AdvBassStats: Lake Eufaula Oklahoma Open

There was a sifting that took place between Days 1 and 2 at the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma. The field had a pretty good Day 1 overall, but Day 2 separated the “haves” from the “have nots.” While there were a few bags added to the top end, there were only about half as many 15-pound-plus weights, and the field average dropped by over a pound and a half.
This two-day weights chart for the Top 10 might be the most interesting one of the year. Places one through four all increased their weights on Day 2 to move to the front of the standings. Places five through 10 all dropped on Day 2. Joey Nania, Matt Messer and Trey McKinney caught the three biggest bags of the event, all on Day 2, pushing them into the top three places.
Nania entered the final day with a 5-ounce lead over Messer and a 1-pound, 4-ounce lead over Trey McKinney. He would not give up any ground, tying McKinney for the biggest final day bag at 16-1, protecting his lead and getting the win.
The final event standings.
With five events complete, the Opens EQ standings are starting to become more important. The Opens EQ format is the most challenging grind in all of tournament bass fishing, while also being the most important to the participants. Nine Bassmaster Elite Series invitations are on the line. Currently Kenta Kimura is occupying a spot within the EQ top nine, but as an Elite Series angler already he would be a double qualifier, so the EQ range would go out to No. 10.
One of the challenges of trying to understand and predict the EQ race based on past Opens seasons is the huge difference in the number of anglers participating at EQ level. In past years there were a very small number of anglers intending to fish every event and fighting for one of the three overall qualifier spots. They were competing against a very large number of three-event regional anglers and single event jackpotters. That spread the points accumulation/average finish out on a much wider scale for the overall group. This year, those numbers are flipped. Eufaula was representative of this whole year, with EQ anglers grabbing 33 of the top 40 spots. That means a higher distribution of points and lower average finishes being divvied out to the EQ anglers at the top.
When we put the current 2023 EQ Top 10 up against the history of average finishes from 2020-2022, the differences are dramatic. First, our top 10 is running about 15 places ahead of previous year results. Part of that is from the way points are distributed to the EQ-heavy field, and part is that several anglers are having very special years. As an example, the EQ top 10 had a combined average finish of 16th place at Eufaula, with eight of them finishing top 20 at the event. Only two anglers moved into the EQ top 10. Nania won the event and improved his average finish by over seven places, but he only gained three spots in the EQ standings to dip within EQ range. 
Historically, these average lines don’t move much between the fourth and fifth events and the end of the season. If that holds it sets up a target of 35th-place average finish to complete for an EQ spot.
For a deeper look inside the numbers of the most exceptional EQ seasons, we can break out the per-event finishes and averages for the EQ top five. Leader John Garrett had his “worst” finish of the season at Eufaula, which was still an outstanding 30th out of 225 anglers. If he averaged his worst finish, he’d still be seventh in the rankings. Trey McKinney stands out with three top 10s. Kimura is killing it with consistency, JT Thompkins has turned up the heat in the last three events and Keith Tuma is well within striking range in fifth.
The most important line to watch is the EQ line, and it’s also super tight. Only two points separate Kyle Patrick in 10th place (inside EQ line) from Brett Cannon in 11th (outside). It’s only five more points back to Logan Parks in 12th. This is what we’ll be watching most closely on the back half of the schedule.