By Todd Ceisner
None of the 10 finalists in the Championship Round of the Bass Pro Tour Redcrest today had made a cast on Pool 7 of the Mississippi River all week.
That didn’t bother Edwin Evers one bit. He knew where he was going and what he was going to do. The rest is history.
The winner of the points title during the inaugural BPT season, Evers put a giant-sized exclamation point on a phenomenal season with a virtuoso performance on the upper Mississippi that left the other nine finalists in his sizeable wake.
Evers, who was one of the first two anglers to publicly commit to the Bass Pro Tour last fall, camped in a slough that’s part of the delta-like maze of chutes and pass throughs that separate the main channel of the Mississippi from Lake Onalaska. He’s been to the area before, but always left having not maximized the potential he sensed it had. This morning, he caught 10 fish in the first 25 minutes to set the tone and never flinched. He held a 12-pound advantage after both the first and second periods and finished the day with an astounding 63 fish for 85-06.
“I’ve been in the spot where I fished today a couple other times,” Evers said. “I would leave there so mad that I didn’t win because I was upset that I lost all these big fish. Here I am today. I finally won out of there. All the glory goes to God. What an awesome day. It was so much fun.”
From every conceivable angle, Evers was a dominating force today en route to a $300,000 payday, which pushed his earnings this season to just shy of a half million dollars. He also won the Stage Two event at Lake Conroe in February.
His winning weight dwarfed the combined total of runner-up Greg Hackney and third-place finisher Greg Vinson. His 63 fish were one more than the catch totals of Hackney, Vinson and fourth-place finisher Zack Birge combined. His third-period weight alone (46-13) would’ve been good enough to win. His 83-13 was the third-highest weight total in a championship round this season.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Evers said. “There have some really high highs and some low lows. At start of the year, I said it would be a monumental feat just making the championship. Winning a tournament, the points and winning today, I’m blessed beyond anything I could imagine. I’m living out a childhood dream. Words can’t describe it.”
After enduring a 90-minute lull in the second period, Evers turned it on down the stretch to turn the rest of the day into a race for second. Hackney got to within six pounds of Evers midway through the second, but Evers answered with a seven-fish flurry to push his lead back over 12 pounds entering the final period. That paled in comparison, however, to the burst he had in the third to salt away the win.
Over a span of roughly 30 minutes, he caught 25 bass in the span of about 30 casts to blow things open. He caught fish at such a breakneck pace that his right hand began to cramp and his boat official was unable to enter the catches into the ScoreTracker system fast enough so the other anglers had a sense of how far behind they had fallen.
With a lead of more than 40 pounds, Evers effectively called it a day with a minute remaining, laying his rod down and soaking in the moment.
“The only thing I’m disappointed about my day is I thought I was going to catch big ones,” Evers said as time ticked down. “That’s why I came in here, but it was the exact opposite. I fished for big ones all day. It wasn’t like I threw spinning rods and dropshots. It was enough to get it done. I don’t know what else to say, but we won."
Greg Hackney got to within six pounds of Evers in the second period, but got no closer and finished second.
Hackney wound up with 40-07 (22 fish) while Vinson capped a strong week with a third-place finish, catching 29-06 (20 fish). Zack Birge (18, 28-07) and Fred Roumbanis (11, 23-06) rounded out the top five.
They all seemed to be on a different fishery compared to Evers, who said he had other areas to exploit but chose the slough where he had the most history.
“I fished in there a couple different times in Elite Series tournaments and I was upset I hadn’t won,” he said. “I always had the practice to win and you don’t have those practices that often, so I was always upset to have to drive back to Oklahoma without a win. Looking back, it’s awesome I didn’t win back because if I had that area would’ve been exploited and I wouldn’t have won in there today.”
Even while he was waiting for the lines in signal from his boat official, Evers sensed he'd picked the right area.
"They came up schooling right in front of the boat," he said.
He did an entire lap around the area over the course of the day. A vibrating jig was his best producer, especially during the prolonged third-period flurry.
The first period saw Evers put 22 bass on his scorecard for 29-08 while the other nine anglers combined for 42 bass. Things slowed for him in the second period, opening the door for Hackney and Co. to put some pressure on him. Birge had the best period, catching nine fish for 14-00, nowhere near the surge needed to put the heat on Evers, though.
Evers was the only finalist to catch at 10 fish in a period today and he did it twice.
Hackney, who’s won the Forrest Wood Cup and AOY titles on both the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series, liked his chances this morning. He came in thinking a 60-pound day would claim the title. Ultimately, it took a fair bit more and all he could do was tip his cap to Evers.
“Other than Winnebago, Edwin’s been flawless all year,” Hackney said. “When guys get on a roll, it seems like the fish are looking for you as opposed to you looking for them. I didn’t know it would be him, would you have to find a school of fish to win here.”
He said there’s wasn’t much else he could do today to change the outcome.
“I fished good this week and today,” he said. “I have no complaints. Sure, I’m disappointed. I wanted to win like everyone else, but I ended the year on a pretty good note. There were so many unknowns going into the year that turned out good for me. A year ago, we didn’t exist. It’s been a roller coaster ride to say the least.”
Compared to how he remembered from previous visits, Hackney said Pool 7 looked quite different today. He opted to focus on an area where he’d found fish before.
“I knew the fish population in the area I spent most of the day and that’s the reason I picked it,” he said. “I felt like if I stayed in there all day, there’d be a chance I’d find the right hole. They’d get out in those holes and around the current seams.”
Greg Vinson held onto third place and took home $48,000 today.
The only issue was he failed to collide with a big group of fish like Evers did. He had a few short-lived flurries, just not enough of them.
“I caught isolated fish and some nice ones, but it’s not a place where I could pole down and catch them every cast,” he said.
After relying on Strike King crankbaits and a Strike King Cut R Worm the first three days on Pool 8, he switched to a swim jig and a buzzbait today. His 3 1/2-pounder in the third period was the big fish of the day.
Prior to today, Vinson had only spent a couple days on Pool 7, so he was reliant on what he found during the four-hour ride around on Saturday. He’s just annoyed he didn’t uncover Evers’ honey hole.
“It’s the biggest tournament of the year, our championship event and that’s what all 10 of us were hoping for,” he said. “We all took off hoping to land on something like that.
“I felt fortunate that the area I chose had fish in it. I was able to catch some fish, but not near enough.”
Despite trailing Evers by a good margin most of the day, he didn’t lose hope because he’d seen big leads evaporate on multiple occasions this season.
“Even with Edwin up 17 pounds, I still felt like I had a shot,” he said. “It was fund. I didn’t know any better. I felt like I had as good of shot as any leaving the dock. It ended well, so I can’t be too disappointed.”
Championship Round Results
1. Edwin Evers -- 63, 85-06 -- $300,000
2. Greg Hackney -- 22, 40-07 -- $60,000
3. Greg Vinson -- 20, 29-06 -- $48,000
4. Zack Birge -- 19, 28-07 -- $30,000
5. Fred Roumbanis -- 11, 23-06 -- $27,000
6. Mike Iaconelli -- 14, 20-13 -- $24,000
7. Brent Ehrler -- 11, 19-12 -- $21,000
8. Jacob Powroznik -- 10, 17-13 -- $18,000
9. Brandon Palaniuk -- 8, 15-11 -- $16,000
10. Michael Neal -- 9, 12-12 -- $15,000