Top 150 Solo Southwest at Lake Eufaula, Okla
By John N. Felsher
Anglers fishing the Southwest Division of the American Bass Anglers Top 150 Solo Series finish their first season with a tournament at Lake Eufaula, Okla. on April 30-May 1, 2021.
The third and final event of the season will run out of the South Point Cove ramp, located at 400 Lakeshore Drive in the town of Eufaula, Okla. Visiting anglers can rent cabins or camp at Lake Eufaula State Park and the separate Arrowhead Area of the State Park.
The largest lake in Oklahoma and the 15th largest lake entirely within the United States covers 102,000 acres of McIntosh, Pittsburg, Haskell and Okmulgee counties southeast of Tulsa. The sprawling impoundment offers anglers about 600 shoreline miles. It averages about 23 feet deep, but drops to 87 feet in places.
“At this time of year, a person who falls out of the boat at Lake Eufaula and can’t stand up is probably fishing too deep,” quipped Randy Qualls, an angler from Streetman, Texas. “Those bass stay real shallow at Eufaula all year long. I fished it several times and have done quite well. I’ve put eight-pounders in the boat at Eufaula, which is quite big for Oklahoma.”
Construction began in 1956 on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydroelectric power reservoir situated on the Canadian River about 27 miles upstream from its confluence with the Arkansas River. The longest tributary of the Arkansas River, the Canadian runs 906 miles from Colorado into Oklahoma. The Canadian, North Fork of the Canadian and the Deep Fork rivers all flow into Lake Eufaula after draining 47,522 square miles.
The lake opened to fishing in 1964 and soon became one of the better bass lakes in the Sooner State. Lake Eufaula holds good populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Some of the best largemouth bass action occurs in the Gentry Creek Cove and Porum Landing areas.
In fact, Steve McLarty set the Oklahoma state smallmouth record at 8 pounds, 3 ounces with a brownie he pulled out of Lake Eufaula. For smallmouth, fish the weed beds and any sunken woody cover found in deeper water. Some of the best smallmouth fishing occurs in the Holiday Cove and Cardinal Point areas. Tempt them with jigs tipped with soft-plastic craws.
“The lake spreads out quite a bit,” explained John Soukup, a tournament angler from Sapulpa, Okla. “Some bass will have already spawned by tournament time, but we might hit right at the peak of the spawn. Fish will be spread out everywhere, so everybody will have an opportunity to catch fish. People are going to catch a lot of three- to five-pounders.”
Fish the shallows with close access to deeper water. Both largemouth and smallmouth might hit various topwaters such as Zara Spooks in white or shad colors. Early in the morning, fish the drop-offs at the edge of weed beds with topwaters. Follow up by dragging soft plastics into the deeper water. Look for bass spawning around buck brush, shallow rocky banks and riprap shorelines. Also run spinnerbaits, crankbaits, bladed jigs or buzzbaits through the flats parallel to grassy edges and drops.
“I think it will shallow angler’s dream,” Soukup advised. “People will be able to go down banks with spinnerbaits, square-billed crankbaits or Chatterbaits and catch fish.”
The lake also contains numerous docks, as well as several bridges that provide cover for spawning bass. Also look for shallow flats filled with stumps. Hit any isolated stumps from multiple angles. Fish might concentrate on one side or the other. Around these places, throw white and chartreuse spinnerbaits, football-head jigs tipped with soft plastics or Texas-rigged creature baits in green pumpkin, black and chartreuse or black and blue.
People can also flip dock pilings with creature baits or fling unweighted soft-plastic slug-type baits with the hooks inserted in the bodies to make them snagless. Try to shoot these light baits as far under any docks as possible. Just let the bait sink slowly and naturally like a wacky worm. Anglers can also bounce square-billed crankbaits in shad, bluegill, crawfish or black and chartreuse colors off dock pilings or rocks along the banks and points.
In a state famous for its endless winds sweeping down the plains, a stiff breeze can seriously churn a lake as large as Eufaula into froth. Many anglers run from a stout breeze and they should if conditions become too dangerous to stay in open water. However, anglers can use the wind to their advantage to put more bass in their boats.
“I love fishing in the wind,” remarked Kevin VanDam, a four-time Bassmaster Classic champion. “I love rough conditions because a lot of times those conditions activate the fish.”
