Final thoughts from the Lake Eufaula Open

Up to this point in the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by SEVIIN season, Jack York has quietly climbed up the Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifier standings. But by notching his first Top 10 of the season, the Lake Fork guide made a statement at Lake Eufaula.

With his eighth-place finish in Oklahoma this week, York finds himself inside the Top 9 in Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifier points with four events to go in the season. York opened the season with a 96th at Okeechobee, followed by a 54th at Ouachita before securing two Top 30 finishes at Santee Cooper and Logan Martin. 

“All I’ve ever wanted to do (is fish the Elite Series),” York said. “We are going to keep fishing these Opens until it happens. Hopefully we will make it happen this year. 

“I’m just kind of going with the flow and not getting set into anything. I feel like I’m fishing more freely.”

2023, York’s first season as an Open’s angler, started out with such promise. He notched a six-place finish at the season opener at Lake Eufaula Alabama, but failed to notch another Top 30 finish until the final event of the season at the Harris Chain of Lakes. He suffered a 143rd at the St. Lawrence River and a 127th place finish at Lake of the Ozarks as well.

York has learned from all of the disappointments of last season, notably becoming more comfortable finding bites and patterns he didn’t know existed in practice.  

“Last year was a learning curve for me fishing around this many boats. And everyone catches them every time,” York said. “The biggest thing for me has been getting in a groove. My plans A,B and C have never worked this year. So figuring out what the next move is has been working this year. I don’t know if I’m doing something right or wrong, but everything has been smooth.” 

Trusting his fishing instincts paid off in a big way at Santee Cooper, when he fished almost entirely new water to notch a 21st place finish.

“The theme of this year has been horrible practices. Last year, I had great practices and then bad events. This year, I’m having horrible practices and then figuring it out as we go. Santee Cooper was the turning point to me. I literally fished new water the whole tournament and caught 20 something both days.”

Practice at Lake Eufaula had not been particularly good for York either, but he made the most of a tournament where keeper bites were hard to come by.

“I was telling my buddies that I thought this tournament could make or break you. I really didn’t know if I could catch a freaking keeper after the practice I had. It worked out great and I’m super grateful for it.”

Fothergill’s giant bass

Speaking of helping themselves in the points race, Easton Fothergill made the biggest stir on the final day by catching an 8-12 largemouth around midday. That bass lifted him to victory and to a berth in his second consecutive Bassmaster Classic. 

He also leads the EQ standings heading into the three northern events on the schedule, one of which (Leech Lake) is in his home state of Minnesota. 

“When I caught my fifth keeper, I thought to myself ‘Oh I got some more EQ points,’” Fothergill said. “I can’t believe I caught that bass. When that thing jumped out of the water… I don’t even know what happened, I’ll have to go back and watch the video.”

After the final day of practice, Fothergill said this lake reminded him of Milford Lake, the reservoir he won the 2023 College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s. Same feeling, same result. 

Fothergill’s bass is the largest caught in the two years the Opens have come to Eufaula, unseating Matt Messer’s 8-2 largemouth from 2023. 

Top Presentations 

A mix of baits were photographed during the Top Lures session before the final day. Classic Oklahoma baits like a squarebill and a jig made an appearance. A drop shot was also a popular choice amongst the Top 10 and Trey Swindle utilized a Damiki presentation throughout the tournament.

While it had been mentioned on stage during the calmer days, a topwater bait did not play as much on the final day with the winds picking up across the lake.

Fothergill, meanwhile, landed nearly every bass on a Neko rig but needed to move shallow in the final hours of the tournament to seal his winning limit with a ChatterBait.

Slow mornings

Similarly to the first couple days of competition, anglers struggled to fill early limits on Lake Eufaula. None of the Top 10 anglers landed five keeper bass until around 11 a.m. CT. While hot and sunny conditions persisted, the wind picked up across the lake on the final day, forcing anglers to make a couple adjustments. 

Turning a season around

Several Elite Series pros hope their top finishes at Eufaula will generate some positive momentum for the home stretch of the Elite season after lackluster starts. Kenta Kimura (64th in Progressive AOY points) claimed a 14th place finish this week followed by Luke Palmer (58th in AOY) in 15th. Oklahoma’s John Soukup (89th in AOY) also finished 19th with 25-4.