Goodwin leans on local knowledge to grab Day 1 lead at Eufaula - Major League Fishing

Goodwin leans on local knowledge to grab Day 1 lead at Eufaula

Image for Goodwin leans on local knowledge to grab Day 1 lead at Eufaula
Oklahoma native Shonn Goodwin took the early lead on Lake Eufaula with 17 pounds, 8 ounces. Photo by Jody White. Angler: Shonn Goodwin.
May 16, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Toyota Series

EUFAULA, Okla. — Two of the best anglers on Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula lived up to their reputations on Day 1 of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event on the reservoir. 

With Southwestern Division anglers faced with a stingy bite due to falling water levels and variable water clarity, local knowledge clearly paid off. Shonn Goodwin sacked five bass for 17 pounds, 8 ounces to take the early lead. He’s trailed closely by Chris Jones, who weighed in 17-0. 

The two Oklahoma natives, who have combined to notch two wins and 16 Top 10s on Eufaula in MLF competition, separated themselves a bit from the pack. But with just a pound separating third place (Jason Sandidge with 16-0) from ninth and three other Oklahomans lurking in the Top 10, the competition remains wide open entering Day 2. 

On the Strike King co-angler side, Scott Parsons bagged 14-14 to take a 1-14 lead over Leavitt Hamilton.

Starting spot pays out big for Goodwin 

Goodwin didn’t practice much leading up to this event. He didn’t need to.

On Sunday, he pulled up to a spot that has produced for him in the past, particularly when the water is falling and/or the spawn is ending, both of which have been happening of late on Eufaula. He made two casts, caught fish on both of them, and knew he would start there Day 1.

It didn’t take long for him to confirm the spot was still loaded five days later. His first fish of the morning was a 6-pound kicker. He proceeded to catch all his weight by about 9:30 a.m.

“It’s close to a big spawning area,” Goodwin explained. “It pulls those spawning fish out to this spot and they set up on it. So fish are coming to me. I knew they would be there, and they were pretty well. There weren’t as many fish there as I thought because there weren’t as many shad as I was expecting, but I had six keeper bites off of it before I left it.”

Goodwin has a win and 10 other Top-10 finishes on Eufaula to his name, including a ninth-place showing at Stop 3 during the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals last spring. He believes experience on the lake proved so valuable on Day 1 because there’s a lot of dead water in the reservoir right now.

The lake level has come down quite a bit from the flood that arrived at the same time as the Bass Pro Tour event two weeks ago; which was won by Zack Birge, who is also an Oklahoma native with experience on Eufaula. But it remains about a foot above full pool, meaning there’s an abundance of flooded cover. Add in vast swaths of muddy water (Goodwin said the water in his spot is not the cleanest in the lake but not the dirtiest either), and it pays to know where to look for populations of bass.

“There’s a lot of dead water right now,” he said. “There’s specific areas that are holding a lot of fish, and these are places that have held fish in the past. I know Chris is fishing stuff that he’s caught them off of in the past, and I am, too. So the local knowledge is really working because these areas are really holding fish. There’s a lot of areas right now that are not holding hardly any fish.”

Goodwin is optimistic that the spot can continue to produce. It’s held up for him across multi-day events before. However, he also believes he’ll have to mix in a secondary pattern in order to claim his ninth professional win. He tried running boat docks Thursday afternoon to no avail, but he’s “not going to forget about that.”

Saying he was surprised the top-end weights weren’t heavier on Day 1, he expects he’ll need to at least replicate his total over each of the next two days to have a shot at hoisting the trophy.

“I’m going to need to find something else, but it can definitely hold up,” Goodwin said. “I expect it to replenish, but I don’t know that I can catch another 17 off it.

“It’s fun competing against the local guys and having all these Okies up top,” he added. “It’s a murderers’ row, so I’m going to have to really bring it to stay on top.” 

Jones makes the right adjustment

Chris Jones has a stellar reputation on Eufaula and has won at the Toyota Series level before. Photo by Jody White

Jones’ morning didn’t start off quite as smooth. He spent the first hour or so fishing a shad spawn near takeoff in Eufaula Cove. While he found plenty of shad spawning, there weren’t any bass chasing them.

Then, after making a long run, he hooked and lost both a 3-pounder and a 5-pounder. That at least gave him confidence that he was around fish, though, so he hunkered down and found the area better than he expected.

“I feel like I’m truly on the winning fish,” he said. “It’s just a matter of really just executing and being able to catch them.”

Jones didn’t divulge many details about how he caught his fish, but he believes he’s fishing dirtier water than most of the field. He stuck with a handful of BOOYAH and YUM baits, noting that he caught his fish using a different technique on Day 1 than during practice.

“The way I caught them in practice, I never got a bite on today, and I had to make an adjustment to catch them,” he said. “So, it was just one of those deals where I made the right adjustment and got a couple key bites.”

Jones said he never saw another boat in his area, likely because of the dirty water. He said he and Hamilton, his co-angler, caught eight or nine keepers apiece, so he’s optimistic about the ability of the area to produce over the next two days. He’s “dedicated” to fishing there for the remainder of the event.

“I’ve always said it’s hard to win one of these three-day events sharing water, especially around multiple boats,” Jones said. “And I figured, after the BPT was here a couple weeks ago, I tried to spend time looking for areas that nobody else would find.”

Top 10 pros

  1. Shonn Goodwin — 17-8 (5)
  2. Chris M. Jones — 17-0 (5)
  3. Jason Sandidge — 16-1 (5)
  4. Jeff Reynolds — 15-15 (5)
  5. Lance Williams — 15-14 (5)
  6. Zane Parker — 15-14 (5)
  7. Jeff Lugar — 15-6 (5)
  8. Blake Schroeder — 15-3 (5)
  9. Phillip Lunceford — 15-1 (5)
  10. Eli Brumnett — 14-7 (5)

Complete results