ANGLERS BATTLE FLUCTUATING WATER LEVELS DURING EUFAULA PRACTICE

EUFAULA, Ala. - At Lake Eufaula, the pre-spawn fish are frustrated - and so are the anglers trying to catch them in practice for the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer.  The tournament begins Thursday, but after two days practicing while the water levels fluctuate, the pros are none too pleased with the level of the lake, which they say leaves bedding bass with nowhere to go.

"It's been pretty tough," said Connecticut pro Lee Bailey.  "They've been pulling water.  The fish want to come up and spawn, but they won't let them."

Water management officials at the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the lake levels at Eufaula, say that the current level of 188.3 feet is already above the full mark for spring, set at 188 feet.  Water managers will allow the lake levels to rise slightly throughout the weekend, but say there is some confusion for anglers, many of whom hoped the lake would reach its summer full mark of 190 feet.

"If they keep adding water, it will help the fishing a lot," Bailey said.  "It will move the fish back up and increase the catch.  I think they'll remain a little confused because they are kind of shocked because the water levels fluctuating and the water temperature came up so quickly, but they want to come up and spawn.

"I wouldn't even want to take a guess on what it'll take to win here," Bailey added.  "This lake's weird like that.  You go out and struggle and come in with 20 to 25-pound bags.  We all anticipated a better start, but I think fish will pull off to ditches and ledges.  It's going got be one of those tournaments.

Tour veteran Denny Brauer agrees.  Brauer, who won on Eufaula in 2002, has had a bit of a struggle as well.

"It's been really tough for me," Brauer said.  "I've had a really good day and a really bad day.  There are a lot of fish bedding right now, but the water is kind of at an awkward level.  It's about a foot and a half lower than I'd like to see it.  I caught about a 17 or 18-pound bag yesterday, but there's a lot of pressure on the water and it's fishing a lot smaller than usual.  I'll make the best of it, though."

Fans can catch Brauer, Bailey and the rest of the pro BASS anglers at the fifth event of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour beginning Thursday.  Daily weigh-ins will be held at the Lakepoint State Park Marina beginning at 2:45.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation.  This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.

Local Sponsors include Eufaula-Barbour County Chamber of Commerce, State of Alabama Conservation Department.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.