The Eliminator Series: Lake Eufaula Heads-Up Tournament Diary
Mark Massey battles David Krantz in the Eliminator Series semi-finals.
Dave Krantz was on a good bite in Columbus. He spent 2 1/2 hours with the boat running, while Mark Massey stayed much closer to Cowikee Creek. In the end, less than a pound separated these two semi-final anglers.
On a super tough day at Eufaula, a keeper in the last 45 minutes propelled Mark Massey of Warner Robins to the finals of The Eliminator Series — and a guarantee of $1,000 and a shot at the $2,500 first-place prize — after beating Dave Krantz on a hot, cloudless, perfectly still day the first Thursday of October.
The Eliminator Series is GON’s unique heads-up bass fishing tournament where anglers compete one-on-one in progressive rounds. November’s championship match will be on Oconee as Mark goes head-to-head with David Millsaps.
Here’s the action from Eufaula.
Mark Massey, Eufaula
7:15 (Eastern Time): With a topwater bite on his mind, Mark gets his Triton on pad and trims up the 200 hp Mercury as he weaves through the channel markers of Cowikee Creek then turns north at the main lake heading up the Chattahoochee River.
7:21: First stop is a stretch of weed-lined bank on the left side of the main channel run. Mark’s first cast is at the mouth of a small cut, and he’s throwing a Cotton Cordell Crazy Shad — a 2 1/2-inch topwater plug with props fore and aft, and Mark’s plug had a very small spinnerbait-type skirt in the back.
7:28: Mark fished to the inside of the mouth of the cut then out the other side of the mouth — without a bite. He moved out a cast from the bank and made six casts to the point at the mouth of the cut with a Rapala DT10 crankbait.
7:31: Back to topwater, Mark begins fishing down the bank of the main run of the Chattahoochee. He stays close to the outside edge of a hydrilla bed, which extends out about 15 feet from the bank, and casts parallel along the outside edge of the grass.
7:36: Mark puts the Crazy Shad down and picks up a buzzbait. It has a white/chartreuse skirt and a white split-tail trailer.
7:43: A bass sucks in the buzzbait, and Mark sets the hook. Halfway to the boat, the bass makes a jump and throws the hook.
“I think that was a keeper,” Mark said.
7:48: A bass swirls on the buzzbait but doesn’t take it.
“There’s a pile of bream up around this grass. There ought to be some bass in here,” he said.
7:55: A bass takes the buzzbait, and Mark sets the hook. This one doesn’t get off, and his first keeper, a fat 15-inch largemouth, goes in the box.
8:01: Mark works up the bank, as he passes a river mile marker, he says, “From that marker up about 300 yards I caught 15 pounds last Sunday.”
8:05: Mark switches back to the Crazy Shad.
“They were missing the buzzbait last weekend, so I started throwing this slower bait and caught some nice bass,” he said.
8:07: A bass swirls at but misses the topwater lure. Mark quickly picks up a bubblegum Zoom Trick Worm and casts to the center of the widening rings of where the bass swirled. After two casts, he goes back to the topwater plug and gets back on the trolling motor.
8:10: Switches to the buzzbait.
8:14: Back to the Crazy Shad.
8:16: Mark tries a floating frog, a black Spro Pro Bronzeye Frog.
8:21: Back to the buzzbait.
8:28: The sun is up and on the water, and Mark goes to a 1/2-oz. Colorado-blade War Eagle spinnerbait with a chartreuse/white skirt.
8:32: Mark cranks the big motor for the first time since blast off and makes a short run up the river and stops on the opposite bank, which is still shady. His first casts are with the spinnerbait.
8:36: In a thick bed of hydrilla, Mark uses the frog, casting up on the mat of grass and pulling it off the edge.
8:38: The hydrilla thins out and some rip-rap rock lines the bank. Mark tries the spinnerbait.
8:42: Another short run up the river to the area near the mouth of Rood Creek.
“I’m going to hit a few spots real quick,” Mark says.
8:43: A bass smacks at the Crazy Shad but doesn’t take the lure.
8:47: Back to the buzzbait.
