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Lawrence survives tough final day to win at Eufaula

EUFAULA, Ala. – Heading into the season, the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals field was stacked with fascinating rookie talent, and some would say that Jake Lawrence led the pack. After a 2023 season at the lower levels that featured constant success, he entered national competition with two Toyota Series wins under his belt, plus a bunch of other tournament-fishing successes.

This week at Stop 4 Presented by E3 Sport Apparel at Lake Eufaula, Lawrence got it done at the Invitationals level (the third level he’s won at with MLF), which earned him a hefty payday, put him in the lead of the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year race and qualified him for REDCREST 2025.

After topping 20 pounds each of the first two days, Lawrence entered the final day with a moderate lead, and he needed about all of it to win. Weighing in 16 pounds, 4 ounces on Day 3, he totaled 59-10 for the win and the $115,000 top prize. In second, Paul Marks Jr. totaled 58-11, and Colby Miller rocketed up to third with 20-11 on Day 3, which gave him a 57-2 total.

Tennessee River skills translate to the Chattahoochee

One of the original ledge lakes, the best of the Tennessee River have a solid history on Eufaula. At the right time of year, the fish set up offshore a lot like they do on Kentucky Lake, Pickwick Lake or any of the other famous reservoirs on the chain. This week, to beat out a Top 10 filled with some of the best young talent and best locals that could be found anywhere, Lawrence was able to lean on his roots.

“I’ve spent very little time on Eufaula, but I have about 20 years’ worth of offshore fishing experience and knowledge to fall back on,” Lawrence said. “It’s something I take for granted, but to have that foundation of knowledge of offshore fishing, I’m comfortable out there; I love doing that. If I can make that happen, you bet that’s where I’m going to be.”

Lawrence got into the game early on Kentucky Lake, having grown up in the area and fished collegiately at Bethel College. Kentucky is where he got his first big win – a Toyota Series triumph in 2018, when he ran from Barkley south of Paris and blew the field away with three days of masterful fishing. This week, Lawrence put in his time behind the wheel to find the fish in practice, and then put it together on derby day.

“I really wasn’t exactly sure what I had,” he said. “A lot of us, including myself, spent a tremendous amount of time idling this week in practice, made very, very few casts, and so we weren’t really sure what we were on, or how well they would bite.”

Triggering bites others couldn’t pays off

 

Fishing schools in creeks and on the main river, Lawrence ended up relying on a handful of baits, one of which he thinks set him apart. Like many in the Top 10, he threw a few minnows on jigheads, including a Rapala CrushCity Freeloader and a Jenko Tremor Shad, on 3/16- to 1/2-ounce heads. Lawrence also dragged a jig a little, and a lizard on a Carolina rig, but the ace up his sleeve was a 3/4-ounce long bill Tennessee River Tremor Head with a 5-inch Castaic Jerky J.

“I didn’t see anybody else throwing it,” said the Tennessee pro of his scrounger setup. “Even though we were all rotating the same schools, I feel like I caught a couple each day that I don’t know how else I would have been able to trigger them – just because everything else I was throwing was the same as the rest of the field.”

Targeting the most tightly clustered portions of schools with the Tremor Head, Lawrence was able to catch some key fish on it each day.

“These were fairly small groups of fish, but inside of that group, there would be a smaller cluster that would be competitive and work with each other to bite,” he said. “I would pan through the school until I found that one little section.

“Once I found that, most of the time I would make my cast and just retrieve it,” he detailed. “You wanted to keep it about 2 or 3 feet off the bottom. I would speed it up and not stop it but slow myself back down. I wanted to envision one racing up to it, and I’d scurry it away, and then they’d basically run into it. You’d get 30 followers for every one that would touch it, and then you’d only catch one out of every four or five that would touch it. Usually, when they’re on that Tremor Head, you can’t get it through the school.”

The bite was not easy all tournament with plenty of pros fishing for hours with little to show for it, and some being in the right place at the right time for big flurries. That seemed to catch up to the whole field on the last day, when only Miller and Justin Barnes topped 20 pounds. Lawrence didn’t crack, though, and still brought enough back to Lakepoint Resort State Park at the end of it to earn the win.

“I expected to be able to pull up on my morning hole and get a 17- to 19-pound limit and cruise through day and free myself up to look for some new groups,” he said. “I was very fortunate yesterday to catch that bag early and gave myself three hours yesterday afternoon to look for some schools. Today, it was extremely tough to trigger a bite. I knew I had to continue to bounce the schools and run the schools as efficiently as I could.”

In the end, the former insurance salesman turned fishing guide turned tournament pro was able to defend his lead and come away with the trophy.

“There’s so many grimy days that we have, long days away from family, it’s days like today that push us through and keep us going,” he said with trophy in hand. “To be able to get the win here, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of; it’s something I’ve always wanted. When it’s gametime, it’s just to catch the next bass. To have it all come together this week, it’s fantastic, and I can’t thank everybody enough.”

Top 10 pros

1. Jake Lawrence – 59 – 10 (15) – $115,000 (includes $35,000 Phoenix Bonus)
2. Paul Marks Jr. – 58 – 15 (15) – $50,000
3. Colby Miller – 57 – 2 (15) – $20,000
4. Tucker Smith – 56 – 15 (15) – $18,000
5. Cal Lane – 56 – 5 (15) – $17,000
6. Justin Barnes – 55 – 12 (15) – $16,000
7. Adrian Avena – 54 – 11 (15) – $15,000
8. Kyle Hall – 52 – 09 (15) – $14,000
9. Dakota Ebare – 52 – 9 (15) – $13,000
10. Emil Wagner – 50 – 14 (15) – $12,000