LEESBURG, Fla — Jim McDevitt wasn't sure what to do when he was handed the trophy on stage.
He had sat in the "hot seat" for more than an hour, taking jokes from both emcee Keith Alan and tournament director Trip Weldon about the long gray hair forcing its way out from under his hat and not stopping until well beyond his shoulders.
McDevitt, a bus driver from Eldon, Mo., had been waiting for his closest competition coming into the day, Bryan Talmadge, to weigh-in, but there was nobody left backstage. Weldon called McDevitt over in his direction and Alan told him Talmadge zeroed — McDevitt had won.
He grabbed the trophy from Weldon, shifted it back and forth in his hands a couple times, and then did what came naturally: one arm back in a flex and the other straight out into the air holding the trophy — Hulk Hogan style.
"Oh man, do you see this?" he said in his usual laid-back style. "I can't believe it. I'm going to get some money."
After awkwardly shuffling around the stage answering questions for a couple minutes, he was asked again to show his trophy to the fans. This time he set it on the podium in front of him and flexed with both hands down in front, squeezing toward the middle.
He was a little more subdued backstage, but he was still having trouble wiping the smile off his face. All week he had been preaching practice, and it paid off again on Saturday. He was paired with Rick Ash, who had been one of the few pros on a consistent bite, but the day didn't have a great start.
The pair hit one of the many huge waves caused by the 40-plus mph winds screaming across the Harris Chain on Day Three, and it knocked out their trolling motor.
They didn't know it until they arrived to the first spot and Ash put it down to fight the wind. When nothing happened, they tied up to a dock and Ash broke out the tools. For 45 minutes Ash fiddled with the motor, and McDevitt said he was getting antsy in the back, afraid his 6-pound cushion was quickly evaporating.
"I finally asked him if there was anything I could do to help him and he said no," said McDevitt, who ended a 22-year stint in the Air Force three years ago. "Then I asked him if it was OK if I fished because, 'I'm tired of looking at your ass.'"
A few minutes later, he reeled in the first of his four fish on the day. Elite pro Britt Meyers eventually came by their boat and gave Ash the spare trolling motor he had with him, which put both Ash and McDevitt back in business.
Weights were down across the both boards — pro and co-angler — making McDevitt's 7 pounds, 10 ounces a lot more than he needed to win. He also beat his pro for the third straight day — Ash finished with 6-8.
On Saturday, he caught all his fish flipping canals. He started the day using a Speed Craw, but it wasn't getting deep enough fast enough, so he switched to a Brush Hog and started catching fish.
McDevitt, who is scheduled to fish as a co-angler in all 11 Elite Series events and three Opens, said he's living the life, working when he has to and fishing when he doesn't. This win earned him $25,000.
"Everything's perfect for me," he said. "I've got a truck, a boat and a wife, and they all work."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6th–9th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. And a reminder … Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.