Eufaula’s northern contingent

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L-R: Chris Groh, Cory Johnston, Jeff Gustafson, Seth Feider and Chris Johnston

Walter F. George Reservoir, or better known as Lake Eufaula, is regarded as a legendary big-bass factory. In fact, the historical aspects alone are worth investigating — especially with Eufaula, Ala., being Tom Mann’s hometown. A man whose name is synonymous with bass fishing’s early, ground-breaking days.

This lake was also the destination to one Jerry McKinnis’ early episodes of The Fishin’ Hole. It’s a great story you can read in McKinnis’ book Bass Fishing, Brown Dogs & Curveballs regarding that early show. They caught impressive numbers of huge Eufaula largemouth bass.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. A lot of technology has been developed to make finding bass more productive, such as the development of Humminbird — one of Mann’s brainchilds — in the town of Eufaula.

The production facility is still here, by the way.

At just over 45,000 surface acres, it’s a huge impoundment along the Chattahoochee River on the border of south Alabama and Georgia. There’s a lot of fish and structure to focus on, and any method you prefer to use can effectively catch fish at Eufaula. Of course, there are seasonal trends to focus on if you want to win tournaments, but you can find big bass just about anywhere all year long.

The lake is worth a spot on your bass-fishing bucket list.

It’s Southern in nature, and it certainly takes an experienced bass angler to ply the structural elements and depths to produce a winning limit of bass. And we’ll see first hand how the 87 Bassmaster Elite Series pros will do it this week at the 2020 DeWalt Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula.

There’s a group of anglers from the Great White North who represent an interesting level of experience. When the Elite Series visits lakes like Champlain in Eastern New York, Cayuga to the west, Detroit’s Lake St. Clair and the like, pros like Seth Feider, Chris Groh, Cory and Chris Johnston and Jeff Gustafson — among several others — will be in the mix.

But how will they fare in the Deep South in the heat of summer? They’ll endure and they’ll catch ‘em, that’s for sure.

Chris Groh, Illinois

Q: What about Eufaula reminds you of home?

A: “You know, it’s really not that different from some of the lakes I grew up fishing,” he said. “Relatively dirty water, heavily pressured and they demand time behind the steering wheel to crack the code. I’ve spent a ton of time looking around this lake, and it’s pretty familiar and comfortable in a lot of ways.

“I’m a Chain Rat, my home body of water is the Fox Chain, northwest of Chicago, so it gets really busy. To win tournaments there, you have to outwork your competition and find overlooked areas and patterns. Here at Eufaula, I’ve found something unique in an area that not many other anglers are fishing. Time will tell if it pays off or not, but it feels good and something I can build on. I’m feeling ratty.”

Cory Johnston, Ontario

Q: Compare Eufaula to your home lakes

A: I don’t think it’s anything like the lakes we fish at home, to be honest,” he said. “But that’s what I like about it. Fishing a place like Eufaula is something we had to learned since we’ve been coming down south — it’s really stretched us and taught us a lot. We fish the bank at home for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, so there is that similarity — boat position, casting technique and adjusting to the bite as it changes hour to hour. But really, it’s that way everywhere.

“This is a big body of water, and I like to divide it into sections, then focus on specific areas that I think looked the best while I was scouting. This time of year, at home you can catch good numbers of both species of bass on topwater, and the same is true here. But otherwise, it’s vastly different. I do think the winning weights will come from the ledges, and I plan on spending the bulk of my time focusing on those types of locations. Time in the driver’s seat is critical to learning a lake like this, almost as valuable as time with a rod in your hand.”

Jeff Gustafson, Ontario

Q: What about fishing your home body of water has prepared you to fish at Eufaula?

A: “Well, aside from the fact that I’ve fished here a couple times, and almost won a Tour event a couple years ago, my time driving my boat and graphing structure looking for walleyes up north is a big help,” he said. “This time of year, the ledge bite is going to be a factor, and that means looking at my Humminbird units searching for groups of fish along the deep breaks, sunken humps and river-channel edges, just like at home.

“The other comparison that’s worth mentioning, Eufuala is pretty big, and it gets extra big and bumpy when the wind blows out of the south. My time on Lake of the Woods, Sturgeon Bay and many of the other big lakes in the North give me confidence in navigating across this lake when the wind blows. That also means it’s important to slow down and focus on smaller areas, otherwise you’ll get intimidated by the size. They’re here, and they’re big.”

Chris Johnston, Ontario

Q: How can you apply your fishing experience in Canada to what you’re seeing at Eufaula?

A: “I’ve spent a ton of time back at home graphing for deep-water smallmouth, and locating largemouth bass staged along the ledges here is very similar,” he said. “One of the biggest differences is at home if you see them, they’ll usually bite, but that’s not necessarily the case here. I’ve also noticed that the fish in Eufaula tend to group up on certain spots for one reason or another, and they do the same back home. The big difference, however, is the bass in this lake are notorious for being there one day and gone the next. One day you can pull up to a spot, make 10 casts and catch 23 pounds, then come back the next under the exact same conditions and they’ll be gone. The fish at home are more predictable and homebodies. They aren’t as likely to leave good spots as the fish here are.

“Big bass in both places will humble you, locating the winning fish takes a similar approach in Canada and in Alabama — you’ve got to find them first. I think that the time you spend looking for structure is essential to being consistent. The bottom line is if they aren’t there, you can’t catch them.”

Seth Feider, Minnesota

Q: What fishing experience growing up can you rely upon to find fish at Eufaula?

A: “Well, not much. But there is a surprising amount of pressure on Minnetonka, and that’s helped me get around pressured waters in the South, too,” he said. “The other comparison I’ve been able to rely on is locating structure on my Humminbird Mega 360, positioning the boat on each piece of structure and catching fish from it, which is exactly how I like to fish. Believe it or not, there are some subtle similarities to Mille Lacs.

“Eufaula is a great lake; I love fishing here — even if just for fun. I’ve found a lot of shoreline weeds that remind me of home, and I may or may not have caught some fish near those weeds this week. The ledges are going to be busy, and I don’t like fishing in crowds. Finding unpressured water will be key this week to stay consistent. I’m feeling good about it.”