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Edwin Evers on the water

Edwin Evers is gunning for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year -- and today could make or break him.

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Wiley X Sponsors Edwin Evers

Wiley X® Inc. is sponsoring top B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro Edwin Evers as he fishes his way to the finish line of an exciting and action-packed 2013 Bassmaster tournament season. For the remainder of this year and throughout the 2014 B.A.S.S. season, Wiley X will provide Evers with the clear vision he needs to see and catch more fish, along with the confidence to fish hard day after day in changing and challenging conditions.When he faces off against 98 other top B.A.S.S. Elite Series anglers August 22-25 on Lake St. Clair, Michigan, Evers will have more than a “typical” tournament win in his sights. He currently leads the Toyota Bassmaster 2013 Angler of the Year standings, and how Evers finishes in this season’s final event will determine if he brings home professional bass fishing’s most prestigious title and the $100,000 payday that comes with it. However it turns out, it will be an exciting race to the finish for the competitors and bass fishing fans around the world. Evers has been the Angler of the Year points leader after the past five events, but other top professionals have been steadily closing the gap. Evers currently holds a 30-point lead over Aaron Martens, with seven-time Angler of the Year winner Kevin VanDam just 39 points behind. Fellow Wiley X-sponsored bass pro and former Angler of the Year winner Skeet Reese currently sits at 10th in the points standings, and could still make some noise.“This will be a very exciting weekend for bass fishing enthusiasts worldwide, and we’re proud to be a part of it,” said Wiley X Co-Owner Myles Freeman, Jr. “It’s by no means sewn up, but the title is Edwin’s to win with just one tournament to go. Given our long history with Edwin, and his reputation both as an angler and a competitor who rises to the occasion, we like his chances. All of us at Wiley X will be rooting for him as he battles it out with the world’s best fishermen on Lake St. Clair,” added Freeman.Professional anglers like Evers depend on stylish Wiley X sunglasses for several reasons.

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Sprint to the finish line

With just one event to go in the 2013 Elite Series season, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race is no longer a marathon. It's a sprint.And just as you typically have dozens to thousands of runners in any marathon, sprints usually have just a few competitors. It's the same with the AOY race at this point.What started with 100 anglers all chasing a dream, is now down to just eight — eight fishermen with a mathematical shot to win fishing's most prestigious title. Realistically, though, the number is actually much smaller. I'd put it at three.Here are the eight — the top anglers in the AOY race through seven of eight events — and their point totals:1.         Edwin Evers - 594 2.         Aaron Martens - 564 3.         Kevin VanDam - 555 4.         Bobby Lane - 535 5.         Chris Zaldain - 521 6.         Keith Combs - 518 7.         Alton Jones - 502 8.         John Crews - 501While all eight have a mathematical shot at AOY, only Evers, Martens and VanDam have anything like a real chance to win the title. The rest need too many things to happen to get there. Think NFL playoffs going into the final weekend. John Crews is the Washington Redskins. He needs to win while the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants all lose and the Dolphins and Patriots end their season in a scoreless tie while neither quarterback throws a single pass ... and the stadium lights go out and they play under a full moon.So for, Lane, Zaldain, Combs, Jones and Crews, 2013 has been a very good year, but it's time to focus on staying in the top eight rather than moving up. If they can maintain, they'll qualify for Toyota All-Star Week in September. All are a lead-pipe cinch to qualify for the 2014 Classic, even if they don't catch a fish in the final event. Combs is in by virtue of his Falcon win. The rest are in on points.And Evers is in the driver's seat for AOY. It's not my favorite sports cliché, but he "controls his own destiny." As long as he finishes in the top 30, no one can catch him and he'll claim his first AOY title.He's had a remarkable year, too. Not only did he win an event (on the Alabama River), but he's never finished worse than 30th all year long. How special is that?

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Outdoors: Talala's Edwin Evers in good position for Angler of Year honor

All bass fan eyes are on Edwin Evers. The Talala bass pro has a chunky 30-point lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race heading into this week's final contest on the Elite Series schedule, and most predict the 39-year-old will collect the title; most, but not all, and particularly not Evers. He won't say he has it in the bag. "No, not at all, not at all," he said. "I'm going into it and I'm going to have a good finish; that's the goal, that's the plan." While Evers is an established and popular pro on the circuit, the Angler of the Year title is one of those pinnacle achievements that boosts and solidifies an angler's status on the national stage, and for most, including Evers, it is a lifelong dream. "It's the hardest thing to accomplish. It'd be a dream come true for me," he said. A perennial top performer on the tour, Evers has come close in the Angler of the Year race before. He finished in second place twice and has been in fifth and sixth place before, as well. On Evers' tail this time are two other perennial top finishers. In second place is Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., who won Angler of the Year in 2004 and has come painfully close several more times.

