Top 10 baits from Eufaula - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits from Eufaula

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The top finishers at Eufaula relied on a variety of standard and new-school ledge baits. Photo by Rob Matsuura.
May 14, 2024 • Jody White, Rob Matsuura • Invitationals

EUFAULA, Ala. – The Tackle Warehouse Invitationals stop on Lake Eufaula turned out to be a great offshore event, with most of the Top 10 doing their damage on schools of bass out off the bank. While several top pros mixed in some shallower tactics, things mostly looked like summertime on the Chattahoochee River reservoir.

Here’s what got the job done for the top finishers in Stop 4 Presented by E3 Sport Apparel.

1. Lawrence leans on ledges

Fishing offshore in creeks and on the main river, Jake Lawrence earned the win with tried-and-true Tennessee River tactics that he’s honed for years.

Like many in the Top 10, he threw a few minnows on jigheads, including a Rapala CrushCity Freeloader and a Jenko Tremor Shad, on 3/16- to 1/2-ounce heads. Lawrence also dragged a jig a little, as well as an 8-inch Zoom Lizard on a Carolina rig, but the ace up his sleeve was a 3/4-ounce long bill Tennessee River Tremor Head with a 5-inch Castaic Jerky J

For the Jerky J setup, Lawrence used a Jenko Savant rod.

2. Marks almost does it again at Eufaula

The winner of last fall’s Phoenix Bass Fishing League Regional on Eufaula, Paul Marks Jr. put a hurtin’ on the Eufaula bass again and nearly won a much bigger event.

For Marks, the jighead minnow game was key, and he used a Greenfish Bad Little Shad head in 3/8- and 1/4-ounce models with a Zoom Super Fluke in silver rainbow. Marks also used a Zoom Ol’ Monster worm in plum apple. For his minnow, Marks used spinning gear with 10-pound Seaguar Smackdown and a 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader.

“I really didn’t have too much of a game plan other than to run history and run into them,” Marks said. “I ran ledges, brush and some sneaky points that they would school on. I mixed everything in. It was still early, not every fish was out there yet.”

Tallying 20 pounds each of the first two days, Marks hit the same roadblock as everyone else on Day 3 and struggled to generate bites at the same rate as he had earlier in the event.

“I think the water kept getting dirtier and dirtier after the rain from the first day,” Marks said. “I think it spread the fish out and they weren’t biting as good. And, they were getting pounded.”

3. Red-hot Miller in the mix again

After missing the cut at Sam Rayburn to start the season, Colby Miller has ripped off three top-five finishes in a row to get into the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year conversation. At Eufaula, he played the offshore game, doing a good bit of damage on a crankbait.

Miller’s crank of choice was a Strike King 6XD, and he followed it up with a Zoom Trick Worm on a Neko rig with a 3/32-ounce Epic Baits Nail Weight. He used Shimano reels, Edge rods and Shimano Mastiff FC line.

Miller did fine on Day 1 but put the pedal down on Day 2 and Day 3.

“The first day, the weather we had throughout the night and then the morning off, the spots where I was catching them Day 2 and Day 3, the fish just weren’t grouped up,” he said. “On one of them, they might have been – there was a boat on one of them. The other one was open, but there weren’t many of them there, and they weren’t set up right.”

In the end, Miller caught most of his weight off just two spots.

“Day 2, I started where the boat was Day 1; he pulled up next to me, and I was able to catch a quick limit and then went to the spot I started on Day 1 and was able to cull up fast,” he said. “The final day, we started on the same spot and (the fish) never pulled up, so I left it and went to my secondary spot. In my opinion, those two spots got the least amount of pressure. The final day, when I pulled up on my spot, they were set up perfect and it went down fast. There were more fish set up how I needed them to be set up than any of the other days.”

4. Smith slips to fourth after a big start

Taking the lead on Day 1 with 22-11, Tucker Smith was unable to keep up the pace the rest of the way and saw his weights drop as the event went on.

“I mixed it up between some schools and also some hard spots, and I fished a little bit of brush,” he said. “Mostly, it was hard spots and ledges that played a big role. This time of year, it seemed like a lot of different depths played a role. There were some fish really deep and also pretty shallow.”

Fishing offshore, he strolled for most of his fish, using 4- and 5-inch Yamamoto Shad Shape Worms in blue pearl silver flake and sexy shad. He used 1/4- and 3/6-ounce Picasso Tungsten Ball Jig Heads, braid with a 12-pound P-Line fluoro leader, a 7-foot, medium light rod and 3000-size Shimano Vanford and Shimano Vanquish reels. 

5. Ledge game works for Lane

In the hunt to win after Day 2, Cal Lane ran an offshore game plan exclusively, idling almost the entire practice and playing the event as though it was June on his home waters of Lake Guntersville.

“I idled pretty much the entire time we could practice and found as many places as I could,” Lane said. “I really didn’t even fish them, I just could tell which ones were going to be the better schools just by running down the lake and seeing where guys were at in practice. If you found one and ran by it two or three times and there was nobody there, that was probably going to be a good school. I just ran as many as I could, and the final day, it was like a ghost town out there and I couldn’t re-find them.”

Lane caught his two biggest fish on a 5/8-ounce True Bass Shuttlecock. He also picked up fish on a jighead minnow with either a Strike King Z-Too or a Castaic Jerky J and used a big worm and a big crankbait as well.

6. Misstep on Day 2 sinks Barnes’ chances

Starting the event in third place, Justin Barnes had great shot to add a win to his impressive résumé on Eufaula. Unfortunately, he made the wrong call on Day 2.

