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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.

EVERS ON DAY ONE

Leading the Toyota Angler Of the Year race heading into the seventh stop of the Elite Series season, Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers did enough to maintain his TAOY lead on Thursday, despite losing some ground to Kevin VanDam, who jumped into 2nd place in the TAOY standings and pulled within 29 points of Evers. Evers’ day one weight of 18-7 was good enough for a 25th place tie. Here’s what Evers told The BASS ZONE following Thursday’s opening round of competition: “Basically, I just survived.  It wasn’t what I was looking for, and it was a pretty rough day.  I had two fish at noon and I kept throwing keepers back because I didn’t want them to die.  I lost some big fish also, but I think that I kind of figured out what I was doing wrong.- See more at: http://basszone.com/news/m.blog/23/evers-on-day-one#sthash.LzLjvjDd.dpuf

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An eye on Evers

Edwin has two 4s and three 3s. While some fisherman are catching one here and one there, he is finding little pockets of fish and says his bite is picking up. He's fishing off a big flat between Oak Point and Chippewa Point. We just watched him break off one, looked like it was because of zebra mussels. I didn't ask him what happened! Oops, he just lost another bait, probably to the sharp mussel shells again. It's gotta be frustrating, but he just whips the cutters out and reties.

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Edwin Evers going to work

Don't bet against Edwin Evers winning Angler of the Year. Here's a sequence taken by his Marshal of Mr. Evers digging deep to pull a smallie out of St. Lawrence River. 

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Palaniuk back on top

Brandon Palaniuk busted one of the largest first-day bags of the Bassmaster Elite Series season on Thursday. That was the second item of big news coming out of this Upstate New York town on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.Thursday’s first newsmaker was Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He made a rare visit to Waddington in the morning, touting the St. Lawrence fishery and other attractions of the region.As if to prove Cuomo’s point, Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, hauled 23 pounds, 9 ounces of smallmouth bass to the scales to lead the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown.He wasn’t the only one to show off the river, and the big smallmouth that live there. Even to make the Top 12 Thursday, an Elite pro had to break the 20-pound mark. To be among the Top 50 (the second-day cut mark), a pro had to have more than 17 pounds.Among those turning in 20-plus were Yusuke Miyazaki of Forney, Texas, 22-2 for second place, and Dennis Tietje of Roanoke, La., with 21-9 for third place. Landing fourth place was a two-time St. Lawrence event champ, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., who weighed 21-1. Fifth place was a tie at 20-15 between Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, and Randy Howell of Springville, Ala.Palaniuk — who also led Day 1 of the previous Elite event, which was on the Mississippi River — said he made a decision to make a hard run of 100-plus miles to a spot he’d found in practice. Allowing time enough for a return trip left him with just two hours of fishing time.“It took me almost three hours to get to my first spot today,” he said. “My first two casts I caught two 3 1/2-pounders. That gave me the confidence that I was going to be able to catch them.”And confirmation that he’d made the right decision to spend most of his competition time running to the fish rather than casting to them.“My goal was to catch 23 pounds a day. If I could do that, I felt I could put myself into contention to win,” Palaniuk said. “I’d caught that in practice, so I knew the potential was there.”Palaniuk makes no bones about it: He’s after a win to nail an instant qualification for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, one of the Showdown’s prizes. The winner also takes home $100,000.“I don’t care about the money, just give me the Classic berth,” Palaniuk said.He was heading toward that prize on the Mississippi River in June. He led the first day, but was disqualified after the second day when he inadvertently culled a fish in Minnesota, which is against the law.Palaniuk’s closest threat after the first of four competition days on the St. Lawrence was Miyazaki, who had two 5-pounders in his five-fish limit. Like Palaniuk, he had all smallmouth.And like Palaniuk, Miyazaki said he also committed to a longer than usual run to get back to the best fish he’d found in practice.“I find a good school of fish, I stay with it,” said Miyazaki, who, again like Palaniuk, had never before competed on the St. Lawrence.The Carhartt Big Bass of the day was a 5-pound, 8-ounce smallmouth by Brian Snowden of Reeds Spring, Mo.The full field will return to the St. Lawrence River Friday. The Top 50 will advance to Saturday’s round. Only the Top 12 will compete Sunday for the Showdown’s title and prizes.Also at stake at the Showdown are points in the 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year competition. The top pro will take the AOY crown later this month after the season finale on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Points also determine qualifications for the postseason in September and the Classic in February 2014.The AOY race leader going into the Showdown was Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla. His biggest competition has come from Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., 44 points in back of Evers, and Kevin VanDam, trailing Evers by 50 points.

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Gov. Cuomo announces Bassmaster Elites Series will return to New York in 2014

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and B.A.S.S. today announced the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament will return to New York State in 2014. Under a partnership with B.A.S.S., the event will include the “Governor’s Challenge,” a fishing competition featuring the governor, other elected officials from New York and some of the biggest names in professional fishing.He said the events are intended to highlight and promote the state’s many fishing and vacation opportunities. Following the success of the Governor’s 2013 Adirondack Challenge, the Governor’s Challenge will feature a tournament, fishing demonstrations and a banquet to lure in New Yorkers and visitors from out of state.The governor and B.A.S.S. made the announcement today at the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown, which is taking place Aug. 8-11 on the St. Lawrence River in Waddington.  The Governor’s Challenge will be held next fall in the Finger Lakes to attract visitors to the Upstate region and boost the local economy. In conjunction with the Governor’s Challenge, B.A.S.S. will also hold a Bassmaster Elite Series event. The tournament waters will be announced, along with the rest of the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, at a later date.As part of the partnership, B.A.S.S. will provide a promotional media campaign that will feature these two events, as well as the many fishing opportunities and destinations all across New York state, Cuomo said.“From the Finger Lakes to the Hudson River to Long Island, New York is home to world-class fishing for all anglers and these destinations are waiting to be discovered,” said Cuomo.An avid and lifelong fisherman, Cuomo enjoys fishing with his daughters. He and his daughter, Mariah, went bass fishing together on the St. Lawrence immediately after the announcement.Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S., said, “B.A.S.S. is pleased to join with Gov. Cuomo and the state of New York in promoting the great fisheries and vacation destinations all across the state. We have held numerous tournaments throughout our 45-year history and look forward to increasing our presence in the coming years. Our partnership with the governor is a great way to showcase all of what New York has to offer to anglers from around the world, and with this announcement, we invite them to join us next year for what will surely be an exciting event in the Empire State.”

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