By Todd Ceisner
For all he’s accomplished through his career, there was one bullet point missing from Edwin Evers’ résumé: A points title.
He’d come close on multiple occasions during his 13-season stint on the Bassmaster Elite Series. During that time, he won five full-field Elite Series events along with the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. He also finished second in the Angler of the Year standings three times, most recently in 2013 when he saw a 30-point lead slip away at the final tournament. Safe to say he would’ve traded a few blue trophies for an AOY title.
His wait is over, though, as he was able to fend off a seemingly season-long challenge from Jeff Sprague last month to capture the first Bass Pro Tour points title. There was no bonus money attached to the win or a glitzy celebration. In fact, when it became official that Evers had captured the championship, he was driving from Wisconsin, site of the season finale, back home to Oklahoma. The bragging rights are priceless.
Still, it carried a lot of meaning for the 44-year-old Evers, who has typified consistency throughout his career.
“It’s hard to win,” he said. “I can always look back on a lot of seasons and it’s one event that’s kept me from doing it. It’s such a fine line because one bad event can take you out of it every time.”
He deftly avoided any bad events this season. He opened the year with four straight top-10 finishes, including a win at Lake Conroe, to grab control of the points race. Also mixed in there was an eighth-place finish at the Classic at the Tennessee River.
Sprague overtook him with two events remaining, but Evers surged back ahead after the second Table Rock Lake tournament (24th), then sealed the win with a 42nd-place finish in Wisconsin (Sprague finished 49th).
“I didn’t have a bad event,” he said. “I had some mediocre ones, but I avoided the bombs I’ve had before. There’s a big difference between 70th and 40th. It might not sound like it, but that’s 30 points. That was the difference this year.”
Evers admits that the pursuit of an Elite Series AOY title brought with it immense pressure and he wasn’t always the best at being under the heat lamp. This year, though, he shrugged it off and kept his focus on putting fish in the boat. His 494 bass ranked eighth among the 80 BPT competitors while his cumulative weight of 903-01 was second only to Jacob Wheeler’s 1,149-08. The cumulative experience from those previous near misses wound up paying off.
“They taught me to keep at it, that it’ll happen eventually,” he said. “I didn’t get near as stressed this time around. It wasn’t life or death if I won or lost. Before, maybe I put too much pressure on myself to knock it out of the park when in reality I didn’t need to.”
Transitioning to the every-fish-counts format wasn’t that big of an adjustment for him either. He’d competed in all of the MLF Cups dating back to the organization’s inception, winning two of them.
“I was excited for the season,” he said. “It rejuvenated my career. I was just excited for a change. I like the intensity of it. There’s no rest and you’re engaged from time they say, ‘Lines in’ until they say, ‘Lines out.’”
Knowing what to expect from a competition standpoint gave him a bit of an advantage, but the roster of anglers he was up against was pretty daunting.
“I just had a really positive outlook going toward it, but I was nervous about how tough it was going to be,” he said. “You can’t put together 80 better anglers than what we have. There are no gimmes here. I knew it was going to be the hardest it’s ever been to make a Cup or a championship than we’ve ever had.
“I was just super positive and excited about it and having the right mental attitude coming in helped as much as anything.”
Finding areas with concentrations of bass became the emphasis this season versus areas that may be holding one or two keeper-sized fish.
“The biggest change is you have to find them and catch them as quick as you can,” Evers said. “The old way, by the end of day you just needed to get five bites. Here, five bites get you nowhere, even if they’re all 5-pounders. There’s a lot more intensity, in my opinion. You don’t have time to sit down and eat a sandwich or come in early and eat pizza like Timmy (Horton) at (Lake) Champlain. You get after it from the start and the biggest thing I’ve learned from the Cups is you have to hit the ground full speed and never stop.”
Kept His Focus
Evers couldn’t recall a better stretch of tournament finishes in his career than the one he was on to start this season, especially one that included a victory. He came into the season with a goal of making the Redcrest, which required a top-30 finish in points. He liked his chances based on his familiarity with the format, but there was some uncertainty as well.
“I was just hoping and praying to make the championship,” he said. “In my mind, we had guys from FLW and guys I had not competed against, so I was just hoping to have a good season.”
The one highlight that stood out to him was catching an 8-pounder on a dropshot in the closing moments of the Conroe event. He was already leading at the time, but adding that to his scoresheet effectively ruled out anyone else catching him.
“I’d been throwing a vibrating jig all day and then I flip over there with a dropshot and it’s the first one caught on it in four days,” he said. “That decision there to stay and pound it out when it got so slow in the last hour rather than run 30 minutes, that was just a good decision.”
While many things seemed to go his way on the water, it would’ve been easy for him to lose focus due to occurrences off the water. While he was at the Smith Lake BPT in early May, a tornado swept through his hometown of Talala, Okla., doing extensive damage to his house. The persistent rains that followed eventually led to the house being ruled a total loss.
Evers and his family are currently living in an RV and as of last week, were hoping to review an architect’s first draft of plans for a new house to be built on the same site.
“When I was not fishing, my mind was definitely on a lot of other things,” he said. “We went through a lot of other things others don’t know about. We’ve had a lot on our plates, but God’s in control. Fishing is fishing. It’s how I make a living. It’s not life or death. I probably get too wrapped up in it from the time to time and need a reality check from time to time.”