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Opening Day Countdown' TV series premieres Monday on Outdoor Channel

You can fish every day of the year, right? Unlike many outdoor pursuits, fishing doesn’t have a set season for many of us. “But we all know when it’s time to go fishing,’’ said Mark Zona, host of The Bassmasters television show and Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show. “For most of my adult life, at the end of the (Bass Pro Shops) Spring Classic, I knew it was time to be on the water somewhere.” That is the case for many fishing fans. That’s why Bass Pro Shops, Bassmaster and Outdoor Channel are unofficially, officially declaring this week the countdown to the opening day of fishing season. That declaration comes with an unprecedented amount of fanfare. The most impressive of that fanfare is Opening Day Countdown, a series of seven television shows that will air nightly, beginning Monday night (11:30 p.m. EST), on Outdoor Channel. Hosted by Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona of The Bassmasters television show and Kevin VanDam, 4-time Bassmaster Classic Champion, the show will air a new episode every night this week through Sunday, flowing seamlessly into Bassmaster Classic week.
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Five Spot: Edwin Evers

If you think Edwin Evers fished his first tournament out of a top-of-the-line bass boat, you’d be mistaken. His first rod and reel wasn’t exactly the latest in technology either.

4 facts you need to know about the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic

The basicsFishery: Lake Hartwell, South CarolinaCompetition dates: Feb. 20, 21 and 22Takeoff location: Green Pond Landing                           Anderson, S.C. Takeoff time: 7 a.m. ET First flight check-in: 3 p.m. ET Weigh-ins and Outdoors ExpoWeigh-in and Outdoors Expo host: Greenville, S.C.Weigh-in location: Bon Secours Wellness ArenaWeigh-in time: Doors open to the public at 3:15 p.m. ETBassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo location: TD Convention CenterExpo hours: Friday, Feb. 20: 10:30 a.m. to noon (media, Life Members & B.A.S.S. Nation)                                             Noon to 8 p.m. (general public)                    Saturday, Feb. 21: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.                    Sunday, Feb. 22: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Practice informationPractice period: Feb. 13-15, 2015Classic practice restrictions: Classic waters are open to 2015 Classic contestants for three days, beginning at safe light and ending at dusk, Friday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. No boats are allowed on Lake Hartwell at night.Classic waters off limits: As of 12:01 a.m. ET on Jan. 1, 2015, contestants cannot be on the water or get information about the fishery.Classic format

Who is the odds-on favorite to win the Classic?

Edwin Evers - 16:1
If you're working on a list of the best anglers who have never won a major title (AOY or a Classic), Evers has to rank near the top. That will change one of these days and maybe at Hartwell in 2015. He nearly pulled it off last year at Guntersville, where he led after two days and finished third, and he has three runner up finishes in AOY. At 40 years old, he's in his fishing prime. Evers ranked 11th at Hartwell in 2008 and has a track record of improving with experience at most venues. He's versatile enough that he's among the favorites at any stop on the tour. When some anglers do well in a tournament, you can pretty easily guess what they were doing. Evers is so versatile, you have no idea. He's the only angler in B.A.S.S. history to win tournaments with all largemouths, all smallmouths and all spotted bass.

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Edwin Evers' 5 favorite fall lures

The water has cooled off, and bass are feeding heavily in the shallows of your favorite fishery. During the fall, just about any lure in your tacklebox will catch these active bass, but there are certain baitfish imitators that produce best, so we asked Bassmaster Elite Series pro Edwin Evers to pick his five favorite lures for tricking bass this time of year.

The Oklahoma pro's top choice for fall fishing is a Megabass Knuckle 60 crankbait in black-back-chartreuse, sexy french pearl, or gill. "It's a lot of fun to fish," says Evers. "It creates vicious strikes when the fish get up shallow on logs and stumps.

"I can cover a lot of water with it and catch big ones on it." While fishing a stump in a recent tournament, Evers was reminded why the square-bill crankbait is his favorite lure in the fall.

"A little one missed it, and as it was coming over the other side of the stump, about a 3 1/4-pounder caught it," he recalls. "I fought the fish all the way around the boat, and it was stripping drag trying to get back up to that stump.

"I was babying it because I could see it just had the back hook in the top of its mouth. So it got back up to the stump and stopped, and I thought it was hooked on the stump. But a 4-pounder got the front hook, and I reeled both of them in."

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The BIG BASS of November with PAA champ Edwin Evers

“In the field, the deer are moving in November and the bass are moving just as much. They’re feeding up shallow and it’s amazing how good bass fishing can really be this month,” asserts Bassmaster Elite and PAA champ Edwin Evers. Indeed November is a month when fishing can be really, really good in Edwin’s home state Oklahoma and across the region.

