(Jul 31, 2015 - WADDINGTON, N.Y.)
With the bass still scattered after a late spawn, anglers haven’t gotten a lot of bites during the first two rounds of the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River.
They’ve been concentrating more on finding quality bites — smallmouth or largemouth bass weighing 4 pounds or more apiece — and no one has found better quality so far than Oklahoma angler Edwin Evers.
After catching 21 pounds, 3 ounces during Thursday’s opening round, Evers added five gorgeous smallmouth bass that weighed 22-9 Friday and jumped into the lead with a two-day total of 43-12.
His Friday catch, which was the largest of the day for the 107-angler field, gave him a solid cushion over second-place angler Skeet Reese (40-5) of California and third-place angler Josh Bertrand (39-12) of Arizona.
“I’ve only been getting about seven or eight bites a day these first two days,” Evers said. “But I’ve been getting good bites, and they’ve been coming early. I spent the second half of both days practicing and just trying to find more stuff like I’m doing.”
Evers said he was concerned coming into the event after locating only four bass on the second day of practice — a time by which he usually likes to have a big part of his game plan nailed down. He also said it could be a little nerve-racking going back out Saturday, knowing he doesn’t have a large number of fish located.
But his consistency in the first two rounds has put him in position to do something that’s never been done on the Bassmaster Elite Series. After winning BASSfest on Kentucky Lake last month, he could become the first angler to win back-to-back tournaments since the Elite Series was formed 10 years ago.
“That would be awesome, but there’s a lot of fishing left,” Evers said. “There’s just not a lot of fish in any one spot. So we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Day 1 leader Shaw Grigsby proved just how unpredictable the fishing is on the river right now. After a tournament-best catch of 22-15 Thursday, Grigsby caught just two fish that weighed 3-13 Friday and missed the semifinal cut after falling all the way to 76th place.
Such collapses were common Friday, and they cleared a path for anglers like Reese and Bertrand to make a move.
After landing in ninth place with 20-8 Thursday, Reese caught 19-13 Friday and rose to second with 40-5. He’s one of the few anglers in the field who has been catching good numbers of bass.
“I caught a lot of fish today, probably 40 or better,” Reese said. “It was a fun day. Last time we were here, I didn’t make it to Saturday. So I’m glad to make the cut and get to go fishing again tomorrow.”
Like Evers, Bertrand said his bites were few and far between Friday. But he still managed five bass that weighed 20-11 and moved into third with 39-12.
“Luckily, out of the bites I got, I put them all in the boat — and they were good quality,” Bertrand said. “I’ve caught them really by ‘junk fishing.’”
Unlike the other anglers at the top of the leaderboard, Bertrand was open about the technique he’s using. He’s said he’s been using a drop-shot rig, and the fishing has been extremely slow.
“My two best fish today came from totally different depths,” Bertrand said. “One was up in 10 feet and one was down in 30. That’s sort of the way it’s working. There hasn’t been any flurry when you can catch several fish in a row.”
Alabama angler Aaron Martens caught 17-11 Friday and moved into 12th place with 37-3.That allowed him to maintain a slim lead over Arizona pro Dean Rojas in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
Rojas caught 18-3 and moved into 24th place with 34-9. With 501 points on the season, Rojas trails Martens by eight points in the AOY standings.
The field was trimmed to 50 after Friday’s round, with pros needing at least 30-8 to make the cut. Oklahoma angler Tommy Biffle was the last man in.
Those Top 50 anglers will leave Whittaker Park at 6:15 a.m. ET Saturday with the weigh-in scheduled back at the park at 3:15 p.m. Only the Top 12 anglers after Saturday will advance to Sunday’s championship round.
2015 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, GoPro, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2015 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: A.R.E. Accessories, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Huk Performance Fishing, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimano
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