By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

Points-wise, nobody was better than Edwin Evers during the inaugural season of the Bass Pro Tour. Four Championship Round appearances (out of eight tournaments), including a victory and a runner-up finish in the first two events, laid the foundation for a stellar campaign that saw him outpace Jeff Sprague and claim the first points title of his illustrious career.

Evers posted some impressive statistics while piling up the points – he earned an average of 63.75 of a possible 80 points each tournament – and ranked among the circuit’s leaders in several statistical categories. In the only two tournaments where he missed the Knockout Round cut (top 20), he finished 21st in his 40-man group.

As impressive as Evers’ season was, however, Jacob Wheeler was far superior when it came to pure numbers. Under Major League Fishing’s every-fish-counts (provided it weighed at least one pound) format, Wheeler was dominant in multiple categories, a testament to his ability to fuse a strategic approach with his capacity to decode current conditions and then feast upon areas with healthy concentrations of bass.

While Wheeler finished fourth in points, his production and efficiency across the schedule saw him finish the year atop the 80-man field in the following categories:

> Competition days: 27
> Most fish caught: 651 (132 more than second-most)
> Most weight caught: 1,149-08 (246-07 more than second-most)
> Most weight per competition day: 42.57 pounds
> Most Shotgun Round fish: 247
> Most Shotgun Round weight: 429-00
> Most Shotgun/Elimination Round fish (combined): 327
> Most Shotgun/Elimination Round weight (combined): 563-02
> Most Knockout Rounds: 7 (tied with three others)

Wheeler’s 27 competition days meant he was on the water for 202 1/2 hours this season and his fish caught per hour rate was a little more than 3.2. Essentially, every 20 minutes Wheeler was clipping a bass to the scale for his official to weigh.

Wheeler was at his best during the final four tournaments as he tallied 77 percent of his cumulative fish (503) and 69 percent of his cumulative weight (795-04) in the second half. He collected three top-10 finishes, including a victory at the second Table Rock Lake event, during that span. He also was the only angler to finish first in his group during the Shotgun and Elimination rounds of the tournament he won.

Sprague had arguably the best statistical season among the newcomers to the MLF format. One of the final additions to the field last fall, he was one of four anglers to qualify for seven Knockout Rounds and tied for second behind Wheeler in most competition days (26).

Seventy-five of the 80 anglers qualified for at least one Knockout Round this season with Sprague, Wheeler, Brent Ehrler and Casey Ashley participating in seven of the eight. Here’s a look at their cumulative totals for those Knockout Round appearances (ranked by total fish):

> Wheeler: 168, 294-13
> Sprague: 161, 274-10
> Ehrler: 150, 280-11
> Ashley: 119, 207-02

For all of the numbers he put up, Wheeler somehow failed to record a scorable bass in a period on seven occasions during the year. Taking into account he competed in 81 periods (27 days), he caught fish in 91.4 percent of the periods he competed in. By comparison, Ehrler came up empty just once in 78 periods of competition, a 98.7 percent clip. Evers caught fish in 76 of the 78 periods he was on the water.

Winner’s Circle

Not one of the eight tournament champions this season finished first in the Knockout Round of the event they won. Granted, two of the events (Raleigh, N.C. and Neenah, Wis.) utilized different lakes for the Championship Round than the earlier rounds, but the eight tournament winners had an average finish of 6.125 in the Knockout Round preceding their triumphant Championship Round.



MLF/Garrick Dixon
Photo: MLF/Garrick Dixon

Brent Ehrler was nearly perfect this season, catching at least one scorable bass in 77 of the 78 periods in which he competed.

Group A produced four winners as did Group B. Andy Morgan was the only tournament champion to come from outside the top 20 following the Shotgun Round (21st at Lake Chickamauga) while Jordan Lee and Jacob Powroznik both advanced to the Knockout Rounds of the events they won with last-man-in 20th-place finishes in their respective Elimination Rounds.

Don’t Forget DeFoe

Ott DeFoe missed the final tournament of the season so he could undergo a procedure to repair a heart ailment, but his performance across the first seven events was good enough to put him among the top 10 in several categories, including most fish caught, most weight caught, most fish per competition day and most weight per competition day.

