EUFAULA, Ala. – As the 187 pros and Strike King co-anglers hit the water for the final stop of the Toyota Series presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division, they will be met with a very tough Lake Eufaula.
The postspawn funk is far from a fallacy you grew up reading about in magazine articles as a kid, it’s a legitimate challenge that tests the skills and bass-catching ability of every angler this time of year across the South. This week at Eufaula will likely be no different for the field.
Rest assured though, there will be fish caught, and big ones, as finding a few larger-than-average fish throughout the competition will separate any angler from their peers.
Lake Eufaula is a Chattahoochee River impoundment sprawling into over 45,000 acres of the Alabama/Georgia border. The fishery offers a variety of cover, structure and habitat for fish to live in.
Winding, backwater sloughs, and swampy, gator-infested run-off canals filled with emergent vegetation are found throughout the north end of the lake. As anglers head south towards the dam, brush piles and creek channel patterns begin to dominate as bass stage up after the spawn and get offshore for the summer.
This week on Eufaula, fish seem to be scattered throughout the spawn and postspawn transition phases, meaning a variety of patterns and tactics are still in play, with new ones potentially emerging as the tournament progresses. Add in the factor of low, stagnant water levels and a wealth of feeding options for bass to chase and feed on after the spawn and before making their way out deep, and you have yourself a worthy challenge for the field of anglers on Eufaula this week.
“It has been brutal,” 2022 REDCREST champion Bobby Lane said about his practice this week. “There are definitely a few fish spawning still. But really there’s a little bit of everything. There’s a bit of a rumor of a shad spawn, and some guys may have found it. There are bream beds and there is an offshore pattern too. There’s so much going on, it’s likely that weights will be down a little bit, but all in all, it shouldn’t be too bad.”
“The last time I was here it was kind of tough then, but now it’s extremely tough,” he said. “With the water being lower than usual, the current being less than ideal, and there’s so much food for them in this lake. There’s so much shad, the shad spawn going on, a bluegill spawn happening, there’s just a lot going on.”
Both Lane and Nelson believe that the whole lake could be in play for anglers tomorrow and both have game plans to cover a lot of water and try various things.
“You’re junk fishing, just not necessarily on the bank,” Lane said. “It might be the guy who scans over with his sonar and finds a different brush pile or something holding fish on a creek ledge who wins this thing. One or two big bites will really make a difference in this event.”
Lane made it clear that while things were tough, the big fish have by no means left Eufaula.
“I expect 20-something to be leading Day 1,” Lane said. “Weights will likely fall off on the second day, but it’s still going to take good bags to win.”
Nelson feels much the same and still expects a 19-pound average to be what’s necessary to carve out a win on Eufaula.
“I think 19 a day will get it done,” Nelson said. “I think if a guy gets 14 a day, they’ll be really happy with that for making the cut to Day 3. I could be wrong too, it could be 16 pounds a day for the cut.”
Eufaula marks the final stop of the Southern Division and that means one last shot to establish the final Angler of the Year Standings for the division.
Myakka City, Florida pro, Jessie Mizell sits atop the point standings heading into Eufaula and holding an 11-point lead over Ken Thompson and Chad Mrazek who share the second-place standings. Lane and Stephen Albertson are both in striking position to make a run at the Angler of the Year title should those in front of them falter.
On the Strike King co-angler side of things, Alan Hults holds a double-digit points lead over Tyler Nekolny and Stephen Draghi, but realistically many of the back deck anglers in the Top 10 have a shot at the coveted Strike King Co-Angler of the Year title.