Decatur, Ill. — Ask 12 of the best tournament anglers in the world how their last day of practice went and you’re certain to get 12 different answers. Ask them what they think it will take to advance to the semifinals of Toyota Trucks All-Star Week and you just might run the gamut from A to Z.
Last year’s finalists, champion Ott DeFoe and runner-up Edwin Evers seemed to be on the same page. The tournament starts on Lake Shelbyville, an 11,000-acre Corps of Engineers impoundment built in 1970, where 12 all-star anglers will compete for two days, Sept. 20-21. After that, the top four anglers will advance to compete on Lake Decatur.
Evers, renowned for his versatility and a top eight finisher in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings for each of the past three seasons, found lots of suspended fish on Shelbyville, but isn’t sure they were bass. He was a little surprised at the turbidity of the water and thinks successful anglers will be fishing shallow.
“It’s certainly possible that someone got out here before the lake went off limits and found some deeper schools,” Evers said. “But unless that happened, I think most of the catches will come from six feet of water and less. I’m expecting crankbaits, spinnerbaits and various flipping and pitching baits to do most of the damage.”
Evers was cautious about his optimism, but admitted he had few bites in the time he spent actually fishing during practice.
DeFoe, on the other hand, was downright pessimistic.
“I think if someone can catch a limit of small keepers (14-inch size limit) both days, they’ll probably advance to the semifinals. For two days, I think it might not take more than seven and a half pounds — total — to advance. If someone limits both days, that would be impressive. The fishing’s that tough right now.”
Another angler who preferred not to be identified was a lot more optimistic, saying he thought it would take at least 15 or 16 pounds over two days to make the top four.
Fishing begins tomorrow morning on Lake Shelbyville for all 12 all stars. The weigh-in will begin at 5:00 p.m. CT at Nelson Park in Decatur. The top four anglers will fish Lake Decatur in the semifinals on Sept. 22 and the top two will face off there in the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship on Sept. 23. All 12 anglers will earn prize money, and the winner will take home $60,000.