Josh Stracner won the 2020 Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Lake Eufaula by fishing offshore. He targeted deep ledges in the mid-lake area for two days before switching to brush piles in 12 to 15 feet on the final day when a front moved through and replaced still, sunny conditions with wind and overcast skies.
The rest of the top 10, with one exception, also fished offshore in what turned out to be a pretty typical June ledge-fishing tournament.
2. Ingram, the local ace, catches suspended fish out of deep trees
Ryan Ingram is one of the most successful local tournament anglers on Lake Eufaula. He’s won five Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine events on Eufaula, plus a 2006 Toyota Series event. His experience on his home pond really showed on Saturday, when Ingram weighed a 23-pound, 15-ounce limit to vault from sixth place into first, only to later be overtaken by Stracner.
Ingram admits that he made a miscalculation early in the tournament by choosing to lay off his fish a little bit. An issue with his electronics on the second day also cost him. Still, he strung together a consistent performance to finish runner-up.
Ingram’s key bait was a Lake Eufaula staple – a 2-ounce Strikezone Ledgebuster Spinnerbait with a magnum willow-leaf blade and a white and chartreuse or solid white skirt. He also used a buzzbait.
“I went shallow in the middle of the day,” Ingram says. “I’d give it about 30, 45 minutes, and yesterday I caught a 5- or 6-pounder. That was the only fish I caught on the buzzbait that I kept. Ninety-nine percent of what I caught was on the spinnerbait.”
The big buzzbait fish saved Ingram on day two because of his electronics issue, which made it basically impossible to relocate suspended bass in standing timber and make accurate presentations. He says he was left fishing for bass “where they were yesterday,” instead of where they were right then.
His overall approach was unique among the top 10 and evidence of his mastery of this fishery.
“I caught them throwing that big spinnerbait in about 30 feet of water and bringing it up into standing timber,” Ingram explains. “The fish were probably 14 or 15 feet off the bottom in about 30 feet in standing trees. Today they would be in this tree, and the next day they may be 200 yards down in another tree. They move from tree to tree, based on wherever a school of bait decides to take up shop. You have to get off the ledges to do that. That’s really the way to catch them. Most of them are pressured fish that used to be on the ledge but are now 75 yards away. They’re still the same depth they were on the ledge, but now they’re just doing it somewhere else. If there’s not a tree there, now they’re just suspended and you have no way to catch them.”
3. A little of everything gets New in the top 10
Bryan New saved his best day for last, catching 22-10 on Saturday to finish in third place. New has won on this lake before, and he knew the offshore program would be the key to having a chance to win. But he still had to sample the shallow bite just a little bit.
“I was fishing ledges, some timber, some brush,” he says. “The first day, I fished some water-willow up shallow a little bit – a mayfly hatch and some bream beds – but pretty much most of my weight came out offshore off of ledges and brush. Yesterday [Friday], I went up shallow for probably four and a half minutes. I said, ‘This is stupid.’ I caught, like, at least 40 out deep. It’s Eufaula in summertime. I thought, ‘Why am I on the bank?’ I got my butt back out there and caught about 20 more.”
New was able to get a better rotation on his key areas on Saturday due to the smaller field size. He also hit his best stuff multiple times and didn’t save anything, which resulted in his big final-day stringer.
Though New’s front deck was littered with rods, he caught most of his fish with a Texas-rigged Zoom Ol’ Monster in the redbug color. He also caught some on a Zoom Mag Trick Worm and a Strike King Series 5.
4. Smith intercepts transitioning bass for two mega-limits
Michael Smith set the pace at Eufaula for two days, amassing an impressive 50 pounds of weight to make the cut in first place. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to adjust to the change in conditions on the final day and wound up slipping to fourth place.
“I was basically fishing shallower ledges and ditches leading out of places where fish had been spawning and fish were eating bluegill on the bank,” he says. “The shad spawn hadn’t been over but a few weeks. There were a lot of fish still funneling out off the bank in that 10 to 14 foot zone of water. So, in my mind, I was kind of catching them before they got to those other guys. Everybody else was fishing true summertime holes on the ledges, and I was kind of intercepting them in between.
“Today [Saturday], man, I don’t really know. I had the bites to win the tournament. I jumped off three 3-pounders today and had four or five that I just got hung up in stuff on the bottom and couldn’t ever get them out. The first two days, none of that happened. Every time I hooked one, I landed it. But the main thing was just the conditions today. I guess I should’ve just went to the bank or something, but it was hard not to do what had gotten me here. But that’s fishing. When everything goes perfect for two days, I should’ve expected a day when everything went wrong. It wasn’t my time to win, and I’m happy for Josh. He’s a friend of mine. He deserves it. He puts a lot of time in out here.”
Smith caught most of his fish on a Missile Baits D Stroyer on a 1/2-ounce wobble-head jig or a 6 1/2-inch Missile Baits Quiver Worm on a shaky head. Both were in the GP3 color, which is green pumpkin with purple. However, he caught his bigger fish with either a 6th Sense C10 crankbait or a 6th Sense 4.4-inch Divine Swimbait in pro shad on a 3/4-ounce 6th Sense Divine Swimbait Jighead.
“Normally, when I’d pull up on a place, I’d throw the crankbait and swimbait in there first, and if there was a big one there, they’d eat it first throw,” he says. “If I thought it was a really good place, I would throw the plastics in there as clean-up baits. The plastics were also better once the sun came up in the middle of the day.”
