By Todd Ceisner
Lake Eufaula is back.
After cycling up and down over the past several years, the impoundment along the Alabama-Georgia border finds itself back on the tournament landscape and back as one of the premier bass lakes in the southeast, if not the country.
In the span of two weeks, the lake hosted an FLW Series events featuring many of the top local and regional anglers who pulled the veil back on how good the ledge fishing can be there, followed by the Elite Series, which put on a master class on brush pile fishing.
While the rising water pushed a bunch of fish (and competitors) to the bank, brush piles ruled the roost. It was a numbers game for most. With thousands of manmade piles scattered around the lake, there were plenty of good options, but also a fair number of duds. Timing was critical as was making sure your next stop was a pile that hadn’t just been fished.
Following is a rundown of how the remainder of the top 5 finishers filled their weigh-in bags last week.
2nd: Scott Canterbury
> Day 1: 5, 20-12
> Day 2: 5, 20-13
> Day 3: 5, 22-13
> Day 4: 5, 19-03
> Total = 20, 83-09
While Scott Canterbury caught a few key fish either flipping boat docks or slinging a frog near some shoreline cover, the majority of his fish were pulled out of or from around brush piles in 7 to 18 feet of water.
He cranked brush on day 1 when conditions were cloudy and breezy, then moved to a big, ribbon-tail worm along with a jig for the balance of the event.
“On the first day of practice, I started on brush and caught four or five that way,” he said. “I spent the rest of practice marking and idling. I didn’t know what I was on or whether I could catch 12 pounds or 17 or 20. I just knew I had a bunch of stuff to fish.”
He also benefitted from having been a captain in a high school fishing tournament at Eufaula around the same time last year.
“It seemed to help remembering what we figured out there,” he said. “I had some good shallow stuff found from that experience last year.”
He said it was important to have brush in various scenarios since it seemed as though the fish were on the move quite a bit.
“I had some on a flat, some out on the break and some on the bank,” he said. “The fish were moving so much and they were still moving out. They were coming to new stuff every day. A lot of it was about timing. A few guys were running the same ones and the key was pulling up to one that was fresh and hadn’t been fished in an hour.”
> Worm gear: 7’6” medium-heavy Halo Fishing Scott Canterbury Series casting rod, Ardent Apex Grand casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 15-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon line, 3/8- and 5/16-oz. unnamed worm weight, 5/0 Gamaksatsu offset round bend worm hook, 11” NetBait C-Mac worm (red bug, plum apple).
> Canterbury altered the weights based on the wind and depth he was fishing. He also said the plum apple was more productive during bright, sunny stretches while red bug was a better option when cloudy.
> Jig gear: 7’6” heavy-action Halo Fishing TI Series casting rod, same reel, same line (17-pound), 5/8-oz. Dirty Jigs Matt Herren Flippin’ Jig (green-pumpkin), NetBait Baby Paca Craw trailer (green-pumpklin candy).
> Cranking gear: 7’10” medium-heavy Halo Fishing Cranking II Series casting rod, same reel (6.5:1 ratio), same line (12-pound), Bagley Diving B2 (citrus shad).
Drew Benton split his time between brush piles and bream beds.
3rd: Drew Benton
> Day 1: 5, 20-12
> Day 2: 5, 18-12
> Day 3: 5, 18-04
> Day 4: 5, 24-08
> Total = 20, 82-04
Brush and bream beds were the main focal point for Drew Benton, who had to overcome the frustration of losing some key fish on days 2 and 3.
“I tried to look offshore, but the water was rising and that’s a bad recipe any time you’re to ledge fish,” he said.
He located a couple schools in practice, but the quality was good enough to entice him to commit more time to that program. The brush he fished was in 6 to 15 feet of water and the bream beds were as deep as 12 feet.
He followed the same program each day, picking off a couple keepers early on, then waiting out a lull until 11 a.m. or so. After that, the bait fish seemed to move up higher in the water column and the bigger fish seemed to follow them, positioning on top of the brush.
“The first cast I’d make was with a single swimbait,” he said. “Usually, I’d wind it across the top of the pile and the biggest one would eat it.”
If conditions were windy or cloudy, he’d opt for a 1 1/4-oz. spinnerbait instead. If those two options failed to produce, he pivoted to a big, ribbon-tail worm before opting for a shaky-head as a clean-up offering.
“If I didn’t get any bites, I knew something was off,” he said. “Every good pile, I’d get bites on the shaky-head at least. That was a good indicator.”
> Swimbait gear: 7’8” heavy-action Phenix Rods M1 casting rod, unnamed casting reel, 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/4-oz. Nichols Lures weedless jig head, 5” Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad (ayu).
> Spinnerbait gear: 7’7” medium-heavy Phenix Rods MBX casting rod, same reel, same line, 1 1/4-oz. custom Nichols Lures single willow spinnerbait (white), 5” Big Bit Baits Suicide Shad (ayu).
> Worm gear: 7’7” heavy-action Phenix Rods MBX casting rod, same reel, 20-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line, 3/8-oz. Elite Tungsten worm weight, 5/0 Owner round-bend offset worm hook, Big Bite Baits B2 worm (plum apple).
> Shaky-head gear: 7’ medium-heavy Phenix Rods MBX casting rod, same reel, same line as worm gear (15-pound), 1/2-oz. Owner shaky-head jig, 8” Big Bite Baits Finesse Worm (plum apple).
Brandon Cobb never made a cast at the bank at Eufaula.
4th: Brandon Cobb
> Day 1: 5, 19-03
> Day 2: 5, 21-00
> Day 3: 5, 19-05
> Day 4: 5, 20-00
> Total = 20, 79-08
It’s not often Brandon Cobbs pins all of his hopes on an offshore pattern, but that’s he earned himself a top-5 finish at Eufaula last week.
