Since B.A.S.S. hasn’t visited Lake Eufaula in 14 years — and since he’s been busy on the Bassmaster Elite Series — Alabama pro Matt Herren hasn’t visited Lake Eufaula much the past few years.
But there was a time when it was a huge part of his life.
“My dad used to take us every summer down below Walter F. George Lock and Dam,” Herren said. “Now that was in July and it was hot, so we always fished at night. But we caught fish like crazy.
“The first 7-pound bass I ever caught was below that dam.”
Herren said he remembers times when there wasn’t a hotel room to be found in the city of Eufaula on Friday, Saturday and Sunday because people flocked to the lake from all over the country.
He earned his first plaque with B.A.S.S. at the Alabama Invitational on Eufaula in 1994 for finishing what he jokingly termed “a smoking 44th place.” That was when B.A.S.S. gave plaques to anyone who finished in the money — and that plaque still hangs on the wall of Herren’s Ashville home.
Another event that helped launch Herren’s pro career was the B.A.S.S. National Federation Divisional Tournament he won on Eufaula in 2000. He jokes that he “hasn’t aged a day” from the picture of him with that championship plaque 20 years ago — and I don’t know if he’s been caught in some sort of time warp or what, but he really hasn’t changed that much.
Lake Eufaula, on the other hand, has changed quite a bit, according to Herren.
“For one thing, there’s grass in the lake where there didn’t used to be any,” he said. “But there’s also as many brushpiles on this lake as I’ve ever seen anywhere.
“I’m personal friends with Eufaula Mayor Jack Tibbs, and I told him I don’t know how anybody in Eufaula ever has time to work a job. They spend all of their time putting out brushpiles.”
Herren credits Tibbs with the dramatic upswing of the lake.
“One of his main goals when he took office was to work on the Corps of Engineers to get them to keep the water level right during the bass spawn,” Herren said. “Years ago, before that happened, you could go down there and find hundreds of bass on a Friday. Then you’d come back Saturday, and all of those beds would be out of the water.
“Jack helped get a handle on all of that — and that’s made this lake special again.”