5. Powell power-cranks, drags a worm
Shane Powell was one of several top finishers to earn most of his paycheck with a Strike King 10XD. His go-to color was natural shad. He also fished a plum Zoom Ol’ Monster in some brush piles in the afternoons, or dragged it on ledges where he knew there were better-quality fish but he couldn’t get bit with the crankbait.
Powell caught bass off 10 to 15 spots from the mid-lake to the dam. Some of his places were 8 to 10 feet deep on top, while others topped out at 25 feet.
“You can usually find out in about five or six casts if you’re going to get one or not, and usually the first one you catch is going to be the biggest one,” he says. “I just rotated through them all day. I didn’t just sit there and try to get crazy with it. I would just pull up, make five or six casts, and if I didn’t get bit I would move on.”
6. Butler launches big crank, football jig on hard-bottom ledges
Josh Butler made a lot of noise on day two when he caught 24 pounds. He did it by fishing offshore on ledges with a Strike King 10XD, a Strike King 6XD or a swimbait in the morning when the fish were active. Sometime around 8 or 9 a.m., he switched to dragging a homemade football jig with a Strike King Rage Craw trailer.
“I did a lot of idling, and I was just idling river ledges,” he says. “I was trying to find some sneakier stuff with deep water close by, but it wasn’t necessarily anything really specific. I had some out in the river. I had some midway. They all had deep water nearby. It had to be a clean bottom. I wasn’t catching anything around timber. It had to have a good clean gravel bottom."
7. Forward-looking sonar helps Montgomery dial in offshore schools
On day one, Scott Montgomery found himself in good shape for a shot at the win with a limit worth 23-5, which included a 6-10 fish that won the day’s Big Bass prize. After that, his weights tapered off, culminating with a 12-1 limit on the final day and a seventh-place finish.
Montgomery fished ledges in the mid- and lower sections of the reservoir with a combination of an 8-inch Big Bite Baits Finesse Worm on a shaky head and a Strike King 10XD for the first two days. Montgomery fished the 10XD on a 7-foot, 10-inch, extra-heavy Denali Lithium cranking rod and 14-pound-test Sunline Shooter Fluorocarbon.
By Saturday, the local pro had to resort to more finesse.
“If they weren’t biting the 10XD, I’d use the worm to try and get them going,” Montgomery says. “Actually today [Saturday], I couldn’t get them to hit anything moving, so it was the shaky head, and it was a drop-shot with that 8-inch Finesse Worm on it.”
Each time he stopped on a school of fish, Montgomery used forward-looking sonar to dial in the school’s location. If they weren’t there or moved after he caught a fish or two, he slid around the ledge to try and relocate them.
All of his best spots were on key places on the river channel.
“I was just looking for points that the river current was going to run the bait up on, and then turns in the river and high spots,” he says. “I was trying to look for stuff down toward the dam that most people weren’t fishing, but then I found out most people were fishing the whole lake.”
8. Smith sticks to his strengths with shallow topwater
Dustin Smith was the exception to the offshore rule. The Florida pro never fished deep. Not even in practice. He just stayed on the bank.
“That’s all I do,” Smith says about fishing shallow.
The biggest drawback of the shallow bite was its inconsistency. Everyone who did it reported missing fish on frogs and struggling to get more than a few big bites. Smith dealt with the same issues.
“I was fishing anything that was super, super shallow; so shallow that you wouldn’t think a bass was there,” he says. “That’s what I was fishing. So whether that’s grass or cypress trees or laydowns, whatever it was.”
Every spot he fished was a bluegill bed, which he found using the same visual search technique he uses to find spawning bass.
“All week I just put it [the trolling motor] on 90 and went around the bank and looked everywhere and marked all the beds,” he says. “I’d stay way off of it and throw the D Pop; fire it in there. Unless it was something that I couldn’t get it under. Then I’d skip the frog under. If one was there, it would be about two casts and it’d show itself.”
9. Patience pays off for Lang
Patience was the key for Austin Lang all week. He caught most of his bass from one shell bed on a ledge in the lower third of the lake.
“They’d pull up and come off, pull up and come off. I literally had to wait them out,” he says. “I ran down first thing yesterday [Friday] morning and stayed until about 9:30. I ran back down there this morning, and this time I stayed there until 10:30.”
Part of being patient meant switching to finesse baits such as a drop-shot to get bites on the final day. Lang also fished a Strike King 6XD and a Zoom Magnum Ol’ Monster, but his most productive bait was a 3/8-ounce Elk River Jigs Brush Jig in Alabama craw.
As important as the tackle was the fact that he had the spot all to himself.
“These guys are so good with electronics that they found every spot I found, except this one spot,” Lang says. “Because these fish were moving around so much, sometimes you’d see them, and sometimes you wouldn’t. I’d idle over it and wouldn’t see them. The next time I idled over it, there they were.”
10. Mims slow-rolls a Ledgebuster
Kacy Mims stuck to the lower end of Lake Eufaula and combed through offshore spots to earn a top-10 finish. He caught his fish slow-rolling a 1-ounce Strikezone Ledgebuster Spinnerbait with a Zoom Super Fluke trailer on the bottom or through brush. He caught a few on a shaky head, one on a silver jigging spoon and some smaller bass on a 1/2-ounce tail-spinner.
“I mostly fished ledges and fished a few pockets,” Mims says. “Most of it was in deeper water. We got on ledges, found some brush and stuff, got in those brush piles with the Ledgebuster, and when we’d roll it through there, they’d knock slack in your line.”