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The Final Push on Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair promises another big smallmouth fest for the field of 99 Bassmaster Elite Series pros at next week’s regular-season finale out of Detroit.The Aug. 22-25 event, the Plano Championship Chase, will be the pros’ last chance to make headway in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race. They’re sprinting toward the prestigious Angler of the Year title and the $100,000 that comes with it. They’re also after qualifications for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and the Sept. 27-29 Toyota All-Star Week and Evan Williams Bourbon Championship postseason.Not to mention the Chase’s Elite Series first-place prize of $100,000 and an instant Classic qualification.The Elite Series field just came off the smallmouth bass extravaganza of the Aug. 8-11 Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at St. Lawrence River out of Waddington, N.Y. Many of the anglers hauled their boats straight from New York to the Detroit area to be on deck for three days of practice time beginning Aug. 19.All eyes will be on the outcome of the AOY race. Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., has been the points leader after each of the past five events. But he doesn’t have the crown sewn up.

Notes from New York

A good sense of feel is critical to a bass angler, especially one in search of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. So when a strange accident put Edwin Evers' sense of touch in jeopardy before the Bassmaster Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at the St. Lawrence River, you can bet he was "feeling" it."I was putting a new battery in my boat," he said Wednesday, at the pre-tournament anglers' meeting. "I had a ratchet in my hand, and it touched the positive and negative posts. My ring was touching the ratchet. It busted a piece out of that titanium ring. It was on fire. You can see my finger where it burned all the way around it."The burn was so painful that Evers had to take his wedding ring off, and he wasn't able to put it back on again until Saturday, Day 3 of the tournament. By that time he had finished in 25th place (in fact, he was in 25th at the end of each competition day, posting remarkably steady limits weighing 18-7, 18-10 and 18-0)."I had the opportunity to have some better bags than I did," Evers said Saturday. "With that said, I feel fortunate to get out of here where I finished."He leaves the St. Lawrence with a 30-point lead in the AOY race over 2005 AOY Aaron Martens and is 39 points better than seven-time champ Kevin VanDam."It's all in my hands. If I go in and have a Top 12 finish (at Lake St. Clair), I'm Angler of the Year."

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Evers running out the AOY clock

You can't get much more consistent than staying in 25th place three days in a row, like Edwin Evers did at the Bassmaster Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon St. Lawrence River Showdown.With all the pressure that goes with leading the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year race going into the next-to-last event of the season, Evers caught 18 pounds, 7 ounces Thurday (25th place), 18-10 Friday (25th place) and 18-1 Saturday (25th place)."I had the opportunity to have some better bags than I did," Evers said. "With that said, I feel fortunate to get out of here where I finished."It's all in my hands. If I go in and have a top 12 finish (at Lake St. Clair), I'm Angler of the Year."Actually, the two-time AOY runner-up doesn't have to do nearly that well. If he finishes 25th again, that would clinch it, even if Aaron Martens rallied from seventh place to finish first here Sunday, and Martens wins again in two weeks at St. Clair. Back to back 25th-place finishes by Evers are going to trump back-to-back wins by Martens.It's another example of the consistency it takes to win the AOY title. You can't have one bad tournament all season. That's why many anglers consider AOY a bigger achievement than a Bassmaster Classic crown.Check out Evers' record of consistency during the 2013 Elite season: 13th at the Sabine River, 6th at Falcon Lake, 25th at Bull Shoals Lake, 30th at West Point Lake, 1st on the Alabama River, 11th on the Mississippi River at La Crosse and 25th on the St. Lawrence River.

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A matter of life and death

“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz; Oh, what a relief it is” became an iconic phrase in the 1980s for folks with hangovers and needing Alka Seltzer. At the Evan Williams Bourbon St. Lawrence River Showdown the “fizz, fizz” part has become a lifesaver for many of the Elites.Check that: It’s become a lifesaver for a major portion of the smallmouth caught in this event. The Elites are benefitting from the absence of dead-fish penalties, commonly referred to as “fish-care” penalties.The smallmouth in the St. Lawrence are being caught from varying depths of 20-feet to 103-feet (Jamie Horton reported catching one at exactly 103-feet deep Friday). At those extreme depths, any fish would succumb to what us mere humans refer to as the bends. There isn’t a known title for what the fish are experiencing, but these professionals have strong feelings on taking care of their fish.“It’s really important,’’ said Edwin Evers, who is leading the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year Race. “I fizz everyone I catch.”Fizzing is a simply process of relieving the bladder of air, either through the throat with an elongated tube or with a hypodermic through the fish’s side. In almost every instance, anglers are catching fish, getting them in the boat and immediately fizzing fish, a process that can be seen the photo galleries of Bassmaster.com.“I feel confident that when I release every one of my fish they are going to live,’’ Evers said.

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AOY race down to three

Skeet Reese was Edwin Evers' closest competition in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year race going into this event. After two days, he's long gone, as is Alton Jones, who was in fifth place. The Bassmaster Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon St. Lawrence River Showdown has been just that – a showdown. Reese and Jones had mixed suits with a deuce and a trey when they had to put their hole cards on the table. Kevin VanDam and Aaron Martens have survived to be dealt another hand in bass fishing's version of Texas Hold 'Em. Theoretically, since points aren't official until the final standings, VanDam and Martens have shaved their AOY deficits to Evers from 50 points to 28 and 29 points, respectively. "It puts me in the thick of things," said Martens. "If I make the 12 cut, it will be really interesting." Evers is in 25th place going into Saturday, when the field will be cut to the top 12 for Sunday's final. He's got to be considered a long-shot to make that cut, with a two-day total of 37-1. VanDam (third with 42-10) and Martens (fourth with 42-2) appear to be shoo-ins. If you think Evers has been playing it safe, trying to sit on his lead, you need to think again. "I'm not ever conserving anything," Evers said. "I'm coming in with 30 seconds to spare, running 45 miles. If I was being conservative, I wouldn't be doing that crap. That's just how I fish. "In general, that's how I live. I don't do anything conservative. Ask my wife."

