March 15, 2008 by Rob Newell
EUFAULA, Ala. - Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., came from fourth place to first place on day four of the Stren Series Southeast Division event on Lake Eufaula to win the event with a four-day total of 64 pounds, 3 ounces.
For his win, Tharp took home $25,000 and a fully rigged Ranger boat.
On a gusty day four, with winds in excess of 20 mph most of the day, Tharp surpassed his competition with the biggest limit of the day weighing 17 pounds, 7 ounces.
"I can't describe how this feels," said Tharp. "I've won a couple of BFLs back home, but these Stren events are so much harder to win because you have to find enough fish for four days instead of just one. Plus, you have to make the right decisions for four days instead of just eight hours."
Tharp attributed his win to sound decision making during the week.
On the first two days he sight-fished bedding bass down near the dam for catches of 13-8 and 15-10, respectively. He enticed the bedders with a green-pumpkin Zoom Critter Craw and a watermelon lizard.
But at the end of day two, things started to change. Tharp noted that fishing pressure was beginning to take its toll on his primary bedding area, and no new fish were moving up.
With higher winds forecasted on day three, Tharp made the tournament-winning decision.
"I scrapped my whole sight-fishing plan and went up the river to some fish I found in shallow grass," he said. "That's what won the event for me - that move right there."
His upriver move produced 17 pounds, 10 ounces on day three, and he returned there today.
"I was fishing a 3/8-ounce Hawg Caller spinnerbait and a homemade white swimming jig with a white Zoom twin-tail trailer in grass beds in creeks up the river," he said. "I tied both to 50-pound-test braided line.
"I caught fish all over the lake in practice, doing all kinds of things," he added. "But the key to me winning this event was making the right decisions and fishing the conditions we were dealt in the tournament."
Local pro Ryan Ingram of Phenix City, Ala., almost pulled off his second career Eufaula win today with a four-day total of 62 pounds, 5 ounces.
Instead he finished runner-up and collected $9,299 for his efforts.
Ingram fished the entire tournament with one lure on his rod: a ¾-ounce Strike Zone Master Blaster spinnerbait.
"It's got a smaller profile for crawling through the grass better, and the blades are serrated, which provides a lot more flash," Ingram said. "Whether I was fishing in 18 feet of water or 2 feet of water, that's the lure I used this week."
Ingram caught his fish earlier in the week out deeper, but with the high winds today, he was forced to go shallow near Tobanee Creek to fish grass.
Beaver rallies to third
Another well-known Eufaula expert, Rodger Beaver of Dawson, Ga., climbed to his best spot of the week - third - with a 15-pound, 15-ounce catch today for a four-day total of 59 pounds, 9 ounces.
Beaver took home $8,370 for his finish.
Like Ingram, Beaver made a living off Strike Zone spinnerbaits this week. One was a ¾-ounce LedgeBuster, and the other was a 1/2-ounce Master Blaster, both tied to 20-pound-test Suffix line.
"I mostly fished grass in the midlake region," Beaver said. "I did catch a few off beds, but a majority of my fish came on the spinnerbaits."
Berkley pro Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., finished fourth with a four-day total of 58 pounds, 11 ounces worth $7,439.
Browne fished south at the beginning of the week, but stayed relatively close today around the Cowikee Creek and the Witch's Ditch area.
His primary lures included a custom ¾-ounce jig made by pro Rick Couch in Ocala, Fla., teamed with a Berkley Power Chunk and a 3/8-ounce ChatterBait.
"I was pitching the jig along any grass edge that had just a little bit more depth to it," Browne said. "Six inches to a foot more water along a grass edge made a tremendous difference in getting bites."
Day-one leader Frank Jordan of Bainbridge, Ga., ended up in fifth place with a four-day total of 55 pounds, 4 ounces worth $6,509.
Jordan relied on a Strike King Red-Eye Shad lipless crankbait and 3/8-ounce ChatterBait tied to 15-pound-test Trilene Big Game line for his catches this week.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Stren Series Southeast event on Lake Eufaula:
6th: Clint Brownlee of Tifton, Ga., four-day total of 53-12, $5,579
7th: Tony Davis of Williston, Fla., four-day total of 53-0, $5,115
8th: Adam Postelle of Rocky Face, Ga., four-day total of 52-14, $4,650
9th: Travis Adams of Danielsville, Ga., four-day total of 52-9, $4,184
10th: Lee McCracken of Ocala, Fla., four-day total of 48-13, $3,720
The next Stren Series event in the Southeast Division will be held at Santee Cooper lakes, April 16-19.