Chris Zaldain is already hovering near the top of the leaderboard on Day 1, but he picked Caleb Sumrall as a guy fans should have their eye on here at the 2020 DEWALT Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula.
Sumrall might seem like an odd pick given the fact he’s known for being a shallow water vegetation assassin from the bayous of Southern Louisiana, and this derby will surely be dominated by the deep post-spawn river ledge bite that Zaldain has already capitalized on today.
But if you believe in signs – then heed Zaldain’s advice – because the only thing that broke Sumrall’s mental focus on his shallow-water game was spotting a very large gator floating in the takeoff harbor at Lakepoint State Park Marina.
“Oh my gosh, look at that thing, it’s gotta be 10-feet long!” said Sumrall in the midst of our interview minutes before Day 1’s competition began.
Suddenly, Sumrall seemed to feel right at home. The former petroleum supply yard worker who has spent most of his life running around the Atchafalaya Basin has seen his share of gators – and the size of this one impressed him.
The amount of shoreline vegetation at Lake Eufaula impresses him too. “I’m definitely confident around shallow vegetation. I’ve got 11 Kistler rods on the front deck, and 9 of ‘em are rigged for shallow vegetation,” said Sumrall.
“Look, I’m not ruling out the deep bite for a minute. I spent a ton of time the past two days marking waypoints out deep, so I for sure have that in my back pocket,” says Sumrall. “But I’ll probably spend 90% of my day fishing shallow with everything from buzzbaits to punch-weighted Texas rigs.”
Sumrall says he’ll lean on roughly 15 to 20 shallow water areas, and realizes he probably won’t be able to catch five fat keepers from a single spot. But he’s also highly confident he’ll have the chance to catch the sort of 5 to 7 pounders currently roaming the shallow water gator grass and water willow jungles while chewing on spawning bluegills around Eufaula’s shoreline.
“I absolutely believe the guy who wins this tournament Saturday will have to mix the deep bite with a few good fish from the shallows,” says Sumrall.
Sumrall has got plenty of deep-water waypoints, nine rods rigged for the shallows, and a feeling of being right at home here. So while Zaldain might currently be gunning for the lead himself, don’t ignore his advice to keep your eye on Sumrall too.