Going Big

One of the popular criticisms of the MLF format is that there is too much emphasis placed on catching small bass. While it is a departure from the traditional weigh-your-best-five format, some anglers were able to achieve season-long success while still maintaining a big-fish mentality. Of the 10 anglers who had the highest per-fish weight average, four of them qualified for the Redcrest championship – Brandon Palaniuk, Powroznik, Mark Daniels Jr. and Randall Tharp.

Inside The Numbers

For stat junkies, the Bass Pro Tour produced a buffet of numbers that would impress the Moneyball crowd. Below, BassFan has compiled rankings in an assortment of categories to show who were the top performers during the first BPT season.

Most Fish Caught
1. Jacob Wheeler: 651
2. Michael Neal: 519
3. Jeff Sprague: 514
4. Cliff Pace: 509
5. Bobby Lane: 505
6. Ott DeFoe: 499
7. Brent Ehrler: 495
8. Edwin Evers: 494
9. Jordan Lee: 477
10. Dustin Connell: 475
> Field average: 346

Most Weight Caught
1. Wheeler: 1,149-08
2. Evers: 903-01
3. Ehrler: 898-15
4. Sprague: 880-08
5. J. Lee: 863-06
6. Todd Faircloth: 861-09
7. DeFoe: 860-03
8. Neal: 856-10
9. Andy Morgan: 837-04
10. B. Lane: 835-06
> Field average: 605-01

Average Fish
1. Ish Monroe: 2.031
2. Brandon Palaniuk: 1.932
3. Jacob Powroznik: 1.927
4. Mark Daniels Jr.: 1.915
5. Tommy Biffle: 1.912
6. Jason Christie: 1.905
7. Kelly Jordon: 1.902
8. David Walker: 1.890
9. Randall Tharp: 1.877
10. Alton Jones: 1.863
> Field average: 1.75

Most Fish per Competition Day
1. Pace: 24.24
2. Wheeler: 24.11
3. DeFoe: 22.68
4. B. Lane: 21.96
5. Neal: 21.63
6. Greg Vinson: 20.81
7. Cody Meyer: 20.36
8. Aaron Martens: 20.27
9. Jesse Wiggins: 20.00
10. Sprague: 19.77
> Field average: 16.51

Most Weight per Competition Day
1. Wheeler: 42.57 pounds
2. DeFoe: 39.10
3. Pace: 37.37
4. Martens: 37.07
5. B. Lane: 36.32
6. Powroznik: 36.12
7. Faircloth: 35.90
8. Neal: 35.69
9. Meyer: 35.08
10. Morgan: 34.89
> Field average: 28.90

Strong Starts
With anglers given less than two days of practice prior to the start of competition, it didn’t take long for BPT competitors to figure out a strong Shotgun Round allowed them some latitude to go exploring additional areas or test out alternative patterns during the Elimination Round. If anglers piled up the weight in the Shotgun Round, it was common for them to keep their foot on the gas early in the Elimination Round before their focus shifted to the Knockout Round.

Here’s a look at who were the dominant anglers in the Shotgun Round this season:

Most Fish Caught – Shotgun Round
1. Wheeler: 247
2. Faircloth: 185
3. Pace: 184
4. DeFoe: 183
5. Adrian Avena: 178
6. Vinson: 177
7. Dave Lefebe: 172
8. Morgan: 170
9. Sprague: 168
10. Wiggins: 167
> Field average: 133

Most Weight Caught – Shotgun Round
1. Wheeler: 429-00
2. Faircloth: 338-10
3. DeFoe: 326-05
4. Vinson: 298-05
5. Avena: 297-15
6. Morgan: 296-03
7. Evers: 285-06
8. Wesley Strader: 285-04
9. Sprague: 285-00
10. Wiggins: 283-11
> Field average: 235-12

Most Fish Caught – Shotgun Round (first period)
1. Wheeler: 89
2. Cliff Crochet: 70
3. Avena: 68
4. Faircloth: 67
5. Morgan: 63
6. Lefebre: 61
7 (tie). Martens: 60
7 (tie). Anthony Gagliardi: 60
9 (tie). B. Lane: 52
9 (tie). Casey Ashley: 52

Most Weight Caught – Shotgun Round (first period)
1. Wheeler: 163-10
2. Crochet: 128-14
3. Avena: 125-14
4. Martens: 114-04
5. Faircloth: 109-08
6. Morgan: 104-13
7. DeFoe: 104-05
8. Vinson: 102-02
9. Ehrler: 101-10
10. Gagliardi: 100-03