May 16, 2013 by Brett Carlson
EUFAULA, Ala. - Lake Eufaula officially marks the start of the second season, as the Walmart FLW Tour commenced its fourth of six qualifying events Thursday morning. The first half of the year featured mostly shallow-water angling with the second half promising to be dominated deep and offshore. But Mother Nature has had other plans during this cool and unpredictable spring. As a result, Eufaula is still fishing wide open with bass spawning, guarding fry and slowly making their way out to the Chattahoochee River ledges.
In practice, roughly half the field was positioned along the lake's thick vegetation - flipping and throwing moving lures like spinnerbaits and ChatterBaits. The other half of the field was idling around offshore and reading advanced electronics. The word on both fronts is that the bite was OK. It sounds unbelievable for mid-May, but several pros reported seeing bass still on beds. While no one remotely thinks spawners can go the distance, they could definitely help fill out a limit.
The wildcards for the tournament are an early-morning topwater bite and a shad spawn. While still going strong, the shad spawn mainly takes place at night and during low-light periods. The 150-boat field launched this morning at 6:30 a.m., approximately 50 minutes after sunrise. Even with thick cloud cover, any shad-spawn activity must be capitalized on immediately after takeoff. In a nutshell, nobody knows what to expect for the fourth qualifier, other than to term it a "transition tournament."
"I've spent time doing both, fishing shallow and deep and neither one is easy," said noted ledge fisherman Terry Bolton. "I was afraid it could be like this."
Bolton said he thinks many of the offshore bass are suspending instead of relating to the river bottom.
"There's just not enough current, so they're suspending in the trees and timber. I'm an offshore fisherman but this is a different deal. It sort of reminds me of Barkley Lake back home - just the way the creek channels bend and twist; they are sharper-type ledges. There's a trick to it here that's for sure. I think they relate to the cover and not the drop."
Bolton plans to spend most of his time shallow today mainly because it's easier to make it up as you go in skinny water.
"The ones I caught deep were mainly spots and that's scary because I trust a spot about as much as a smallmouth. I'm going to mainly throw a Picasso spinnerbait and flip a Trigger X Goo Bug. I've had more bites doing that anything else."
Like Bolton, veteran Minnesota pro Jim Moynagh loves fishing deep in the summer, especially with a football jig. Count him in the "confused camp" as well.
"I practiced half shallow and half deep, but neither pattern stood out," he said. "I've been trying to think what has the best potential, but at this point I'm stuck in the middle."
Moynagh said he caught a few fish offshore, but never found a major school he has confidence in. The M&M's pro focused mostly on shallower ledges as the bass are just coming off of the spawn. Deep is a relative term on Eufaula too. Instead of 20- or 25-foot ledges like on Kentucky and Pickwick lakes, most of the Chattahoochee River ledges are in water 8 to 12 feet deep, although near the dam there are some that reach down 15 to 18 feet.
"I still think there's fish to be caught out there somewhere; there's got to be," concluded Moynagh. "But it's not easy when you go hours upon hours looking for them without a bite."
Alabama pro Kelley Jaye sunk 135 trees over the winter in preparation for this offshore tournament. The only problem is that the bass aren't relating to those trees.
"I got only two bites on them, so that's out of the picture," quipped Jaye. "In my opinion, the fish are in between; they're not shallow, they're not deep."
Jaye, who lives in Dadeville, Ala., reported a good official practice targeting suspending bass.
"The fish I'm targeting are trying to recoup before they go out to their summer haunts. In three weeks, you could absolutely wreck them out on the ledges. But not right now."
After catching roughly 18 pounds per day in practice, Jaye is convinced it will take over 70 pounds to win the tournament and 13 pounds per day to earn a check.
"As someone who fishes this lake pretty often, I'm thrilled with the way it's turning out. I really hope I'm not jinxing myself."
Anglers will take off from Lakepoint Resort State Park located at 104 Lakepoint Drive in Eufaula at 6:30 a.m. each morning. Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins will be held at Lakepoint Resort State Park beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 3176 S. Eufaula Ave. in Eufaula beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Expo at Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday's weigh-in and the top-10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
On the Web
For those who can't catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com is offering real-time updates from the water throughout each day of the Lake Eufaula event. Simply click on the "On the Water Coverage" banner from either the FLW or FLW Tour home pages.
Sunrise: 5:43 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 66 degrees
Expected high temperature: 86 degrees
Water temperature: 70-76 degrees
Wind: SSW at 5 to 10 mph
Maximum humidity: 59 percent
Day's outlook: partly cloudy