8:48: Paralleling the outside edge of the hydrilla, Mark’s buzzbait is sucked under, and he sets the hook. A bass makes a two quick jumps before Marks swings it in the boat. On the measuring board, it’s 1/2-inch below the 14-inch minimum.
8:51: Marks makes a short run up the river and back across to the Alabama side to the mouth of a small cut.
8:56: A bass swirls on the buzzbait but misses.
9:01: Another short run up the river and back across to the shady bank on the Georgia side. Mark makes two casts with the buzzbait, then tries the 1/2-oz. spinnerbait.
“If we don’t catch one here, we might have to go try to catch a deep fish,” Mark says.
9:05: He cranks the motor and points the Triton up the river.
9:11: Mark begins idling over the main river channel ledges while watching his Lowrance graph. When the graph paints over a huge brushpile, Mark throws out a buoy marker. He repeats the process of two other huge brushpiles that are along the channel ledge.
“There are some good bass here,” Mark says. “I caught two pretty quick yesterday that were both about three pounds. In this spot it’s better when they’re not pulling water. They’ll be right up in the brush, and you can catch them. When they start moving water, these bass right here seem to scatter, and I don’t catch them as good.”
The surface of the lake is dead still. There’s no water being pulled, and no wind. Mark begins fishing the brushpiles with a 3/4-oz. Ledgebuster spinnerbait. It had a chartreuse/blue skirt and willowleaf blades.
9:50: Mark tries a Texas-rigged, green-pumpkin Paca Craw, a five-inch crawfish soft plastic made by NetBait.
10:01: Back to the spinnerbait.
10:05: Mark is pulling the spinnerbait through one of the brushpiles when he gets a hit on the Ledgebuster. As he swings the fish in the boat, Mark says, “That’s the smallest fish I’ve ever caught right here.” It’s a fat spotted bass that measures 13 7/8 inches, barely below the 14-inch size minimum.
10:07: “Missed one,” Mark says. “He hit it on the fall. When I picked it up, he almost jerked the rod out of my hand.”
10:33: He tries the Paca Craw again.
10:46: “I’m going to hit this other brushpile one more time. I’m not going to sit here and die. I thought I’d get a fish an hour here. I’ll at least go and do something and have fun — and die,” Mark says.
11:03: Time to go. Mark heads south back down the river to a huge brushpile on the channel ledge in the Rood Creek area. He starts this time with the Rapala DT10 crankbait.
11:05: A very small bass tries to eat the crankbait, Mark’s third non-keeper as his one keeper is getting lonely in the box.
11:10: Mark tries the Paca Craw in the brush.
11:38: Another run, this one past the mouth of Cowikee Creek to a slough on the Georgia side. Mark stops out in the main lake, but he’s actually at a subtle creek channel ledge. He starts fishing out in the main lake almost where the creek-channel hits the river-channel ledge.
“I have gotten healthy here quick in the past,” Mark says as he begins fishing the crankbait. “There’s brush all along this little channel.”
For the next 45 minutes he alternates between the Ledgebuster spinnerbait, Paca Craw, and DT10 crankbait while following the channel in toward the mouth of the no-name slough.
12:24: A miss on the Paca Craw.
12:39: After working in to about 75 yards from the mouth of the slough, Mark idles back out toward the main river-channel ledge.
“If they’d turn the switch on at the dam and start moving water, we’d catch a limit right here,” Mark says while looking at his graph that is lit up around a big brushpile. “There’s shad. There’s fish.”
Mark switches to a deeper-running DT16 crankbait.
12:51: Back to the Paca Craw.
12:53: Mark sets the hook and connects on a fish. He swings in a bass that looks like it will keep, but on the board it is 13 15/16-inches long.
1:16: Mark finally gives up on his deep fish. He has less than an hour of fishing time left, and he decides to spend it hoping for a good bass in the shallow shade of Eufaula’s grass and shoreline vegetation. He passes the channel markers at the entrance to Cowikee Creek and follows his GPS across a flat at the mouth of Wylaunee Creek. He pulls up to the big area of lily pads at the mouth of Wylaunee and begins throwing the Spro frog.
“It’s nine feet deep on the outside edge of these pads, and there’s a ton of shade here,” Mark says.
