VanDam, the man who for two years running has beaten Evers out of the coveted Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, was eliminated Sunday from Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. Evers survived that Lake Jordan competition to advance to the next leg, the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship, Friday-Sunday on the Alabama River out of Montgomery, Ala.
So there will be no Evers-VanDam match, no chance this week for Evers to even an old score.
"I would have loved to have had him there. I wanted to compete against him," the Talala, Okla., pro said Monday morning while relaxing in Montgomery with his family on an off day.
All Bassmaster Elite Series pros compete against each other, but the Evers-VanDam history is unique. In the 2010 postseason on the Alabama River, Evers finished second to VanDam's first. VanDam earned enough points for his sixth, and third-consecutive, Angler of the Year title. Evers fell 11 points short of his first AOY title.
In 2011, when the Angler of the Year format changed back into a regular-season contest, VanDam did it again. He won his fourth consecutive AOY title, again leaving Evers as runner-up.
Then both advanced into the July 23-31 postseason, setting up the possibility of KVD vs. E2. When it didn't happen, Evers was resigned to waiting for another day.
"I'll just have to compete against him for that next year," Evers said. "Now it's all about beating Aaron Martens."
Martens of Leeds, Ala., and Evers will be July 29 opponents on the Alabama River. They were matched up by the event's seeded and bracketed format. The eight survivors from the Lake Jordan competition were seeded according to their finishes, then slotted into the bracket format: No. 1 vs. 8; 2 vs. 7; 3 vs. 6; and 4 vs. 5.
Martens was the No. 3 seed; Evers was No. 6. The other first-day matches will be No. 1 seed Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., vs. No. 8 Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.; No. 2 Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., vs. No. 7 Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.; and No. 4 Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., vs. No. 5 Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala.
The four Day 1 victors will fish again on Saturday. The two winning anglers Saturday will be the only pros in Sunday's finale. The winner will claim the entire $100,000 purse.
Evers estimated that counting last year, he's competed three times in his career on the Alabama River. Conditions now appear to be optimal, he said, although his knowledge of the off-limits fishery is only what he saw Sunday while driving across a river bridge.
"The Alabama isn't flooded, or muddy, and the current's flowing," he said. "Those are the three factors that affect how the river fishes."
And VanDam or no VanDam, "It's going to be a great tournament."
What's happening in Montgomery, Ala.?:
Besides a world-class bass fishing competition, Bassmaster fans in Montgomery for the second leg of Toyota Trucks All-Star Week will be treated to many other free and fun activities.
Everything's happening in downtown Montgomery along the Alabama River. While the pros compete Friday through Sunday on the river in the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship, fans can get into the grill, chill and skill events on shore. In the evenings after weigh-ins, the fun continues with free concerts.
Here are highlights of what will be going on; all times below are Central:
- 7:30 a.m. pro takeoff (Riverfront area beside the Betsy Ann riverboat)
- Mercury Choice of Champions Demo Tour, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Fans 18 and older can sign up for a spin to check out the power of Mercury engines.
- Mercury Films Festival
- Casting competitions for Bass Pro Shops gift cards
- 5 p.m. weigh-in under the Union Station train shed
- Toyota Casting Pond
- Eukanuba Super Dock dog-jumping fun jumps and competitions
- Evan Williams Bourbon & Big Green Egg Grilling with the Greats Cook-off. Sampling at 2 p.m., then a competition on the Bassmaster stage from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
- Featured at 5 p.m. weigh-in: Hope for the Warriors Fishing Tournament. Six war heroes and six Bassmaster Elite Series pros, including Keith Poche and Greg Vinson, will fish in teams on a private lake near Montgomery. Results will be revealed on stage Saturday during the weigh-in.
- 6:30 p.m. Darryl Worley concert (like all other events, free)
- Featured during 5 p.m. weigh-in: Participants and results of the Bassmaster Legends Fishing Tournament and Auburn vs. Alabama College Classic. The All-Star champion will be declared and crowned.
- 6:30 p.m. Easton Corbin concert (like all other events, free)
Casey Ashley's Lake Jordan secrets:
|Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Casey Ashley fishes a jig around seawalls on Lake Jordan. |
The minute the Lake Jordan leg of Toyota Trucks All-Star Week ended Sunday evening in Wetumpka, Ala., everyone's focus swung to the postseason's final leg, July 29-31 on the Alabama River out of Montgomery.
Even Casey Ashley, the Lake Jordan winner, said his victory was not of consequence.
"All we did here was figure out who we'll be up against on the Alabama River," said Ashley, a first-time postseason qualifier. "That I won is beside the point."
But he did gain another winner's notch in his Bassmaster belt. He's now a three-time Bassmaster Elite Series winner. The first was in 2007, his rookie year, on Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake. His second win was in May 2011 on Lake Murray in his home state, South Carolina.
The Jordan win made him the No. 1 postseason seed, meaning his will be the first boat out — although with just eight boats, that's an advantage of only seconds. Seeding also is a fourth-level tiebreaker.
Ashley said he'd never competed on Lake Jordan before. Without experience on the lake, he decided to stick to his shallow-water fishing strength.
It worked. He caught all his Jordan fish shallow, even though the lake is deep in the throes of summer dog days. Some of the fish were so shallow, he could see them. He estimated the skinniest water he fished was less than 1 foot deep, and the deepest about 8 feet.
"I don't care where you go in the country — clear water, dirty water, rivers, lakes — there's always a shallow bite somewhere. You just have to find it. Most of the time, there is a real small window of opportunity to catch them shallow, and it opens first thing in the morning."
The keys are looking for water temps that drop slightly, perhaps due to incoming water flow from a stream or rainwater runoff. Another key, he said, was the presence of baitfish.
The most common mistake anglers make in a summer shallow-water setup is fishing too slowly, he said.
"You have to keep moving while the bite's good," he said. "When the bite slows down, you can slow down with them."
He found early fish up against homeowners' seawalls, especially near grassy edges.
His winning technique was swimming a Jewel Bait jig, the 3/8-ounce Eakins Flip'n Jig in peanut butter jelly color. The trailer was a Zoom Creepy Crawler in green pumpkin. A few fish fell to his Rebel Pop-R presentation.
All his fish came in one shallow midlake creek of average size, he said. The first day, he had his five keepers by 10 a.m. The second competition day, the fishing got tougher. At 2 p.m., he did not have a limit, and doubt and worry started to creep in.
"I had a brushpile I thought I'd catch five in real quick. It didn't work out that way, and I left (the creek). I came back later, and it was on."
Come Friday, he vowed, he'd stick with what got him to the Alabama River.
"The river sets up with how I like to fish — all shallow. I'll key in on flipping shallow cover — that's what I do best."Quotes from the Ramada All-Star Semifinal, July 23-24 on Alabama's Lake Jordan:
- Kevin VanDam, out at place No. 9: "It definitely hurts. I really wanted to be there. I jumped off one good one today that probably will haunt me."
- Casey Ashley, in as the winner and No. 1 seed, and an aspiring country music star: "If I win this (entire All-Star) deal, I promise you I'll jump up on stage and sing."
- Aaron Martens, in as the No. 3 seed: "I can't explain how I felt when I found out fans voted me in. I'm definitely fishing harder (because of it)."
- Michael Iaconelli, in as the No. 7 seed: "At the end of the day, it's that bass swimming in the river that's my competition."
- Skeet Reese, minutes before he found out he was in as the No. 8 seed: "I don't care if I'm seventh or eighth or what, just get me to the river, give me a shot at this thing."
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