“I loved the tournament and I’m happy with my plan because I don’t fish offshore that often,” he said. “I am disappointed at how many fish were caught shallow and I never made a cast at the bank.”
He relied on ledges primarily on days 1 and 2 before focusing more on brush piles the rest of the way.
“It was one of those things where I knew I’d found the right kind of stuff, but I knew I didn’t have enough,” he added. “I was very confident in what I found, but I figured out I had to re-run stuff I found in one day.”
But ultimately, he had to incorporate another tactic and it paid off.
“I didn’t have a ton of places and they weren’t good all the time, but were good at times,” he said. “There was one specific ledge that was about a mile-long stretch. I had marked three schools on it, all with 100 fish. I could catch them at will. In the tournament, I never saw a bass on any of those places.”
He said the ledge fish behaved differently than what he’s accustomed to seeing on the Tennessee River lakes.
“On the Tennessee River, the fish are always there, but they don’t always bite,” he said. “At Eufaula, I’d idle the same place three to five times and there’d be a couple fish, then no fish, then 40 fish. It was weird. I’d never seen that before. Maybe it’s one of those rare situations where they have all that timber off those breaks and that would explain why they bite when they’re on the ledges because they’re there to feed.”
When he switched to brush, he said the isolated piles in 6 to 12 feet seemed to be holding more fish. Over the first three days, he relied solely on a worm and swimbait. On the final day, with the wind picking up a crankbait is what delivered his 20-pound stringer.
His FLW Tour experience at Eufaula in 2015 paid off as well.
“I never put waypoints back in my graph,” he said. “I’ll put them on a card by lake, but I never put them back in the graphs on a new boat, but I found so much brush 2015 I figured some might help.”
He figures 10 of places that helped him last week were places he’d caught fish at five years ago.
“There was one I remember what it looked like in 2015 and it still looks exactly the same,” he added. “I caught a bunch there this year.”
> Worm gear: 7’4” medium-heavy Ark Fishing Brandon Cobb Signature Series casting rod (not yet available), Abu Garcia Revo STX casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 16-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon line, 1/2-oz. unnamed shakyhead jig, Zoom Mag U Tale worm (redbug).
> Swimbait gear: Same rod, same reel, same line, 3/8-oz. homemade jighead, 4” Zoom Swimmer (crystal shad).
> Cobb also threaded a 4” Swimmer on a 1/2-oz. Greenfish Tackle swim jig (white) when fishing brush piles that reached up higher in the water column.
> Cranking gear: 7’3” Ark Fishing cranking rod, same reel (6.6:1 ratio), same line (12-pound), Yo-Zuri 3DS Deep Runner (chartreuse blue).
Aside from day 1, Drew Cook was focused mostly on brush piles.
5th: Drew Cook
> Day 1: 5, 18-10
> Day 2: 5, 18-09
> Day 3: 5, 22-15
> Day 4: 5, 18-03
> Total = 20, 78-05
Like others, Drew Cook invested some time in practice searching along the ledges for schools of fish that he could rely on during the tournament.
“That wasn’t the deal (for me) so I put my eggs in the brush pile basket,” he said.
And so ensued a tireless search to find as many as possible because when fishing brush piles, it’s a volume business – the more you can probe, the higher the likelihood that you’ll come across a few that will produce bites.
“I ended up figuring out probably about 10 that were the best ones,” Cook said. “But that didn’t happen until day 1 of the tournament.”
As the tournament wore on, he’d incorporate new ones into his rotation while revisiting productive piles.
“I tried to focus on less obvious places and places people weren’t idling,” he said, “but my best three were very obvious. They were in a saddle in 10 feet of water in between 6-foot flats.”
Targeting brush is one of Cook’s favorite ways to fish as it mimics Lake Talquin in Florida near where he lives. One key, he said, was keeping a liberal distance from each pile.
“I definitely tried to keep the first ring (on Lowrance LiveSight) at 100 feet,” he said. “I learned in the tournament that setting it at 60 feet I was able to be more efficient because I could throw past the pile 10 to 15 feet and work it past to work it 10 to 15 on my side and maximize the time my bait was in the strike zone.”
He also noted the bigger fish all seemed to be positioned on the left side of the brush each day. His suspicion was that it was due to the angle of the sun.
> Swimbait gear: 7’9” medium-heavy Dobyns Rods Champion XP swimbait rod, Shimano Curado DC casting reel, 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 9/0 3/8-oz Gamakatsu Spring Lock Monster hook, 7” Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad (chartreuse shad).
> Swim jig gear: 7’4” heavy-action Dobyns Rods Champion XP casting rod, same reel, same line, 3/4-oz. Nichols Lures Sabre swim jig (bombshell shad), 5” Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad trailer (chartreuse shad).
> Cook weighed one fish each day that was caught on the swim jig.
> Spinnerbait gear: Same rod as swim jig, same reel, same line, 1-oz. Nichols Pulsator single willow (#5) spinnerbait (bombshell shad), 4” Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad trailer (Albino shad).
> On day 1, when it was cloudy most of the day, the spinnerbait was highly productive.
> Worm gear: 7’5” medium-heavy Dobyns Rods Xtasy casting rod, same reel, same line, 3/8-oz. Titan Tungsten worm weigh, 6/0 Gamakatsu G-Finesse hybrid worm hook, Big Bite Baits B2 worm (red bug).
> Cook also mixed in the Big Bite Baits Kriet Tail Worm in red bug on an 8/0 hook paired with a 5/8-oz. worm weight.