1:28: Mark is still fishing hard, methodically casting and working the frog across the pads, letting it sit on the water for a moment in each hole. Mark makes a cast. When the frog hits the water, we both see the lily pads shake just behind the frog. Then water boils as a bass takes the lure. Mark sets the hook and muscles a bass across the top of the pads and to the boat. It’s a keeper, a 15 1/2-inch bass.
“If he’ll eat it, a 5-pounder will eat it somewhere in here,” Mark says.
1:51: A small bass tries to eat the frog.
2:15: Mark’s time is up. He’s fished hard all day, and his two keepers are far short of what he caught during practice.
Dave Krantz, Eufaula
8:27: After more than an hour run, Dave finally cuts the motor. He made a long haul up the Chattahoochee River into Columbus. When he arrives, Allen Burkhalter, Dave’s regular tournament partner, is on the bank. Allen works in Columbus and came to cheer on his buddy in the Eliminator semi-finals.
Dave starts fishing with a small Sammy around bridge pilings. The water is two to five feet deep and extremely clear. He leaves the pilings and chunks the bait at an underwater rock.
“If you can get here early enough, there will be a big one feeding there,” he said.
8:35: He switches to a Pop-R.
“This will burn you more than it’ll reward you; it’s a gamble (coming so far),” said Dave.
In practice Dave was on a big spotted-bass bite.
8:38: He throws a buzzbait and has a small fish swirl but miss it. The 1/8-oz. white bait has a chartreuse trailer.
“I don’t know what it is about spotted bass, but they love chartreuse,” said Dave.
8:45: “I can’t stand it any longer; I’m going to the jig,” said Dave.
He’s using a 1/4-oz. brown-skirted Eakins jig — which has several purple strands — with a green-pumpkin Zoom Fat Albert trailer. Moving north he’s fishing a rocky bank, letting the current carry the bait back down.
8:53: Goes back to a buzzbait but quickly returns to jig.
8:58: Misses a fish.
8:59: “I had three, 3 1/2-lb. bass up here in practice,” said Dave.
He adds Kick’n Bass garlic spray to the jig.
“I think the spray masks scents like sunscreen and gas,” said Dave.
9:05: Throws the buzzbait.
9:10: Switches back to jig heading upstream along the same rocky bank.
9:13: Gets to some eddies and throws a buzzbait.
9:16: He throws a Chatterbait around some rocks, and a fish chases the bait out but doesn’t eat it.
9:18: Picks the jig back up.
“At times when they’re not real active, you better use something pretty subtle,” said Dave.
9:23: Fishing a small rocky point with an eddy, he hooks a bass but it comes unbuttoned.
9:25: Dave throws onto a rocky point that has pieces of a blowdown in the water and hooks Keeper No. 1. The fish measures 14 1/2 inches.
9:35: Catches a 13-inch spot, a legal spot on Eufaula but Eliminator rules state all species of bass for the Eufaula event must be 14 inches.
9:43: Heads into a narrow pocket with swift-running water coming down rock walls on both sides. The area is pretty dangerous and shouldn’t be fished unless you’re experienced. Several times Dave’s boat crashed against the rip-rap bank. A fish immediately bites the tail of his jig’s trailer.
9:45: The back of the pocket is shaded, and he catches a short fish from the darker area.
9:50: Throws the Chatterbait several times and goes back to the jig.
9:55: Picks up a 1/4-oz. Spot Sticker with a watermelon-candy finesse worm. The tail has been dyed chartreuse.
9:56: Back to jig.
10:00: On his way out of the pocket, Dave catches another short spot on the rock wall in an area of fast-moving water. On the very next cast, he catches another short fish.
10:07: Keeper No. 2 hits the jig just off the rock wall. It’s a 14-incher. He heads 100 yards downstream.
10:23: Throwing a jig, he’s back to the point where he caught his first keeper.
“I like this jig; it has a good color, a small thin-wire hook,” said Dave. “It’s got a good hook-up ratio, although you couldn’t prove it with what I’m doing this morning. There’s a lot of little fish up here. It’s hard to detect strikes with a jig in current.”
10:25: He drifts south and fishes the long stretch of rocky bank that he had earlier fished up.
