EUFAULA, Ala. — Jamie Bruce got a taste of redemption on Day 1 of the Mercury B.A.S.S. Nation Qualifier at Lake Eufaula presented by Lowrance by catching a limit weighing 20 pounds to lead the field of 152 boaters.
Bruce has a 15-ounce advantage over his Wisconsin roommate Adam Rasmussen, while Alabama’s Allan Glasgow is third with 18-7. Glasgow also landed the Big Bass of the Day, a 6-6 largemouth.
It was a beautiful day, but the fishing was stingy, as just 43 limits were weighed in by boaters and only 11 limits were recorded by non boaters. Temperatures will continue to rise during the tournament with calm conditions expected for Day 2.
Lake Eufaula was responsible for Bruce’s second-worst finish of his Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers slate in 2023, an event that likely kept him from punching his ticket for this year’s Bassmaster Elite Series. With a baby on the way, Bruce knew he couldn’t compete in the EQ race this year, but he wanted to make a trip south to give him a break from the cold Canadian winter.
“I had never really missed the boat on anything that much before that tournament,” Bruce said. “I fished that one with no LiveScope. It was broken and I couldn’t get a replacement. So I fished that one with no front graph, went shallow and got my teeth kicked in.
“This week I haven’t looked at the bank at all. I’m purely staying offshore and the ‘Scope is working as good as it ever has.”
Bruce ran through every target he thought could possibly hold a bass, everything from brushpiles to stumps and rockpiles. Many of those targets were in 7 to 15 feet of water. He filled his limit around mid-morning before making two key culls later in the day.
While he mixed in a spinnerbait and a jerkbait, Bruce’s key bait was a jig paired with a Rapala CrushCity Cleanup Craw.
“Those were the only places I could get consistently bit,” Bruce said. “I just had to run a bunch of sneaky stuff. I’m running as many of them in a day as I can. If anyone saw me out there, they would have thought I was in panic mode. I had the Lund up and down all day. My co-angler had to keep his life jacket on to fish.”
Although he was using LiveScope, Bruce did not see many of the bass he caught. He used his forward-facing technology mostly to find the targets he wanted to fish.
After receiving a tutorial from Elite Series rookie Ben Milliken about deep cranking, Bruce arrived at Eufaula prepared to fish similarly to how last year’s Open was won. But after struggling much of his first practice day, Bruce pivoted to isolated targets.
“The bass are so tight to the piles and stumps,” Bruce said. “I caught my two biggest ones off stumps today and I could not see them on those stumps. It was all about using it for targets.”
Matthew Lasky of Guyton, Ga., leads the nonboater division with a three-bass limit weighing 10-11. Mississippi’s Larry Carter is second with 9-0 and Blake Rogers from South Carolina is third with 8-3. Kentucky’s Ron Whittaker caught the Big Bass of the Day, a 6-2 largemouth.
The full field will launch from Lakepoint State Park beginning at 6:30 a.m. CT and return for weigh-in starting at 2:30 p.m. The Top 40 anglers after the Day 2 weigh-in will advance to the final day and the Top 20 anglers after the final day will advance to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
This event is being hosted by the Eufaula-Barbour County Chamber of Commerce.