EUFAULA, Ala. – As anticipated prior to the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division event on Lake Eufaula, the postspawn funk plagued the field of competitors. Fish recovering from the spawn scattered to a variety of cover and structures. Finding a way to trigger reaction bites was a major key for all of the Top 10, as power-fishing techniques largely dominated the top tactics.
While weights were down across the board, the individuals who could find solace in shad spawn bites or the right rotation of brushpiles climbed the leaderboard this week. Late in the week as the sun warmed the water, a few ledges also began loading up with postspawn fish ready to file into their summer patterns.
Justin Lucas saw his shad spawn pattern fade on him on the final day but made the right adjustments to hold onto his lead and come away with the victory. He spent the first hour or so each morning of the event at a mid-lake staging area in 8 to 14 feet following the shad spawn with his forward-facing sonar to intercept bass stopping to eat as they migrated from spawning creeks towards deeper water.
Lucas exploited his primary spot with a variety of power fishing techniques. Many of his key fish came on a ½-ounce gold and silver double willow Berkley Power Blade in the pretty one color. For the blade, he utilized a 7-foot, 3-inch medium heavy Abu Garcia Fantasista X casting rod with a 6.6:1 gear ratio Abu Garcia Revo SX reel and 17-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. Lucas also used a variety of shad-colored crankbaits all slung on Abu Garcia combos with pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.
On the final day, Lucas abandoned his primary location early, recognizing that the bite had faded for him after a night of rain and thunderstorms. Then Lucas targeted hard spots he had located where fish were finishing up their spawn and were about to transition to deeper water. Lucas focused on fish in roughly 4 to 8 feet of water with a drop-shot and a 3/8-ounce Texas-rigged 5-inch Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg in sprayed grass, with a 4/0 hook. He slung the Power Hawg on a 7-6, heavy Abu Garcia Fantasista X with an 8.3:1 Abu Garcia Zenon X and 17-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.
Bobby Bakewell is feeling a lot better about this runner-up result than his last one at Lake Okeechobee. This time he climbed up the leaderboard after snatching 17 pounds, 4 ounces on Day 3.
“That one stung, this one, it feels alright,” he said. “And (Lucas) won by a lot more.”
Bakewell was able to put together consistent bags by targeting brushpiles adjacent to creek channels in shallower water than most anglers in the field. The areas had staging fish that related to a shad spawn happening near the brush he focused on.
“They really had to be 10 feet or less,” he said. “That’s where I think most people missed it. They were going deeper, and they weren’t out there yet. I even caught some prespawners like that. One big one my co-angler caught was definitely a prespawner.”
His bait of choice for the brush piles was a Yo-Zuri 3DB Series SP Deep jerkbait in a natural Tennessee shad pattern with Gamakatsu No. 4 Short Shank Trebles. He worked the jerkbait on an Enigma Phenom rod with an Enigma casting reel and 14-pound Yo-Zuri T7 Fluorocarbon.
Kyle Austin’s shad spawn pattern also died on him for the final day, having focused on a staging area in the same portion of the lake as Lucas. When his pattern dissipated, he resorted to brushpile hopping around Eufaula to scrounge up 10-14 and hold onto third place.
“I pretty much weighed in every bass on a ¾-ounce gold and silver bladed double willow Treeshaker Tackle spinnerbait,” he said. “It is custom made, they’re built in South Carolina.”
The ¾-ounce Treeshaker Tackle spinnerbait was tied in a white tiger skirt and thrown on a Fitzgerald All Purpose Series rod. Austin also mixed in a Strike King Series 5 crankbait in a sexy shad pattern.
Emil Wagner found himself aggressively working a jerkbait suspended above brushpiles to elicit reaction strikes from his targeted bass. After graphing all week in search of a milk run of piles, Wagner fished his way through as many as he could each day of the event.
“The key to it is the cadence,” he said. “I think a lot of people work what they think is aggressive, but to me, it’s not. I call it ‘snapping’ a jerkbait. So, it’s all in your wrist to make them react.”
His jerkbait of choice was a Megabass Vision 110+1 in GP pro blue slung on 12-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon. His preferred combo for the jerkbait was a 6-10, medium Shimano Expride casting rod with a 6.2:1 Shimano Curado 150 DC reel.
