Give praise where it’s due. Today, I give praise to Edwin Evers.
I’m sure the 2016 Classic champ isn’t overly concerned about earning my recognition, with all the people patting him on the back lately. But I feel obligated to bring up his recent media reports, and the transparency there within, to better illustrate a topic that was the primary driving force behind the creation of this column in the first place. It’s one we’ve discussed time and again, but until now, never really had an example of the high road.
You see, prior to submitting my idea for this weekly piece to the head honchos at BassFan, I had an idea. Somewhere, somehow, a writer needed to investigate the tough issues and behind-the scenes reality of professional bass fishing, and report to the general masses what was really happening. As fans, we were already having discussions of these topics amongst ourselves; it was simply time to put the wheels in motion and bring them to the limelight.
My inspiration came from years of gaining insight from all sides of professional and promotional fishing interactions, but it was a single event that pushed me over the edge and compelled me to bring the idea into fruition years ago.
Following a high finish in the Bassmaster Classic, a popular pro blatantly lied to the press, insisting he caught the majority of his fish on a junker jerkbait, manufactured by his sponsor, despite being shown on camera throwing a high-end Japanese lure.
Over the years, the sour taste in my mouth has worn off, and I find it necessary to report on the bigger issues in bass fishing, like environmental threats, tournament safety and competitive strategy. But the unnecessary politics involved in our sport – which holds our athletes back despite intentions – is always worth re-hashing.
Digging into our initial topic, Edwin Evers did what few, if any, have ever done before him in the modern era. He caught his Classic-winning fish on a lure that, at the time, wasn’t included in his top-tier sponsor list, and told the truth about it. Rather than trying to bend the story into one surrounding companies dominating his jersey, like Megabass or War Eagle, or attempting to create a scenario where his trolling motor or depthfinder made all the difference in the world, Evers told it like it was. He picked up a hand-made jig – one that he had bought years ago like the rest of us – and went to work. The jig that won the Bassmaster Classic, and that’s that.
I reflected on Edwin’s honesty while reviewing the stats from another major event this year, where a competitor credited his success to a handful of lures manufactured by his primary sponsor, despite using all hand-made gear in the tournament. It was laughable to those in the know.
However, we continue to see this at each event. And many of you probably wonder why I bring this up again, and what direction I’m headed. I do so, as in most recent columns, to have you consider all angles and then pose a question.
Like many of you, I yearn for the pattern reports following each national tournament, to learn first-hand how successful pros attacked the lake. I want to know exactly what the best in field the fished with, so I may try to duplicate and elevate my own fishing.
When reporting their chosen lures to the press, today’s pros basically take one of three roads: they tell the truth, blatantly lie to match the money, or report “un-named baits." I love the guys who tell it like it is; I feel they truly “get it”, and their honesty shines through in being hardcore fishermen. Despite giving up a few bucks early in their career, I truly hope their reward comes in the long run in the form of fan admiration and bigger endorsement contracts.
The unnamed crew and fibbers continue to bother me. I’m afraid they just don’t see the big picture, and maybe never will. But does it really matter? Do lures win tournaments, or do the men wielding them?
Heres’ the flip side: Not long ago, a writer in a popular magazine did a story on the methods used by a half-dozen different pros flipping heavy vegetation. Rather than being insightful, the article became nearly worthless; each fisherman simply plugging his sponsor’s version of the Sweet Beaver as being a key component. The point is this: any Beaver catches bass when Randall Tharp or Glenn Browne are flipping it.
So who cares if the pros lie? For some reason, I do.
Thus brings me back to my initial point: I take my hat off to Edwin Evers. The trophy was finally his, he had the microphone to himself, and the whole bass-fishing world was listening. And he credited a guy who still ties jigs one by one, right here in the USA. A fisherman; one of us. Just the way it all started.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)