EUFAULA, Okla. — Seeking shelter from the storm proved key to Josh Wray’s B.A.S.S. Nation Central Divisional win Friday on Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula.
On many parts of the 100,000-plus acre lake, heavy rain and persistent lightning prompted several competitors to seek shelter for an hour or more. But while they were waiting it out, Wray was filling out his limit — without getting wet.
“When the storm hit, we pulled up into a big box culvert at this spot I’d been saving,” said the angler from Omaha, Ark. “Current was funneling through there from the main lake, going away from the nose of my boat, and I was making casts from inside there — out to the mouth of the culvert — and they were stacked up there. I filled out my limit, and we didn’t even get wet.”
His five-fish limit weighed 14 pounds, 9 ounces, which was more than enough to best Day 2 leader Preston Frazell, of Cleveland, Okla., who brought only 11-13 to the scales. Wray’s three-day total weight was 41 pounds, 5 ounces. Frazell’s total was 39-9.
An Arkansas B.A.S.S. Nation angler, Wray credited his Louisiana Nation co-angler, Destre DeDeaux, for sportsmanship and selflessness that proved instrumental in his win. Although Wray’s Power-Poles helped keep his boat positioned in the culvert as current rushed through, DeDeaux helped even more.
“He was holding onto the wall, keeping me from getting swept out over where the fish were positioned,” Wray explained. “If we would have gone over them even once, they would have spooked.”
Wray had two fish in his livewell when he and DeDeaux pulled into the culvert. He caught three there on a homemade perch-pattern spinnerbait — one of which was a 5-pounder. He didn’t catch another keeper the rest of the day.
“I landed five today, mainly because of my partner,” he said. “He’s the man. I’m taking out him for ribeye tonight.”
Far enough down in the standings to not have a chance to qualify for the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, DeDeaux didn’t make a cast all day, giving Wray access to all the fish on any given spot. In 2011, Wray and DeDeaux both qualified for the championship, fishing out of the same boat.
“He knew that I had a shot at making it again and winning overall, so he was my net man and cheered me on the whole time,” Wray said. “That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Wray caught most of his fish throughout the tournament on the spinnerbait and a 5/16-ounce brown jig with a watermelon green Yum Money Craw trailer. He mostly targeted channel swings and big boulders.
“It had to be a channel swing, the boat had to be sitting in about 8 to 10 feet of water, and rocks at least half the size of your boat or bigger,” he said. “I just concentrated on single rocks.”
He found the boulders in practice and marked them with waypoints. “I could see them down in the water when the sun would get up, so I just drove around in practice, marking rocks.”
The top angler from each state now advances to the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 6-8, on Louisiana’s Ouachita River. The anglers who win their divisions at the championship will advance to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell.
In finishing runner-up to Wray on Friday, Frazell was the top angler for the Kansas B.A.S.S. Nation.
Other contenders that qualified for the National Championship include Albert Collins, Texas; Mark Wiese Jr., Mo.; Lee Wubbels, Neb.; David Cavell, La.; John Soukup, Okla.; and Teb Jones, Miss.
Oklahoma won the team competition, with 104 bass for 257 pounds, 13 ounces. The victory earned them a Skeeter/Yamaha boat package valued at $40,000.
Alex Torkelson and William Valdez of the Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Nation won the high school team competition, with a two-day combined limit of nine bass for 22 pounds, 15 ounces. Their weight counted toward the adult team’s win.
The Carhartt Big Bass award was presented to Frazell for his 7-pound, 1-ounce bass.