“The first day, I started up north, when everything was fresh and hadn’t been beat on, and I caught several good fish above the bridges on ledges,” he said. “Day 2, I was on the fence between running down the lake or starting up north. I tried to start up north, and it didn’t work, and I knew then I was going to be in a bad rotation, and I could never figure out how to get out of it. I truly believe if I would have started down the lake the second day, … it’d have been interesting. I know, personally, if I’d started down the lake, it would have been possible to win that tournament.”

Barnes did his best work on ledges, and he was able to adapt with the changing bite.

“The first day I weighed in a 3-10 out of brush,” he said. “The first day of practice, the shad were still spawning good in brush – you could catch big ones doing it. When it started dying off, it started dying off fast. I ran it for about 45 minutes the first day, and I had a limit when I got done, but I culled every one on a ledge. Day 2, I fished some brush out of desperation, but Day 3 I never fished brush.”

Barnes started his offshore rotation with a 6th Sense 500DD crankbait, which he threw on a 7-foot, 10-inch St. Croix Legend Tournament Series cranking rod with 12-pound P-Line Ultimate Fluorocarbon. He also mixed in a 3/8-ounce shaky head with a 6th Sense Divine Shakey Worm in green pumpkin.

7. Avena has another strong showing at Eufaula

Something of a sure thing on Eufaula, Adrian Avena put up another good finish on the historic fishery, this time committing to the ledge game.

Despite finishing seventh, he had the bites to do a lot better.

“I was just fishing offshore in 12 to 20 feet. I was committed once I found some places in practice,” said the New Jersey pro. “The first day, I weighed in a 2-2, and I lost a 5-pounder at the boat on a hair jig. The second day, I weighed in a 1-12, and I lost one that was a heavy 4 on a jighead minnow. The final day, my first bite of the morning was a 7-pounder, and I jumped it off. I lost one bass each day, I don’t mean to sound like Dave Lefebre, but I got unfortunate.”

His primary baits were a Berkley Dredger 17.5 and a Berkley Dredger 25.5 and a handmade, 5/8-ounce hair jig. For the cranks, he used a 7-foot, 11-inch Abu Garcia Winch paired with an Abu Garcia Revo STX LP in the 6.7:1 gear ratio and 12-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. He threw the hair jig on a 7-foot, 3-inch, heavy Abu Garcia Fantasista X with the same line.

8. Hall mixes deep and shallow

While pretty much everyone ahead of him was committed to the offshore game, Kyle Hall mixed ledges and a shallower approach.

His primary baits were a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Jerk Shad on a jighead out deep and a Berkley Stunna 112 and a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Hit Worm Magnum on a Neko rig when shallow.

“I started out the first day fishing a ledge thanks to Cal Lane because I got an early boat number and didn’t have anywhere I really wanted to start,” he said. “I was the first one there, and I had four fish before Cal got there.”

From there, Hall fished brush and other isolated cover in 8 to 10 feet, using his Garmin LiveScope to his advantage the whole way.

9. Invitationals season closes in style for Ebare

As usual, Dakota Ebare caught the fire out of them, this time doing most of his work offshore on ledges and fishing pretty old-school. Though he’s not fishing the final two events of the season, he still left his mark on the year, with his worst finish being 32nd at West Point.

“The first day of practice, I saw a really big school of fish right out in front of where we were staying,” he said. “So, I knew there would be some schools out, but I spent a day and a half looking for brush and finding some schools while doing that. I spent the entire second day and a half idling for schools of fish. I did that because the brush wasn’t going to go anywhere, but the schools of fish may – I wanted to find them closer to the tournament, so they’d have less time to move on me. Which didn’t matter, because they still moved a bunch.

“A lot of the fish in brush seemed to be really beat up and skinny; the fish in the schools were putting back on some weight,” he added. “Basically, I was using my Garmin side imaging and targeting ledges on the main lake mostly, from 8 foot all the way to 22 foot.”

His best bait was a Strike King 6XD, and he also used a 5-inch Strike King Z-Too, a Strike King Tour Grade Football Jig, a hair jig and a swimbait. For his 6XD, he used a 7-foot, 4-inch Lew’s Custom Lite, a 6.8:1 Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spool, 12-pound fluorocarbon and Owner STY-35 hooks.

10. Wagner also goes offshore

Putting up another great finish, Emil Wagner also ran the offshore game plan.

His arsenal consisted of a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Jerk Shad on a 3/16-ounce tungsten head, a 3/4-ounce football jig with a twin tail trailer and a Berkley Dredger 20.5 and Berkley Dredger 25.5. For his minnow, Wagner used 8-pound braid and 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon for a leader, throwing it on a 7-foot, medium-light Fenwick World Class rod with a 3000-size Abu Garcia Zenon MGX. For his cranks, he used 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, a 7-foot, 5-inch Fenwick World Class rod and a 6.8:1 Abu Garcia Zenon X.

“Ledges and hard spots, that was it,” Wagner said. “I came here for the BFL Regional last fall, and graphed for four or five days. I had a bunch from that, and then found some more, so I had 20 or 25 hard spots and schools I wanted to hit.”

On derby day, he had a hard time generating bites, which most of the Top 30 struggled with on the final day.

“Practice was insane, and then in the tournament, it got a lot tougher,” he said. “I think it was everyone throwing at them and fishing for them. Practice was legitimately unbelievable — there were multiple schools where you could have caught 20 pounds out of them without an issue, and in the tournament it was hard to buy a bite.”