The Time of Movement

Fall is the time of movement. Everybody’s out in the deer woods chasing big bucks that are chasing pert does. In the bass world, bass are really moving too, only they’re chasing shad. A lot of those shad are really shallow; they’re in the backs of pockets, in the backs of creeks, and they’re right up on shallow main lake banks as well.

The Main Lake Alternative

A lot of anglers are used to hearing about the shad and bass running into the backs of the creeks in fall. Well, shallow banks out on the main lake can be every bit as good as the backs of creeks in fall. Evers notes, “Not all fish go to the backs of the creeks. Many of the fish that live in those creeks will do that, but other fish that live on the main lake, they just pull up onto shallower main lake stuff in fall. Take the ends of bluff banks for example; those will often taper out to a pea gravel point, and you can find a lot of fish there in fall. Overall, the key to good main lake hotspots will be that bass won’t have to travel very far to that bluff and its deep water sanctuary in the winter time when conditions are not conducive to feeding; and in the summer and fall, whenever the time’s right, they’ll be up there really feeding shallow on those pea gravel points.”

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Classic qualification made easy ... sort of

With the completion of the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, 48 of the 56 Bassmaster Classic berths for Lake Hartwell, Feb. 20-22, 2015, are in the books. Remaining are one spot from the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate (to be decided on Oct. 4), six spots from the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (Nov. 8) and one spot from the Bassmaster Team Series (Dec. 13).Classic qualifiers come from seven sources.Defending Champion(s)Randy Howell Cliff PaceOrdinarily, only one defending Classic champ has a berth in the Classic, and it would be Randy Howell, who won earlier this year. The 2013 champ, Cliff Pace, however, was unable to defend his title after suffering a hunting injury that forced him to sit out the Elite Series season. As a result, he'll be back in the Classic in 2015. What's more, Pace finished second to Alton Jones at the 2008 Classic on Hartwell, so he'll certainly be one of the pre-tournament favorites.Elite WinnersBrett Hite Chris Lane Mike McClelland Jacob Powroznik Jason Christie Jacob Wheeler Michael Iaconelli Greg HackneyWheeler isn't fishing the Elite Series, but he won BASSfest on Chickamauga Lake and fished the full season of Northern Opens to earn his spot.Top-Ranking Anglers in the AOY StandingsThe top 29 anglers in the AOY race all earn a berth in the Classic. You've seen some of these names already above.Greg Hackney Todd Faircloth Jacob Powroznik Aaron Martens Mark Davis Keith Combs Skeet Reese Jared Lintner Dean Rojas Casey Ashley Justin Lucas Chris Lane Randall Tharp Gerald Swindle Jason Christie Matt Herren Brandon Palaniuk Chad Morgenthaler John Crews David Walker Scott Rook Edwin Evers Paul Elias Cliff Crochet Michael Iaconelli Mike McClelland James Niggemeyer Brandon Lester Randy Howell

Hackney survives a brutal wait off the water to win AOY

his was like some evil psychological experiment: Take the man who is leading the Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Angler of the Year race and, after one day on Lake Michigan, put him in a hotel room for three days before he can fish again.

Greg Hackney was the lab rat for this test. He barely survived.

"The break was killing me," said Hackney, after he – finally – won the AOY title Monday in Escanaba, Mich. "I thought I was getting sick one day. I don't know what day it was; we were off so many."

For three days, Hackney was as nervous as a fish out of water. It was Friday when his mental health got its first big test. Hackney didn't start the scheduled three-day tournament like he'd hoped. He caught 18 pounds, which put him in 21st place, on Thursday.

Entering the event, Aaron Martens and Todd Faircloth had the best chances of overtaking Hackney for the AOY title. Martens was 15 points behind and Faircloth was 17 points back.

And on Day 1, Faircloth made a move. His five-bass limit of 20 pounds, 2 ounces put him in 7th place and gave him a real chance to overtake Hackney.

That’s what Hackney had to sleep on Thursday night. He was already uptight. All the Top 50 anglers had their boats in the water Friday when high southerly winds – the worst possible on Lake Michigan's Bays de Noc – caused cancellation of the day.

"I went and ate breakfast," Hackney said. "About 1 o'clock I felt like I could take a nap. I don't nap because I typically don't get a chance to nap. I go sound to sleep and wake up about 3 o'clock."

Hackney had a dream during his nap. Everyone has had a dream like this, where you wake up in a cold sweat. It might be the one where snakes are slithering toward you, and you can't move. Or it might be the one where you're being chased by evil men with guns, and you're running in slow motion. Whatever. None are fun.

But Hackney's dream was more nightmarish in this respect: It occurred during the biggest week of his professional bass fishing career. He dreamt he'd slept through Day 2 of the tournament.