Wagner also threw a 9.6-inch 6th Sense Boosa Ribbon Tail Worm in red bug magic on a ½-ounce Texas rig to catch a few kickers. A small contributor for him was also a 1-ounce, white, double willow spinnerbait with a 3.3-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbait in smoking white.
Michael Smith is no stranger to fishing well on Lake Eufaula, having won a lot at the local level there. He felt like the experience gave him an idea of how things could play out this past week, and it lead to a top-five finish.
“I’ve had a lot of prior success at Eufaula and felt like I knew how it was going to go down before I ever got here,” he said.
Smith idled around in practice looking for an offshore bite, before settling on a brushpile pattern when he couldn’t find what he needed to do well out deep.
Smith utilized a 6th Sense Provoke 106DD Silent Jerkbait in the shad scales pattern to coax bass out of brushpiles. A Fitzgerald Vursa Series casting rod with 10-pound Seaguar InvizX line on a Lew’s Custom Pro reel was his go-to jerkbait combination. He also mixed in a 6-inch Missile Baits Magic Worm in watermelon violet color on a ¼-ounce shaky head and a Missile Baits D Stroyer in GP3 on a swing head jig.
Brent Chapman spent time shallow near takeoff cranking for bass holding tight to riprap. His secondary game plan found him out deep on the predominant brushpile pattern near the mouth of Cowikee Creek.
Chapman did his damage early each day with a Strike King 1.5 in sexy shad and blueback chartreuse patterns both with KastKing rods and reels and 16-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon. His brushpile pattern saw him utilize a 10-inch plum worm Texas-rigged with a ¼-ounce weight also with KastKing rods and reels and 16-pound fluoro.
After two days of solid competition for Ethan Greene, his bag of 15-15 pushed him into seventh on the final day. Like many other Top 10 anglers, Greene utilized a pair of jerkbaits (Megabass Vision 110 and Vision 110+1 in French pearl pattern) to generate reaction strikes from bass in brushpiles. Greene focused his efforts on brush that sat in 5- to 10- feet of water on Days 1 and 2.
On the final day, Greene pulled up on a deeper offshore ledge to target fish finally grouping up with the warmer, sunny weather. He tossed a custom-made umbrella rig built by his father, rigged with 3.3-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits in a multitude of shad-based colors. Both setups were thrown on Kistler rods with Shimano reels.
Mike Cavender leaned heavily on local knowledge and experience to push himself up into the Top 10, eventually settling in eighth when the scales closed on the final day.
Cavender employed a variety of different tactics and patterns to get the job done. Notably a 6-inch Big Bite Baits Finesse Worm in green pumpkin Texas red on a 3/8-ounce head. He also utilized a Nichols Lake Fork Flutter Spoon and a variety of shad pattern Strike King Series 5 crankbaits to boat bass on Eufaula.
Joey Bloom was pumped about his first Top 10 in a Toyota Series event.
“To make a Top 10 is really cool,” he said. “I fished really hard this week, I didn’t find a whole lot in practice. Then the last day of practice I ended up stumbling on my bite.”
His bite was mainly a two-pronged power fishing approach. Targeting fish in transition with a ½-ounce Dirty Jigs Swim Jig in Guntersville shad paired with a Gambler EZ Swimmer. The second key piece of his bite was a Rapala DT10 in Caribbean shad. A 6th Sense Provoke 106X jerkbait in French bone pearl also got thrown in the mix.
Ron Nelson is one of the hottest anglers on the planet right now, holding the points lead in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals and having claimed five Top 10 finishes in MLF events so far in 2023. This week at Eufaula he mixed in both power and finesse techniques to round out the Top 10.
His main bait of choice was a white, gold and silver-bladed double willow Strike King Tour Grade Spinnerbait in the mouse color pattern slung on a 13 Fishing Envy Black casting rod and a 13 Fishing Concept C2 casting reel. He also did a ton of damage with a 4.5-inch Roboworm Straight Tail Worm (morning dawn) on a 13 Fishing Envy Black spinning rod and 13 Fishing Axum spinning reel with 10-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon.