PARIS, Tenn. — After a tough start to the Bassmaster Elite Series season, Edwin Evers said he hasn’t been that much fun for his wife, Tuesday, to live with back home in Talala, Okla.
But things should be more pleasant for both of them now.
Not only did Evers win a first-place check for $100,000 as the champion of Zippo BASSfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps, but he earned an automatic berth into the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro. Evers never relinquished the lead after seizing it on Day 2, and he sealed the victory Sunday with a catch of 25 pounds that pushed his four-day total to 97 pounds, 4 ounces.
Michigan pro Kevin VanDam finished second with 94-4.
“My wife’s been about ready to shoot me, because I’ve been in a pretty bad mood most of the season,” said Evers, who claimed his ninth B.A.S.S. victory and first since 2013. “I just have to be at that Classic, so this means the world to me. It’s so important.”
BASSfest is the only tournament on the Elite Series schedule that results in an automatic Classic berth for the winner — and with the 2016 Classic taking place on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Evers’ home state of Oklahoma, the 40-year-old pro fished all week like his season was on the line.
He opened Wednesday with a catch of 24-0 and jumped into the lead after catching 27-2 Thursday. After taking Friday off while those who finished out of the Top 50 took part in a Second Chance event on Lake Barkley, Evers held onto the lead with 21-2 Saturday.
Then Sunday, he followed the same pattern he had fished all week to keep VanDam and third-place angler Brett Hite (91-9) from slipping past him.
Like most of the field, Evers fished Kentucky Lake’s famed ledges with a variety of baits. He used a Megabass Deep-Six Crankbait, a swimbait and an E2 Head Turner Stand Up Worm, but it was a homemade bucktail jig that helped him catch his largest bass.
“It’s a 5/8-ounce hair jig that a buddy back home made for me,” Evers said. “He actually shot the deer off my property that he made the bucktails out of. It’s something I catch some fish on back home. I had him make them for me last year before BASSfest (on Lake Chickamauga), and I should have thrown it a whole lot more last year.”
Evers said the bucktail jig worked especially well as a “follow-up” bait.
“Once I had the schools fired up on a crankbait, it was something that really worked for me,” Evers said. “I would do the same thing on each of my spots: I’d start with a crankbait, then I’d go to the swimbait and then the jig.
“Every bait I used was important.”
What helped Evers separate himself from the field was one or two big bites each day. He said most of the big fish he caught, including an 8-0 Thursday and an 8-11 Sunday, came out of one small area.
“They all came within a 5-foot circle, I can promise you,” Evers said. “Every one of them came from the same spot.”
Evers’ consistency also helped him outlast a hard charge from VanDam — a noted ledge-fishing specialist whose star-studded history on Kentucky Lake has included two third-place finishes in B.A.S.S. events, two seconds and two victories.
VanDam caught 23-9 and 24-5 the first two days, but stumbled with only 19-12 Saturday. Despite rebounding with an outstanding catch of 26-10 Sunday, he couldn’t overcome the one bad day.
“Saturday was the difference for me,” VanDam said. “If you’re going to have one bad day on this lake, it has to be at least 22 or 23 pounds. Then you have to have a 27-pound day to make up for that. You just about have to have (an average of) 25 pounds a day here to win.”
VanDam’s selection of lures was as diverse as Evers, with Strike King 6XD, 8XD and 10XD crankbaits leading the way. He said natural color patterns like sexy blueback herring and green gizzard shad worked best, and the silent version of the 6XD helped him to several impressive flurries.
“I don’t know that they’re conditioned to the one with the rattles on this lake, but it seems like that,” VanDam said. “Using the silent one was just night and day. Once you quit catching them on the regular one, you can switch to the silent one and start catching them again.
“I had some unbelievable flurries cranking this week.”
Hite caught 22-14 Sunday to earn his third-place finish with 91-9. Alabama angler Tim Horton only had two fish at 2 p.m. Sunday, but a late flurry helped him weigh in 22-11 and land in fourth place with 88-8. Fred Roumbanis rounded out the Top 5 with 18-7 Sunday for a total of 87-9.
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