"I about completely jumped out of the bed," he said. "I could see the light out the (hotel room) window, and I'm like, 'I'm late. My God, it's 3 o'clock, and I've been here all day.'

"It was horrible when I woke up. I didn't have a clue where I was."

Hackney's wife, Julie, had their boys – the two oldest of the Hackneys' four children – in another hotel room.

"I was not there when he woke up, but he called me," Julie said. "I don't know how to describe his mood. He was just all over the place. Then he told me that he'd dreamt that he'd overslept, and he was just a wreck. I think it stayed with him until he went to bed that night."

Remember, that incident occurred on Friday. Hackney would have the rest of the weekend to get wound even tighter before he'd get to fish again, on Monday.

Hackney noted before the tournament began that he was handling the pressure just fine as long as he was fishing. It was the time when he was off the water that was so draining. So three days off mid-tournament, when it went from a three-day event to two-day tournament, was pure torture.

2014 PAA TOURNAMENT SERIES SCHEDULE

Professional Anglers Association (PAA) announced the final details of the 2014 PAA Tournament Series this week.

Three outstanding fisheries will be the scene of some of the best competition the industry has to offer when the 2014 PAA Tournament Series visits Douglas Lake, Dandridge, Tennessee; Kentucky Lake, Gilbertsville, Kentucky; and Toledo Bend Reservoir, Hemphill, Texas.

The 2014 PAA Tournament Series schedule will be as follows:
September 22 -27, 2014 - Douglas Lake, Dandridge, Tenn.
October 6 - 11, 2014 - Kentucky Lake, Gilbertsville, Ky.
November 17 - 22, 2014 - Toledo Bend Reservoir, Hemphill, Tex.

Douglas Lake
To kick off the 2014 season, PAA will return to beautiful Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee. Hosted by the Town of Dandridge and Jefferson County Tourism, competition days will be September 25 - 27. Also known as Douglas Reservoir, the lake was created by impounding the French Broad River in the early 1940s. With over 555 miles of shoreline, Douglas Lake offers a variety of structure and is quickly becoming known as a big bass impoundment within the angling world. Douglas Lake was the host of the PAA Tournament Series opener in March 2013 and saw PAA pro Shinichi Fukae win the event with a whopping 67.73 lbs. over the three (3) day event.

Adele Sensing, Director of Tourism, Jefferson County offered, “The Town of Dandridge is excited to be hosting the best pro tournament anglers on Douglas Lake. We have a community that is excited the PAA is coming to town again and will be showing the anglers true Southern hospitality. We enjoy all the exposure that comes along with a large scale national event like this. This lets the rest of the world know we have great fishing on Douglas Lake.”

Kentucky Lake
The second venue, Kentucky Lake, is new to PAA but it is no stranger to the bass fishing world as it has long been considered one of the top lakes in the United States for bass fishing. Kentucky Lake CVB and the Moors Resort and Marina have joined forces to host event two of the 2014 PAA Tournament Series the week of October 6 - 11, 2014. Competition days will be October 9 - 11.

Toledo Bend Reservoir
To close out the season with a bang, the 2014 PAA Tournament Series will see its first return to beautiful Toledo Bend Reservoir in Hemphill, Texas since 2009. The 2014 season will close on Toledo Bend the week of November 17 - 22, 2014. Hosted by Fin and Feather Resort and Hemphill Tourism, competition days will be November 20 - 22.

Entry fees and format remain the same.

Pro division entry fees for the 2014 PAA Tournament Series events will remain at $1,500. Deposits will remain at $500 per tournament and are due upon registration. The full field of pros will compete on days one and two and we will cut to the tops pros on day three. A Champion will be crowned at the conclusion of day three based upon the total weight of five fish per day across all three days of competition.

Co-Angler division entry fees will remain at $250 per tournament and deposits will remain at $50. Co-Anglers will fish the first two days of each event. A Champion will be crowned after the day two weigh-in based upon total weight of a three fish per day limit.

Pros advancing to the final day will fish with a non-fishing Observer.

Top three pros in the PAA Angler of the Year race will qualify for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

The 2015 Toyota Texas Bass Classic will feature three PAA qualifiers to its coveted world championship event on Lake Fork, Quitman, Texas May 23-25, 2015. The three PAA qualifiers will be decided following our third and final 2014 PAA Tournament Series event on Toledo Bend. The top three anglers in the 2014 Angler of the Year point standings who have fished all three 2014 events and not previously qualified for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic will earn berths into the 2015 Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic, often referred to as the TTBC, is a world championship event pitting the top anglers from the B.A.S.S. Elite Series, FLW Tour and the PAA Tournament Series in head to head competition. It is a no-entry fee event with a guaranteed check.

2014 Rule Updates - Our anglers spoke and we listened.

Evers 2014 Comeback

On-Location Video:  Evers 2014 Comeback

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