March 18, 2006 by Rob Newell
EUFAULA, Ala. - Sometimes being the hometown hero on a lake can lead to the "local jinx," and sometimes it can pay off handsomely.
In the case of Ryan Ingram of Phoenix City, Ala., it paid of handsomely Saturday in the form of about $60,000 - including a fully rigged Ranger boat and $20,000 cash - for winning the Stren Series Southeast event on Lake Eufaula, his home lake.
Ingram is well-known for his winning ways in local and regional events on Eufaula, but he said that his biggest challenge for the Stren Series was trying to manage fish for a four-day tournament.
"Most of the events I fish around here are one- or two-day events," said Ingram, who was fishing his first Stren Series event. "But to fish four days in a row against some of the high-caliber anglers on the Stren Series was a little unnerving."
Ingram was on a pile of fish, and he managed them carefully throughout the event, making sure that both he and his co-anglers caught fish before pulling off his primary areas each day at about 9 a.m.
As an indication of just how many fish Ingram was on, not only did he win the event with an 8-pound margin, but his co-angler Saturday, Curt Fannin, won the Co-angler Division, and his co-angler from yesterday, Mike Mahady, finished second.
"I really thought I messed up and pulled off my fish too early yesterday when I saw these guys bringing in those big strings," he said. "I underestimated just how long they could keep catching them shallow in this falling water."
Needless to say, Ingram didn't let up today, bringing in 22 pounds even to the scales for a two-day total of 40 pounds, 13 ounces.
"It feels good to win," he said. "These guys are no slouches. Even with how good I know the lake, I'm truly amazed at how they can come in from out of town and keep catching them day after day."
Ingram fished staging areas, stumpy flats and primary breaks in 3 to 8 feet of water adjacent to spawning bays.
The falling water helped him tremendously.
"If they had backed that water up at anytime during this event, those shallow-water guys probably would have skinned me alive," he noted.
His key baits included a 1-ounce Ledgebuster spinnerbait (single willow), a 3/4-ounce jig and soft-plastic craws (watermelon) Texas-rigged to 3/8- and 1/2-ounce weights.
When day-three leader Shannon Devere of Berea, Ky., said he was out of big fish yesterday, he meant it.
He brought in 12 pounds, 9 ounces today for a two-day total of 32 pounds, 12 ounces worth $10,000.
"I couldn't find anymore big ones like I did yesterday," Devere said. "I just kept scrambling around catching a few here and there, but with this falling water, no more big ones moved up."
Devere spent the week covering shallow water with a Texas-rigged Zoom Speed worm on the upper end of the lake. When he would find a fish locked on bed, he would stop and fish for it with tubes and lizards.
"I could get a small limit with the speed worm like I did today, but all my better fish were coming off bed," he added.
Kreiger climbs to third
Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., should buy property on Lake Eufaula. This was Kreiger's sixth top-10 on Eufaula, which includes a win, in seven years.
Today, Eufaula donated another $9,000 to Kreiger's bank account after he brought in 18 pounds to claim third place with a two-day total of 31 pounds, 4 ounces.
"I really like this lake," Kreiger said, "especially in the spring when I can sight-fish."
And that is exactly what Kreiger did all four days of the tournament, using an 8-inch Zoom blueberry lizard and Gambler Bacon rind.
"It's not like I've got one magical place that produces all these fish," Kreiger said. "I fished different places every day of the tournament. The first day, I usually have a few staked out from practice, but after that I just run around and catch one here and one there. Once I get my limit, I use the rest of the day to look for more fish for the next day."
Timothy Little of Acworth, Ga., finished fourth with a two-day total of 29 pounds, 10 ounces worth $8,000.
He used a black-and-blue Chatterbait and a green-pumpkin Senko to catch his fish this week.
"I fished the middle portion of the lake all week," Little said. "I targeted spawning bass that I couldn't see. I was actually using braided line on my Senko because I was casting up there so shallow in that thick, weedy vine, and the only way I could get the fish out was on braid."
Little also took a 26-point lead in the Stren Series Southeast Division points standings with one tournament remaining.
Le moves to fifth
Thanh Le of Davie, Fla., brought in 17 pounds, 9 ounces to take fifth place with a two-day total of 29 pounds, 4 ounces worth $7,500.
Le developed a unique pattern that centered on throwing a 1/2-ounce Pepper Jigs spinnerbait (double willows) on 15-pound-test Maxima line along shallow grass lines in the lower end of the lake.
"There were fish spawning up in the grass, but the bigger females were sitting out there on the edge of the grass," he said. "I'd cast parallel down the grass line and sort of roll the bait down the edge."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Stren Series Southeast at Lake Eufaula:
6th: Billy Bowen of Ocala, Fla., with a two-day total of 28-9, $6,500
7th: Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C., with a two-day total of 25-8, $5,500
8th: Michael Conley of Bainbridge, Ga., with a two-day total of 22-0, $5,000
9th: Scott Hamrick of Denver of N.C., with a two-day total of 16-6, $4,500
10th: Patrick Pierce of Jacksonville, Fla., with a two-day total of 16-5, $4,000
The next Stren Series event takes place March 22-25 in the Central Division at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Jasper, Texas. The next Southeast Division event is the final one of the regular season and will take place April 19-22 at Santee Cooper lakes in Manning, S.C.