No guts, no glory. No risk, no reward. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
All of those time-worn clichés can be applied to Edwin Evers' performance at the St. Johns River Bassmaster Elite Series in Florida. He caught a decent bag on day 1, but then entirely scrapped the gameplan he'd so diligently formulated throughout practice in favor of some water he could have to himself.
It turned out to be a brilliant move. He averaged slightly more than 20 pounds over each of the last 3 days and, in the end, edged out hometown favorite Terry Scroggins and 3-day leader Alton Jones for the victory.
He finished with a 77-01 total for 4 days and nailed down the fourth tour-level triumph of his career. The win, his first on the Elite Series since 2007, became the high point of a hot streak that's seen him finish no worse than 22nd in 10 of his last 11 Elite Series events.
Here's how he did it.
Evers ran his Nitro Z9 a total of 220 miles on the first of the 3 official practice days.
"I found fish spawning from one end of the river system to the other," he said. "I saw some pretty good ones at both ends, but they were definitely bigger the farther south you went."
Like the majority of the 99-angler field, he focused his attention on the immense, eelgrass-covered flats of Lake George. The spawn was in its closing stages, but the flats were still riddled with beds, including quite a few occupied by large females.
"I had about 50 or so (marked fish) by the time practice was over. I didn't really have a minimum size – I marked some that I knew would be stupid-easy to catch – but most of them were 4 pounds and over."
Fortunately, before he'd made it to George on the first day, he'd visited Lake Crescent and flipped some mats. Crescent isn't far from George, as the crow flies, but is accessed from a different channel that requires a trip back toward the launch in Palatka and then another run to the south (which is actually upriver on the St. Johns).
"I caught a 3 1/2-pounder and I had six other bites, and they felt like big ones."
> Day 1: 5, 16-08
> Day 2: 5, 22-05
> Day 3: 5, 19-04
> Day 4: 5, 19-00
> Total = 20, 77-01
Evers said that probably 15 anglers out of the Top 30 in the standings after day 1 were on the same flat in George where he spent the day. He caught enough to slot himself into 20th place, but due to the crowded conditions, he never went back.
He went to Crescent on day 2 and flipped mats for awhile, and it didn't take him long to figure out that those fish had moved onto nearby beds. With no other anglers in the vicinity, he tooled around and boxed more than 22 pounds worth of spawners, including a 7-10 bruiser.
He found an even bigger fish, but couldn't make her bite. He managed to catch the male and it would've improved his sack, but in a forward-thinking move he released it, figuring that its giant bed-mate would be more likely to hang around if she had company.
He continued to find and exploit more and more beds over the next 2 days, topping the 19-pound mark on both occasions. On the final day he caught that big female he'd found 2 days earlier, just minutes after he'd boated the male for the second time.
Evers said the fish in Crescent were spooky, but not to the extent of their counterparts in George. That was undoubtedly because they'd seen far less boat traffic in the preceding days.
"It was dirtier water, but I was still staying back off of them," he said. "I was making as long of a pitch as I possibly could – maybe 50 feet."
A Yum F2 Money Craw in the 'Bama magic color was Evers' primary bait.
He caught most of his fish on a Yum Money Craw, but a few came on a Yum Wooly Bug. Both had a lot of powder-blue coloration to mimic the blue crabs that are prevalent throughout the system.
"The bass really seemed to hate those crabs."
He said he got a look at 19 of the 20 fish he took to the scale and all 15 of the ones that came from Crescent.
Winning Gear Notes
> Sight-fishing gear: 7'6" heavy-action Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier rod, BPS Pro Qualifier casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 25-pound BPS XPS fluorocarbon line, 3/8-ounce BPS XPS tungesten weight, unnamed 5/0 straight-shank hook, Yum F2 Money Craw ('Bama magic) or Yum F2 Wooly Bug (bream).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – "Without a doubt just leaving George. With so many out of the Top 30 in there, including the Top 3, a lot of people would've thought that was pretty stupid. But it worked."
> Performance edge – "I covered so much water in practice and my Optima batteries held up great, even with me standing on the trolling motor hard going through the eelgrass. My Wiley-X sunglasses were important for seeing the fish in that dirty water in Crescent, and I couldn't have done any of it without my Power-Poles."
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