Brutal breezes can blow lures in crazy directions, but they also create currents that stir up bait. That can kick off a feeding frenzy. Breezes create currents that carry plankton-rich waters around the lake. Baitfish follow the plankton. Lunker bass follow baitfish. Wind also creates wave action that adds more oxygen to the water, giving bass an energy enhancement.
Bass frequently hang in eddies behind wind-swept points facing into the current to get an oxygen boost and to look for bait. They watch the windward waters to ambush anything tempting that might pass around the point. When a succulent baitfish appears, bass dash from their lairs to gobble the morsel. If the wind switches directions, bass move to the other side and face in the opposite direction.
Around wind-swept points, run white or pearl spinnerbaits with willow-leaf blades, crankbaits or bladed jigs past the points in the same direction as the flow. Watch for schooling fish chasing bait. Keep a shad-pattern lipless crankbait handy to throw at schoolies.
“The harder wind blows, the better bass bite spinnerbaits,” detailed Alton Jones, a former Bassmaster Classic champion. “As a general principle, if the wind is blowing 20 miles per hour or more, a spinnerbait fisherman will catch more bass. When it’s windy, I like to run a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce spinnerbait as fast as possible along a riprap bank. I like white and chartreuse with double No. 4 and No. 3 gold willow-leaf blades. I reel fast and steady. When bass hit, they practically knock the rod out of my hands.”
Unnatural noises might alarm bass, particularly fish spawning in shallow flats. However, bass grow accustomed to hearing waves pounding a shoreline because they hear it every day. Waves can muffle the sounds of propellers, vibrations pulsating through boat hulls and other noises, making fish less skittish. Waves also break up the silhouettes of anglers so they can sneak closer to fish in shallow water.
“On a calm, sunny day, almost any small noise might spook a bass,” Jones explained. “On a windy day, though, bass don’t care as much about noise. Wind makes bass less aware of human presence. Wind is almost like wearing camouflage for fishing.”
Wind can also create virtual camouflage for lures. Unlike a crankbait, swimbait or a soft-plastic creature, a spinnerbait doesn’t look like anything a bass might naturally want to eat. If a bass looks too hard at a lure like a spinnerbait, it might not strike it. Normally, a bass reacts to the vibrations and flash the blades make. When waves beat the shorelines, bass detect spinnerbaits and other lures, but they can’t really see them very well so they attack anything moving. A bass doesn’t really care what it eats as long as whatever it grabs feels like food and goes down its gullet.
“I like the wind to ripple the surface,” VanDam confirmed. “When a fish looks up at the surface against the sun, it sees a mirror. A spinnerbait is a great lure to use on a windy day. I want wind action to break up that bait outline and create the illusion that the spinnerbait is a real baitfish so I use colors that blend in. I like a natural shad pattern as opposed to a pure white or chartreuse.”
While the Southwest Division anglers fish their last ABA Top 150 Solo Series of the season at Lake Eufaula, competitors in the Southeast Division will be battling it out on Lake Guntersville in northeastern Alabama. The Guntersville tournament also runs from April 30-May 1.
After Guntersville, the Southeast Division anglers conclude their first season and wrap up the entire inaugural year for the ABA Top 150 Solo Series on June 25-26 at Lake Chickamauga. That tournament launches out of Dayton City Ramp on Lakeshore Drive in Dayton, Tenn.
Anglers pay $600 to enter each divisional event. Up to 150 anglers can compete in any Top 150 Solo Series tournament. If 150 anglers participate, the winner will take home a guaranteed $20,000 in cash. If fewer competitors register for an event, the top 20 percent of the field will each earn a portion of the prize money, based upon the number of entries. In addition, the winner of each divisional tournament, plus the two division Anglers of the Year will qualify to fish the 2022 Ray Scott Championship.
For more information about American Bass Anglers visit www.americanbassanglers.com or call (256) 232-0406. For more information on the ABA Top 150 Solo Series, see www.americanbassanglers.com/Top150.
American Bass Anglers is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, Triton Boats, Mercury Motors, Motor Guide, Berkley, Abu Garcia, T-H Marine, Power Pole, Garmin, Monster Energy, Lucas Oil, Engel Coolers, OPTIMA Batteries, REKS Sunglasses, and HotelPlanner.com.
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