Saffle wins Strike King co-angler crown in first visit to Eufaula  - Major League Fishing

Saffle wins Strike King co-angler crown in first visit to Eufaula 

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Dillon Saffle sacked 10-10 to climb from fifth place to first in the Strike King co-angler standings on the final day at Lake Eufaula. Photo by Jody White. Angler: Dillon Saffle.
May 18, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Toyota Series

EUFAULA, Okla. — Dillon Saffle had a feeling his first Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats victory was coming. He just didn’t expect it on Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula

The Eureka, Missouri, native had never been to Eufaula prior to this week. He wavered between signing up for the event as a boater or Strike King co-angler, but ultimately decided to fish from the back of the boat due to his lack of experience and the fact that his two young children kept him from getting to the fishery in time to practice. 

That decision proved to be a wise one. Saffle increased his weight all three days, culminating with a 10-pound, 10-ounce limit on Day 3. That boosted his total to 28-2, just enough to edge four-time winner Scott Parsons by 15 ounces. 

“First time to Eufaula, I had no intentions of winning,” Saffle said. “I just know that I can put my head down when it’s tough and at least get the right bites to have an opportunity to at least catch some fish.” 

For the win, Saffle earned a a Phoenix Boats package worth $33,500 plus a qualification to the Toyota Series Championship. 

As is often the case for co-anglers, Saffle had to adapt his tactics as the tournament progressed. On Day 1, his boater fished offshore in clean water. Saffle, who said he is “a big believer in never throwing what your pro is throwing,” caught three keepers on a Carolina rig and one on a topwater for a total of 8-6 while his boater tossed a deep-diving crankbait. 

Then, on Day 2, Saffle was paired with Phillip Lunceford. While Lunceford tossed a spinnerbait around chunk rock banks, Saffle caught four keepers for 9-2 on a chartreuse Strike King KVD 1.5 squarebill.  

A dose of good fortune came when he paired with Lunceford again on Day 3. Knowing exactly what he’d be doing and where helped him make a key adjustment – adding another crankbait, a Strike King Series 4S in a matte white color, to his arsenal. With bass chasing spawning shad Saturday morning, Saffle used the Series 4S to catch three quick keepers. 

“I knew I didn’t want to throw a ChatterBait, because I think the fish have seen that too much, and I didn’t want to throw a spinnerbait behind Phillip,” Saffle said. “I threw that (Series 4S) this morning during the shad spawn and caught three keepers like right off the bat. So, I think exchanging between that and the chartreuse one throughout the day really did it for me.” 

Not only did Saffle fill out his limit on Day 3, he culled four times. Still, after starting the day in sixth place and more than 6 pounds back of Parsons, he didn’t really think he had a shot at the win until he arrived at weigh-in.  

As it turned out, none of the four anglers who started the day ahead of Saffle caught more than two keepers amid the tough conditions.  

“When I found out (Parsons) only had two fish, and then I think third place didn’t catch one, second place only had one fish and third place only had two fish, I knew I had a shot,” Saffle said. “I just really didn’t know how much weight I had. … It obviously worked out.” 

Saffle, who entered this week with a win and four Top-10 finishes on his résumé, albeit all in Phoenix Bass Fishing League events, said the victory felt “vindicating.” He’s had a few events through the years that he felt he could have and maybe even should have won, so even though he didn’t expect it during his maiden visit to Eufaula, the breakthrough seemed overdue.  

“I’ve been in a few Top 25s, and I was close last year at another big tournament on Lake of the Ozarks,” he said. “This feels vindicating, and I knew I could do it. It’s just a matter of getting lucky with the right boat draw, but also catching fish when you have the right opportunities.” 

Top 10 Strike King co-anglers:

  1. Dillon Saffle — 28-2 (13) — $33,500
  2. Scott Parsons — 27-3 (11) — $3,843
  3. Mike Cassanova — 26-3 (10) — $3,074
  4. Joe Lee — 25-14 (11) — $2,690
  5. Leavitt Hamilton — 24-11 (10) — $2,456
  6. Brian Strickland — 22-3 (9) — $1,921
  7. Albert Rayborn — 21-5 (9) — $1,537
  8. Justin Overstreet — 20-13 (8) — $1,345
  9. Tony Burnham — 19-13 (10) — $1,153
  10. Tommy Sikes — 19-4 (9) — $961

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