EUFAULA, Ala. – Randy Haynes may be soft spoken and unassuming, but when it comes to catching bass offshore, there are few better in the world. After two consecutive days of 17-pound stringers, Haynes busted open the fourth Walmart FLW Tour qualifier of the year with a 22-pound, 2-ounce bag.
The words “awful, slow and terrible” are rarely, if ever used to describe a 22-pound stringer caught in a major bass tournament. But that’s exactly how Haynes termed his third day on Lake Eufaula. What bothers him is instead of catching 40 and 50 fish per day like on the Tennessee River, Haynes caught only seven fish Saturday and two were small spotted bass. But he’s clearly around the right quality.
“I’m just hitting my spots,” said the humble Haynes, who is fresh off a dominating victory at the EverStart Series event on Pickwick Lake. “Some of my places have dried up, but I’ve found some new places too. I’m lucky that the bites that I had today were better bites. I hadn’t caught one over 4 pounds this week, but I weighed in three over 4 pounds today. At 8 a.m. I caught a 6-pounder and I screamed like a little girl.”
A day ago, Haynes revealed that he was throwing Strike King 6XDs and 5XDs in a variety of colors. Today he backtracked and refused to name any baits, other than that he’s using “a bunch of things.”
“I only have five or six different areas that I make sure that I always hit. I’m throwing several different baits, but I’ve got a couple of them that I’m really dialed in on.”
With a total weight of 57 pounds even, Haynes has over an 8-pound lead heading into the final day.
“Honestly, I’m just trying not to fall on my face. I’ve been consistent and if I can keep being consistent I should have a chance. But only getting seven bites in a day is scaring me to death. I don’t like it. I like the Tennessee River where you get bites all day.”
Haynes claims he’s still not fishing up to his standard. He’s learning and getting more comfortable on the Chattahoochee, but it baffles him to catch only a fish or two max out of an entire school.
“I think I’m slowly figuring out what is happening. The lake is getting smaller and smaller to me. It’s starting to get like Kentucky Lake. I’ve got a nice little run going, but I know darn well it can end at any second. My weights are going up, but my numbers are going down. I only managed seven keepers today, when I had 20 to 25 on Thursday and 10 to 12 yesterday. It’s getting to be slim pickings.”
While JT Kenney rose from third to second, he was visibly frustrated at weigh-in, largely because of the distance Haynes has put between himself and the rest of the field, but also due to the grind of being on the road for five consecutive weeks.
“I only caught five today and I had been catching a lot more,” said the Straight Talk Wireless pro. “I caught one on a Carolina rig, one on an Alabama rig, two on Strike King crankbaits and my biggest fish came on a big spinnerbait.”
Kenney’s five keepers weighed 14 pounds, 3 ounces, giving him 48-9 for the tournament.
“It’s frustrating, you mark all these fish, but it’s so hard to get them to fire. I don’t stop and fish until I actually see them on the Lowrance, but you’re lucky to get one off a school. I just can’t believe that I’ve picked off all the fish in my places. They’re not out yet that good, but there’s no way I’ve picked them all off.”
Kenney will continue to sample 30 or more places tomorrow, visiting both some new and some old.
“I feel like I’m fishing where the fish are going, so that’s the good news. It's the middle of May in south Alabama. These fish are not going to the bank. That still has me excited about tomorrow.”
Lucas up to third
“Today I changed up and it was a pretty good adjustment,” he said. “I basically went shallow and started sight-fishing and I found one pocket where I caught all five of my keepers.”
Lucas said he isn’t doing anything fancy with his baits. Four of his fish came off soft plastics and one came on a swim jig. He also saw a 5-pounder and a 4-pounder on bed that wouldn’t bite, but promise to get a return visit tomorrow.
“I learned a lot by looking today. If they’re that loaded in one pocket, they’ve got to be in other pockets.”
Lucas’ total weight for three days is 47 pounds, 3 ounces.
Devere rises to fourth
“I’m casting a 3/8-ounce Stan Sloan Booza Bug with a Zoom Chunk,” said the Berea, Ky., native. “I’m basically casting it around rock in 5 to 10 feet of water. I have a real good 1/2-mile stretch of water that I found the second day. When I found it, there were a bunch of bass guarding fry. But I didn’t see any of that today, so that kind of worries me.”
Devere said he caught nine keepers Saturday, down from the 20 boated on day two.
“The Booza Bug has been great, but I think I just came across a good school of fish.”
After a slow start to the season, David Dudley is heating up. After catching 16-11 today, Dudley rose to fifth place with a total weight of 46 pounds, 8 ounces.
Although he too has become an offshore fisherman, he’s doing most of his damage shallow this week. The one time he tried to fish offshore today, he inadvertently encountered Haynes. After asking Haynes if he was intruding, Dudley pulled up the trolling motor and immediately left.
“Of the 15 bass I’ve weighed, maybe two or three have I caught actually looking at them,” said the reigning Angler of the Year. “A lot more of them were probably spawning, but I’m just blind-casting and fishing. And today was a gorgeous day to fish shallow.”
Dudley said he’s using a mix of baits – from a Booyah Pad Crasher to wacky-rigged Yum Dinger to a swim jig and even a Rebel Pop-R. All of his baits were fished on prototype Lamiglas David Dudley Signature Series rods.
The Castrol does plan to return to deep water tomorrow, because naturally, he’s not going to concede to Haynes without a fight.
“I think I could have another decent day shallow, but I need to have an exceptional day with him having over 10 pounds on me.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on Lake Eufaula after day three:
6th: Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., 45-11 (three-day total)
7th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 45-3
8th: Kelley Jaye of Dadeville, Ala., 45-3
9th: Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., 44-15
10th: David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., 42-3
The final day of FLW Tour competition on Lake Eufaula will begin at 6:30 a.m. from Lakepoint Resort State Park located at 104 Lakepoint Drive in Eufaula.