Thursday, July 25, 2024

Fluctuating water to factor greatly into Bassmaster Open at Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma


The 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Eufaula presented by SEVIIN will be held June 20-22 in Eufaula, Okla. 

Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.

June 14, 2024

Fluctuating water to factor greatly into Bassmaster Open at Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma

EUFAULA, Okla. — The water’s “in the bushes,” but the level to which it retreats or advances will be the key determinant for the 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Eufaula presented by SEVIIN.

Competition days will be June 20-22, with daily takeoffs from Nichols Point at 6 a.m. CT and weigh-ins each day back at Nichols Point at 2 p.m.

Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Soukup lives about an hour and a half from this 102,000-acre Canadian River reservoir — a lake he’s fished since his childhood. Water level’s his key metric, and about two weeks out from the tournament’s commencement, Eufaula had risen well past normal pool.

“It’s a massive body of water and it kinda spreads out really far,” Soukoup said. “Probably the biggest thing that can be a factor right now is we’ve had a lot of rain in Oklahoma and the lake’s (4 1/2 feet) high.

“It’s Oklahoma fishing; if the water’s high, it will be a bush-flipping, old-school, shallow-water derby. When the water’s up 2 feet, there’s a lot of shallow (habitat) like willows and buckbrush, but when it’s up 4 to 5 feet, there’s a lot more water the fish can be in.”

As Soukup said, Oklahoma fish like to live shallow this time of year, but should the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decide to start pulling water out of Eufaula, the result will make the lake fish smaller. Falling water panics fish, as their diminishing habitat prompts mass movement to safer depths. Moreover, a sudden increase in moving water creates productive feeding areas.

“It’s not a current lake like a TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) lake, but if they suck the water out of the bottom end, there’ll be some funnel current spots for guys to hit,” Soukup said. “But it’s not a ton of places, so guys could potentially be stacked on each other.”

Conversely, should the region see more significant rain prior to the tournament, that could create a too-much-of-a-good-thing scenario. As Soukup explained, water in bushes means fish in bushes, however, when that water extends significantly farther, navigational access can become limited for most tournament boats.

“If we get more rain and the water gets too much higher, then it’s gonna be a difficult derby,” Soukup said of the lake’s mostly flat composition. “The fish will spread out everywhere.

“The perfect scenario would be where the water’s about 4 to 5 feet high now and it drops about a foot a week until the tournament (so that) when we get there, it’s only a couple feet high. That will allow time for a lot of fish to move into the shallows and get comfortable up there, without the water flying out of there.”

As Soukup pointed out, Lake Eufaula is fed by the Deep Fork, North Canadian and South Canadian rivers, along with several creeks. This complements the lake’s rocky parts with a lot of sandy, silted-in flat areas. The lake also holds a broad spectrum of water clarity, from good visibility to Oklahoma red mud.

“There’s a lot of dead water, and the key thing for guys to figure out is where that is,” Soukup said. “The crazy thing about the dead areas is that you might catch a couple 5-pounders in practice and you’ll think you have something found, but it’s not something that’s going to produce in a tournament.”

Soukup, who finished sixth at the 2023 Open at Lake Eufaula, said that event was more of an offshore game in brushpiles and rockpiles. He’s betting on the shallow stuff this time around, with the tried-and-true Oklahoma stalwarts — flipping and spinnerbaits —  doing much of the heavy lifting.

“If the water comes down, there’ll be some brush in play,” Soukup said. “I don’t think it will be extremely deep brush; more the shallow- to mid-depth brush, along with rock. Drop shots, jigs and shaky heads will work (in this scenario).

“The spawn will be 99% done, but we could have a little bit of shad spawn. I think the major factor will be figuring out what the water will be doing. It’ll be a postspawn-summer time frame, but that high water could interrupt the pattern of the fish going out deep.”

Understandably, the water level storyline will bear significant impact on weight expectations. Soukup said that ideal scenario of a steady decline leading up to the event would likely see strong catches throughout the field. Dramatic changes, up or down, will impose broad limitations.

“This tournament’s really going to be hit or miss because of water fluctuation,” Soukup said. “If we show up and they’re all stacked up shallow, it’ll take 18 to 20 pounds a day to win. The miss part is that, if we show up and the water is 9 feet high or they suck the bottom out overnight, it will be pretty tough.”

This tournament marks the halfway point of the nine-event Opens season. Anglers fishing all nine events in the Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifiers Division are vying for one of nine available spots on the 2025 Bassmaster Elite Series

The leaders for those spots through five events are: first, Evan Kung, 747 points; second, Dakota Ebare, 714; third, Easton Fothergill, 678; fourth, Cody Meyer, 661; fifth, Brandon McMillan, 660; sixth, Matt Adams, 656; seventh, Paul Marks, 651; eighth, Josh Butler, 647; and ninth, Bobby Bakewell, 640. The Lake Eufaula event is being hosted by Visit Lake Eufaula.

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