Bass still shallow at Eufaula

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Thomas Allen

EUFAULA, Ala. — Ordinarily, a bass tournament at Lake Eufaula in early June would be won offshore on ledges and brushpiles. And that may be the case this week when the four-day DEWALT Bassmaster Elite begins here Wednesday. However, just like what’s happening seemingly the world over, nothing is ordinary at Lake Eufaula now.

“Eufaula is a weird deal right now,” said Ashville, Ala., pro Matt Herren. “Everything is in-between. Normally the fish are out good in big groups. But there are still a lot of fish shallow.”

The 87 Elite Series anglers began the three-day practice period Sunday. Practice never gives anyone a clear picture of how the fishing will develop over the course of a four-day tournament. But the weather didn’t allow as much of a glimpse as usual. Sunday featured clouds and rain; Monday the wind blew 20 to 30 miles per hour out of the Southeast, said Herren, who won a B.A.S.S. Federation tournament in June on Eufaula 20 years ago.

The fishing is going to be good this week. Lake Eufaula’s 46,000 acres on the Chattahoochee River are in good condition. If this tournament has been held as originally schedule on April 2-5, several anglers expected the total winning weight to top 100 pounds. That could still happen this week, but a total in the 80s is more likely.

“I think somebody is going to have 22 to 23 pounds a day,” said Hank Cherry, who won the Bassmaster Classic at Alabama’s Lake Guntersville on March 8. “The fish are both offshore and up shallow. But brushpiles and ledges, that’s what’s going to dominate. That’s not saying somebody won’t catch a big bag shallow. But I don’t think you can do it four days.”

Cherry, by the way, is still suffering from a right arm injury suffered during a fall in the Classic. He’s known as a jerkbait specialist, but the pain is preventing him from doing much jerkbaiting or crankbaiting this week. 

“I’m flipping this week,” Cherry said. “You’ll probably never hear me say that again. But I flipped up a 7-pounder the first day of practice.”

Scott Canterbury of Odenville, Ala., is the defending Bassmaster Angler of the Year. He’s familiar with Lake Eufaula. He noted another factor that will influence what happens this week in the Elite Series: How many other big tournaments have been held on Eufaula recently.

“It’s fishing pretty good, but it’s a little beat up,” said Canterbury. “This tournament will be won off the bank, but there will be a lot of good finishes from shallow water. I think it will take between 82 to 86 pounds to win. Fish are biting. It could be won by a guy who mixes it up, shallow and deep.” 

Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., has been fishing Lake Eufaula since he was a kid. He still has images in his head of the legendary giant alligator in the “Witch’s Ditch” at Eufaula. “Everybody who saw it said it was the biggest alligator they’d ever seen in their life,” Kennedy said. “Its jowls were as big as basketballs.”

In the first two days of practice, Kennedy couldn’t help noticing all the aggressive bass in shallow water. “They were chomping in the grass,” he said after Monday’s practice. “There’s just a lot of 2 1/2- and 3 1/2-pounders. It’s pretty amazing how many are up there shallow still. 

“But it will be won offshore, cranking or on a swimbait or a jig or a spoon. It’s going to take big weight to win – over 80 pounds definitely. The 100-pound potential is still here.”

Takeoffs and weigh-ins will be held at Lakepoint State Park beginning at 6:25 a.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET daily. Social distancing requirements will be in effect.