10:30: “It ain’t happening up here today,” said Dave. “The fish just aren’t active. I’ll drop down to 8-lb (test) and see if that makes a difference.”
10:33: “Look at that spotted bass — it’s 2 1/2 or three pounds,” said Dave. “Usually if you see them you can’t catch them.”
Dave goes below the fish and casts his jig back to the fish, no luck.
10:37: He continues downriver but changes to the Spot Sticker rig.
“I bet it’s going to take 10 pounds to win this thing,” said Dave.
10:45: He starts moving down the bank a little quicker throwing a small, homemade crankbait.
“It’s a great little shallow-running crankbait,” said Dave. “It’s great in wood cover. It has a wobble to it where he’ll come out and get it.”
10:47: Fishes bridge pilings with Spot Sticker and five minutes later changes back over the the jig.
10:55: At the next bridge, he sees a really nice fish just off a bridge piling — the water is less than three feet deep and super clear. Fishing with the jig, he hooks a fish.
“Look at the big one behind it,” said Dave.
He slings the fish in the boat. The fish is as close to 14 inches as it can get without being a legal keeper.
“That fish would have grown enough on the ride back to be 14 inches at the weigh-in,” Dave said later.
The fish is thrown back.
11:00: Dave misses a big fish.
“That’s the one I needed right there,” said Dave. “I bet it was four or five pounds. He came after it, and I set the hook when I saw its gills flare.”
11:12: Dave heads for the next bridge downstream.
“I think I made a bad mistake (coming up here), unless I can rally,” said Dave.
He spends about 20 minutes fishing around the bridge columns with with the Spot Sticker. He hooks a small bass, but it gets off.
11:35: Goes back to the bridge where where he missed the big fish and throws a jig at the same area.
11:38: Hooks a short fish that spits the bait out.
11:49: He starts fishing north.
“I’m seeing a lot of fish swimming,” said Dave. “When you see that, they ain’t biting. I may have to go (south) to the pads and catch two 6-pounders and work this thing out.”
11:53: Lunchtime. Allen Burkhalter is back to check on Dave.
“How many you got?” Allen asked.
“Two,” Dave hollers.
“Better hurry up,” said Allen.
12:02: Dave is back in the narrow pocket. He casts jigs and the wide-wobble crankbait with no luck.
12:17: With about two hours of fishing time left, he heads south.
1:10: Dave starts fishing shallow lily pads in River Bend with a white and green plastic frog made by Scumfrog.
“Usually you can hear bream popping, which gets the bass active,” said Dave. “I don’t see any movement.”
1:30: Fishes a new section of pads. He uses 65-lb. Power Pro braided line.
“It’ll cut those pads,” said Dave.
Dave said the pad pattern will work better in November, when it cools off.
“Sometimes on a full moon the fish will get a little active in the middle of the day,” said Dave.
The following day would be the full moon.
1:40: Dave breaks out a red shad Zoom Ol Monster worm. He starts fishing it just inside the edge of a shallow, very narrow grass line. The Ol Monster is Texas-rigged with a 5/0 hook and a 5/16-oz. weight.
“I need a heavier weight to penetrate that grass,” said Dave.
2:00: With 46 minutes to get back, Dave heads for the weigh-in.
The Eliminator Series
Eufaula, October 5
Angler: Mark Massey
Average Weight: 1.83
Big Fish: 1.93
No. of Bass Caught: 6
No. of Keepers: 2
Short Fish: 4
Angler: Dave Krantz
Average Weight: 1.45
Big Fish: 1.74
No. of Bass Caught: 7
No. of Keepers: 2
Short Fish: 5
The Championship Match-up: Jim Windham, a regular on the tournament scene, was at the Eufaula weigh-in when Mark Massey learned he’d be in the Eliminator Series finals.
“Well… you got your work cut out for you on the next one,” Jim cackled.
Mark will go on to the finals to face David Millsaps, who had a 20-lb. sack of West Point largemouths in his first-round of Eliminator competition and a little over nine pounds last month at Lanier. Will he stay on a roll?
Mark is strong on Oconee. He and Scot Carnley finished No. 2 in GON’s 2005 Team Power Rankings listing, and most of those points came from fishing Oconee and Sinclair.
Look for results next month.
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