EUFAULA, Ala. – Bass Pro Tour angler Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Alabama, crossed the stage with a five-bass limit Saturday weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces, to win the final Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division event of the season – the Toyota Series at Lake Eufaula Presented by Chewalla Creek Marina – and earn the top payout of $79,300, including the lucrative $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus. Lucas’ three-day total of 15 bass weighing 51-13 earned him the victory by a 5-pound, 10-ounce margin over Orlando, Florida, pro Bobby Bakewell, who finished runner-up with 15 bass weighing 46-3 to earn $17,000.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Lucas said to MLF reporters after his victory. “To win on an inland lake that’s not tidal and not in the Great Lakes (region) is amazing.”
The victory marks Lucas’ first Toyota Series as a pro, and he said that it’s just as sweet of a win to him as any of his previous pro-level titles.
“I’ve always said that the level of competition in the Toyota Series is as hard to win at as one of the bigger pro events, because you have the best locals in all of these events,” he said. “A lot of these people, you may not have heard of them before, but they’re hammers here. I’ve always respected these guys and so to be able to win against them is a big deal to me. It’s a great payday too.”
After catching his bass primarily with a spinnerbait and crankbait combination targeting the shad spawn early in the event, Lucas abandoned it quickly on Day 3. Plan B included working slowly and methodically to fish his way into the right caliber of fish. Lucas spent the final day slowly upgrading his catch as the day wore on.
“My plan worked, and everything came together,” he said. “Today it got calm and sunny. I picked up a 5-inch Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg and just got to dragging it really slow. It was just slow and steady bites; you know every time I would catch one, I would upgrade. It just all worked out.”
Lucas focused on shallower fish on the final day, opting to target fish that were more lethargic and just finishing up spawning, or fish that were transitioning out of the spawning phase prior to their migration to deeper water.
“I think some of the fish I was catching today were still late spawners,” he said. “I was targeting 4 to 8 feet of water and just fishing rock, stumps, and some gravel spots. Just trying to fish slowly and pick everything apart.”
Lucas’ victory automatically qualified him to fish the Toyota Series Championship on Table Rock Lake in November. Lucas said that he now gets to stress a little less about the busy schedule he had planned for 2023, bouncing between both Toyota Series events and the Bass Pro Tour.
“I was planning on going to the Potomac and Lake of the Ozarks. So, to be able to make it by winning this event is great because now I don’t have to go to those two places. I was going to be pushing it schedule-wise. I didn’t know if I could even do it for sure, so winning this is awesome,” Lucas went on to say.
The top 10 pros on Lake Eufaula finished:
1st: Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 51-13, $79,300 (includes $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
2nd: Bobby Bakewell, Orlando, Fla., 15 bass, 46-3, $17,000
3rd: Kyle Austin, Ridgeville, S.C., 15 bass, 44-9, $12,750
4th: Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., 15 bass, 43-0, $10,750
5th: Michael Smith, Andalusia, Ala., 15 bass, 42-0, $9,750
6th: Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., 15 bass, 41-12, $8,375
7th: Ethan Greene, Eufaula, Ala., 15 bass, 41-8, $7,300
8th: Mike Cavender, Phenix City, Ala., 15 bass, 39-14, $6,300
9th: Joey Bloom, Winter Springs, Fla., 15 bass, 38-15, $5,300
10th: Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., 15 bass, 38-10, $4,200
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
On Thursday, pros Keith Bardolf of Abbeville, Alabama, and Robert Crosnoe of Inverness, Florida, split the $500 Day 1 Berkley Big Bass award in the pro division, as each weighed in a bass totaling 6 pounds, 6 ounces. On Friday pro Lonnie O’Neal of Valdosta, Georgia, earned the $500 Berkley Big Bass prize with a largemouth weighing in at 8 pounds, 15 ounces.
Robert Griswold of Lincolnton, North Carolina, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Saturday with a three-day total of nine bass weighing 23 pounds, 7 ounces. Griswold took home the top co-angler prize package worth $34,350, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Lake Eufaula finished:
1st: Robert Griswold, Lincolnton, N.C., nine bass, 23-7, Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard
2nd: Larry Mullikin, Jacksonville, Fla., eight bass, 23-6, $5,525
3rd: Roger Phillips, Delta, Ala., 10 bass, 22-4, $4,300
4th: William Lewis, Jacksonville, Fla., nine bass, 20-0, $3,650
5th: James Menold, Amory, Miss., six bass, 18-2, $3,150
6th: Joseph Chilcott, Williamson, Ga., eight bass, 17-12, $2,650
7th: William Grantham, Mobile, Ala., eight bass, 16-13, $2,150
8th: Dax Liner, Mineral Bluff, Ga., 10 bass, 16-3, $1,825
9th: Sean Wooten, Umatilla, Fla., six bass, 13-2, $1,530
10th: Stephen Draghi, Sparrow Bush, N.Y., five bass, 13-0, $1,440
Mullikin earned Thursday’s $150 Berkley Big Bass award after weighing in a 6-pound, 3-ounce largemouth, while the Day 2 $150 award went to Stephen Draghi, who brought a 7-pound, 7-ounce bass to the scale.
With the three regular-season events in the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division now complete, pro Chad Mrazek of Montgomery, Texas, was crowned the 2023 Southern Division Pro Angler of the Year (AOY) and earned the $5,000 AOY bonus with a total of 749 points. Stephen Draghi of Sparrow Bush, New York, won the 2023 Southern Division Strike King Co-angler AOY race and the $2,000 AOY bonus with 747 points.
The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Eufaula Presented by Chewalla Creek Marina was hosted by the Eufaula Barbour County Chamber of Commerce. It was the third and final regular-season event for the Toyota Series Southern Division. The next event for the top 25 anglers in the Toyota Series Southern Division AOY standings will be the Toyota Series Championship at Table Rock Lake, Nov. 2-4, in Branson, Missouri. For a complete schedule of events, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International and Wild Card divisions. Anglers who fish in any of the six divisions or the Wild Card division and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning up to $235,000 and a qualification to REDCREST 2024. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard. The 2023 Toyota Series Championship on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, is hosted by ExploreBranson.com.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Toyota Series include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Black Rifle Coffee Company, E3, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Gill, Grundéns, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Next Gen Lithium, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.