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Palaniuk holds on despite penalty

One mistake in the excitement of zeroing in on a school of big smallmouth could have cost Brandon Palaniuk his lead in the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown.It didn’t. But the 2-pound penalty the young pro from Rathdrum, Idaho, had to take for a six-fish livewell count on Friday morning could come back to haunt him over the final two days of the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the the St. Lawrence River.Still, Palaniuk remained the Showdown’s leader for the second consecutive day. His Friday weight was 21 pounds, 5 ounces (after the penalty), for a total of 44 pounds, 14 ounces. That left him 1-10 in front of Cliff Pirch of Payson, Ariz., who had 43-4 for second place.And Palaniuk kept an advantage of more than 2 pounds over each of his other close challengers: Kevin VanDam by 2-4, Aaron Martens by 2-12, and Jonathon VanDam by 2-13.Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., crept up one tick into third place with 42-10. Martens of Leeds, Ala., popped up into fourth from eighth place with 42-2. Jonathon VanDam — Kevin’s nephew who is also from Kalamazoo — rose from ninth place into fifth with 42-1.Those Top 5 lead the 50 anglers who survived Friday’s cut to return to the St. Lawrence River Saturday. Only the Top 12 after three days will compete on Championship Sunday for the Showdown title and prizes: $100,000 and an instant qualification for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.Friday morning, Palaniuk reported to tournament officials that he had six bass in his livewell. Bassmaster rules allow a maximum of five bass in an angler’s livewell at the point when an angler picks up his rod again and makes another cast.It happened this way, said Palaniuk: He returned to his hot spot of Thursday on Lake Ontario, more than 100 miles from the takeoff docks. Drop-shotting, he caught five 3-pounders.“It was actually starting to get on my nerves because I knew 3-pounders weren’t going to do me any good,” he said.He moved his boat to try to find the school of big smallmouth that made him the leader of Day One.“(Then) I caught my big one, the 5-12,” he said. “I knew all the rest of the fish were going to be 4- to 6-pounders, and I was really excited.”He put the 5-12 in the livewell. At that point, six bass were in the box.“I hopped back up, dropped (the bait) down — and realized what I had done,” he said.He immediately reported his rules infringement to tournament officials. The penalty was 2 pounds.“I was very frustrated,” Palaniuk said. “I didn’t think I had as much weight as I did today (21-5), so I feel lucky I’m still in the lead right now. The problem is I should have 2 pounds more of a lead. We’ve still got two days to go. When you’re taking as big a gamble as I’m taking, you can’t make mental mistakes like that.”His gamble is his long boat run, leaving a short window for casting. The flat, calm water of Friday helped him somewhat in his risk. His trip one way took about two hours instead of the three it took him Thursday.Saturday’s forecast for windy conditions could create a hard decision for Palaniuk. Because his speed would be slow, his run down the St. Lawrence and into Lake Ontario and back, which is more than 200 miles, could eat up most of his fishing time.He plans to try, Palaniuk said.“If I have 30 minutes to fish, I’m going,” he said. “I have no Plan B.”But wind could also help him once he gets to his fish, he said.“The wind creates more current and makes them easier to catch,” he said.Two other pros — Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, and Josh Bertrand of Gilbert, Ariz. — also suffered 2-pound penalties for resuming their fishing while six bass were in the livewell. Like Palaniuk, Hartley and Bertrand reported their error themselves.In second place, Pirch was pleased with his improvement from seventh. He accomplished that by changing areas, he said, and taking a longer run to another smallmouth spot he had in reserve.“I feel like it’s an area that’s got them,” he said. “Today I had what I weighed by 10:30, so I backed off.”Palaniuk earned the Livingston Leader Award, a $500 bonus to the leader after the second day of competition.The Idaho angler’s largest bass of Friday, the 5-12 smallmouth that preceded his penalty, turned out to be the largest of the tournament so far. It beat the 5-pound, 8-ounce smallmouth of Thursday by Brian Snowden of Reeds Spring, Mo.After four days, the largest bass will be worth the Carhartt Big Bass bonus of $1,000, plus $500 if the angler was wearing Carhartt clothing.For his Day One bag of 23-9, Palaniuk remained the top contender for the Berkley Heavyweight Award of $500 for the event’s best five-fish limit.Two pros came close on Friday to besting Palaniuk’s 23-9: Both Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., and Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., posted bags of 23-5. Counting Palaniuk, 12 anglers broke the 20-pound mark Friday by catching the big smallmouth of the St. Lawrence.As the Showdown heats up, so does the 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points competition. Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., continued to lead the pack. His hottest competition is still coming from Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., and Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala.

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