UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer often uses this term "freak of nature" when an Elite Series angler brings a big bass on-stage. But never has a bigger-bellied "freak of nature" crossed the Elite Series weigh-in stage than the one Edwin Evers brought there Thursday.
"I've got something I want to show you," Evers said, as the bag with his five-bass limit was put on the official scales. Evers' total of 19 pounds, 12-ounces put him in 8th place after Day 1 at Cayuga Lake.
Then Evers grabbed the freak out of the bag. It put him in a category all by himself. The bass looked like it had swallowed a baseball.
"That's one of the freakiest looking fish I've ever caught," Evers said. "This one must have a basketball in its belly."
Basketball? Well, no, the bass's belly wasn't nearly that big and round. But a baseball, or maybe even a softball? That was no exaggeration at all.
The bass wasn't weighed because it wasn't going to top the 6-6 that Jacob Powroznik had already weighed-in. But, man, this was a total freak, in everyone's opinion.
Evers took some kidding about how many tungsten weights he'd had to stuff in the fish's belly to get it protruding like that. But in all seriousness, what could that bass have eaten to get the biggest, roundest largemouth bass pot-belly of all bass pot-bellies?
"Bass eat anything. That's what they do for a living," said Gene Gilliland, the B.A.S.S. conservation director and a former fisheries biologist in Oklahoma. "It obviously ate something that wasn't digested yet."
Without dissecting the fish, we'll never know the answer. And like all the others weighed in Thursday, it was released back into Cayuga Lake. Often a tournament angler will find out what a fish has been eating because it gets regurgitated in the boat livewell before the bass is brought to the weigh-in stage. This bass looked like it probably wanted to throw up, but couldn't.
"Sometimes a fish with a lot of spines, like a bluegill, will stay in (the bass's stomach)," Gilliland said. "A bass can eat a turtle, but it's not likely. There might have been a couple of huge gobies in there. This lake has some big ones."
If Evers would happen to win this four-day tournament by ounces, he can thank the bass with the cast iron stomach for putting him over the top.
Hackney makes a move on AOY title
The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title won't be decided until the top 50 anglers compete Sept. 18-21 at Lake Michigan's Little Bay de Noc. If Greg Hackney were to win it then, he might look back on Thursday day as a key to victory.
— Hackney started the tournament with a one-point lead over second-place Aaron Martens. Based on the standings after Day 1 at Cayuga, Hackney now has a 19-point lead on second-place Todd Faircloth.
— Mark Davis has moved from 7th to 3rd in the standings, but shaved only two points off Hackney's lead over him – to 29 points.
— Keith Combs is still in 4th place, but he's now 34 points behind Hackney instead of 16.
— Jacob Powroznik has moved up from 9th place to 5th and trails Hackney by 37 points.
— Martens, based on his 64th-place Day 1 at Cayuga, is now 6th, 61 points behind Hackney.
These are "theoretical points" – not actually earned until the final standings. But they provide a daily snapshot of how the AOY race is headed coming down to the wire.