Other than the pressure to find more offshore mega-schools than 86 other top pros, perhaps the biggest challenge during practice for the DEWALT Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula is packing enough food in the boat cooler to fuel a 14-hour practice day.
“I cooked kielbasa last night for Jay Yelas, Scott Canterbury, Wes Logan and myself, and I’ve been eating the leftovers most of the day. But here it is nearly 6 o’clock in the evening, I’ve been on the water 13 hours so far, and I’m down to eating Smucker’s Uncrustables,” said Matt Arey, late Monday afternoon. He was near the end of his second consecutive 14-hour day of practice.
The official sunrise in Eufaula, Alabama this week is right around 5:30 a.m., but there’s plenty of casting light long before that. So this bunch of hyper-competitive pros is launching around 5 a.m. – and roughly 14 hours later – at about 7 p.m. — they’re finally loading it back on the trailer.
Eufaula has hosted 16 previous B.A.S.S. events, but it’s been awhile since the last one — 14 years to be exact — and this legendary 45,000-acre reservoir, that’s home to Humminbird and Mann’s Bait Company, has gotten real healthy since then.
“I think you’ll need to average 14-pounds a day just to make the top-40 cut after two days,” Arey said. “And I also think fans are going to be pretty surprised to see 6- and 7-pounders caught shallow here. Maybe not a ton of those, but you can bet they’ll be a few of those random giants roaming shallow and eating bluegill that will get caught this week.”
Fans can also count on 20-pound limits being the necessary average for the guy who eventually claims the $100,000 on Saturday afternoon. Arey said he’ll be shocked if it’s not won away from the bank around deeper postspawn locations.
“I’ll have spent 28 hours on the water after the first two days of practice — and 20 of those hours were spent never making a cast while riding around looking at my Lowrance units for offshore sweet spots and getting the tops of my knees sunburned,” Arey grinned.
As far as lures … count on seeing plenty of big crankbaits, long plastic worms, swimbaits and magnum-sized 6- to 8-inch flutter spoons cast during live coverage of the event on ESPN2 several hours each day beginning Wednesday at 8 a.m. EST/7 a.m. CST.
But on Tuesday, count on Arey packing plenty of Uncrustables and raingear for another long day of practice. The kielbasa is long gone.