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Leo Osborne’s Eufaula, OK Flashback

Major League Fishing pros who find themselves mentally rattled by fast rising muddy water at this week’s Millertech Stage Four Bass Pro Tour event on Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma might want to ask, “What would Leo do?” 

This very same week in 1999, Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma water levels were right at normal elevation when pros began practice. Then, storms and torrential rainfall saw the massive reservoir rise more than four feet by Day 1 of competition, a mirror image of what’s happened in the shadow of rough storms and tornado sightings the past five days.

Local fishing legend and lifetime Crowder, OK resident, Leo Osborne pitched a uniquely colored plastic worm to flooded bushes back in ’99 and notched the biggest win of a fishing career decorated with wins and high finishes on the sprawling 108,000-acre lake. 

The event was the Bassmaster Central Invitational. The former machine shop owner and previous Dr. Pepper delivery route driver recalls getting several bites in practice with longtime best buddy, Orlean Smith before storms forced them off the water, and sent them running to their trucks. 

Rained-out for hours, their practice session was strong enough that Osborne actually believed he and Smith had located the winning area, whether it would be himself or another angler, he truly believed the area would ultimately produce the winning weight.

And it did. Osborne caught 50-pounds of largemouth in three days from his favorite bushes, and while other competitors crowded him on the water amid the final two days of competition, he kept his head down, stayed in the general area, and kept pitching his Gene Larew electric blue worm with a white tail — at one point catching twin 5-pounders off the same exact flooded persimmon tree. 

“A lot of guys commented after I won that they’d never seen a worm that color. I told them neither had the bass. That’s why it worked so well,” laughs the good-humored Osborne who still lives in Crowder and will soon celebrate his 81st birthday. 

His first-place prize was $16,000 cash and a brand-new boat valued at $32,000. So, what would the former little league baseball coach tell anglers to do this week? 

“They’ll be a bunch of them too busy staring at that sonar screen to consider flippin’ bushes, but I’d tell them to get in those flooded bushes, and don’t come out until your boat carpet is covered in stray limbs and willow leaves, that’s when you know you were fishing as thorough as you need to,” he grins.

Yup, no question about it, he’d be pitchin’ soft plastics to flooded bushes this week. 

That’s exactly what Leo would do.