankbaits, vibrating jigs, anything you see in the water potentially has a bass in it.”

When it comes to getting bites, it sounds like exactly what you’d expect to work is working.

“I’ve got a couple things working – a flipping bite of course, that’s what I’m going to bank on,” Stoker said. “But, that depends on the wind. And, I’ve got a little cranking bite going, just a little of everything.

“It’s amazing how shallow they’ll get. I’ve only caught a handful of fish not on a moving bait. I’ve shook most everything off. But, I did set the hook on one, it was so shallow, and it was coming out of one of the bushes, and I thought ‘There’s no way that’s a good one.’ It was a 4-pounder. I don’t know how I couldn’t see it, it was that shallow.”

One concern that Stoker has is that anglers may bunch up quite a bit.

“The first day, I thought it was going to be easy, but then it slowed down,” he said. “But, we put some pressure on them. It’s good from one end to the other, but I think we’ll be looking at each other a lot. It seems like when you get around the bass, that’s where they live – there’s a lot of bank that’s no good. If everybody gets on a pattern, it doesn’t take much time to find the same stuff.”

Connor Cunningham is hoping to stick shallow this week.

Shallow style suits Cunningham

Reigning All-American Champion Connor Cunningham had been to Eufaula for more than half a day before practice, but it was only to pre-scout the lake. Although it used to be common for anglers from Missouri to dip down to Eufaula to fish tournaments, Cunningham hasn’t grown up in that era.

“To my surprise, the water is out of the bushes,” Cunningham said. “It was about a foot in the bushes before the off-limits, it was perfect. I think the lake is actually at pool, there’s not many bushes in the water, in my opinion, not deep enough to hold one. But, it seems like the fish are biting a little bit, if you can get around one, there are some good ones biting for sure.”

Like Stoker, Cunningham’s best lake comparison is one near his home.

“I see a few similarities with Grand, but it fishes a lot like Truman back in Missouri,” he said. “It’s a 50/50 shot if it’s going to be clear or dirty, and this lake seems to fish a lot like Truman when Truman is dirty.”

Sticking to his strengths, Cuningham is hoping to run the bank and see success.

“I can’t really tell what stage they’re in, I caught one that had a super bloody tail, and other ones look postspawn. The water temperature is all over the board, I’ve seen water that was 60 degrees and water that was 75. It’s really had to tell what stage they’re in, but I think it will be a bank fishing deal.”

But, he’s not willing to totally discount the offshore potential for others.

“You always hear, ‘That guy could catch five out of a mud puddle.’ Well, if it’s deep enough, someone in this field could figure out how to do that with LiveScope. So, you can never count that out.”

What’s a good day?

As practice wrapped up, a local angler swung by the ramp and opined that some pros would catch 24 pounds a day. According to him, the timing and water level is perfect for a slugfest. Obviously, we’ll see how that actually shakes out, but it does seem like things could be lining up well.

“Not setting the hook, I don’t know what they are,” Stoker said. “They could be 2-pounders. I don’t know what it takes to win here, but if I come in with 12 to 15 pounds a day, I’ll think I did decent. I think if you get 20 pounds, you’ve got a monster bag. If I had 15 pounds a day, I would think I did really well. For people that know more about the place, I don’t think 20 is out of the question, but if I have 20, I’ll faint.”

Cunningham seems to have had a pretty good practice and thinks that the bite is on.

“I could see someone catching 24 pounds, but backing it up would be tough,” he said. “This lake seems to fish shallow, as far as replenishing and all that. I think the winner will have about 18 pounds a day … I think they’re biting a little bit.”