About two hours after Edwin Evers clinched his first Bassmaster Elite Series championship Sunday night, his cell phone's message system was as full as a smallmouth stuffed with gobies.
"The mailbox for …" and then this manly voice says "Edwin Evers"' before returning to a woman's voice … "is full and cannot accept new messages at this time. To page this person, press 5 now or please try again later. Goodbye."
Evers already was on the road to Syracuse and Lake Oneida to prepare for this week's Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon. After visiting with family and friends, he began logging more miles on the final trek of the season's northeast swing and trying to come down from his clouds.
Hey, winning the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors will do that to a guy's cell phone. Sort of like how Lake Erie's abundance of smallmouth bass can do that to a guy's sonar screen and livewell … fill them up to capacity and leave folks trying for more.
"If I hadn't had to cull, I don't know how many I could have caught," Evers said. "Once you caught one, got it off the hook, the boat drifted away, you got on the balance beam because they're all cookie cutters … then I'd run over three groups of fish going to the area where I've just caught one and have to stop and catch one or two there.
"I might not have come to the weigh-in if I had not had a chance to win it. My cameraman said he'd never run out of batteries before … he ran out with two hours to go."
Evers finished with 65 pounds, 7 ounces for his first Elite Series win and fourth Bassmaster title. He also became the 19th member of the Bassmaster $1 million club.
Hours after his win, he still was gushing about the fishing. So were the other pros who braved the tough conditions for a week they won't forget.
"It was a ball all week, just completely unreal," said Terry Butcher, who happens to be Evers' brother-in-law and lives in the same town, Talala, Okla. He finished fourth with 60 pounds, 3 ounces. Kotaro Kiriyama of Alabama was second with 61-7 and John Murray of Phoenix third with 60-8.
"They bit from the first cast to the last cast and every cast in between," Butcher said. "It probably was the first time I've ever had anything like that happen. I fished for smallmouth last season at Oneida but I was throwing a jig. I caught all of these on a drop shot with a 3-inch Yum! Dinger."
Oklahoma boys fishing a drop shot? In water 30- to 40-feet deep?
"The first time I ever tied on a drop shot period was at Table Rock last season when Edwin finished second and I really haven't fished one since," Butcher said. "We don't fish those too often."
What in the name of braided line and power fishing is going on here?
Evers also was tossing a drop shot with a Yum! Houdini finesse worm doused liberally with Yum! attractant, which he said "definitely made a difference, without a doubt."
Runner-up Kiriyama had a spinning rod in his hand. Murray was fishing deep water like out west, the U.S. birthplace of the drop shot.
It was more than the technique, though.
"I think the big part is I'm just really comfortable with my electronics," Evers said. "It's not catching them, it's finding them. Anyone can catch them but you have to find the right ones. I had 17 or 18 waypoints and fished three of them in three days.
The last 10 minutes I'm idling to one rock that I'd found, and 30 yards in front and behind the rock my Lowrance screen went black with smallmouth. I made two drops and caught two fish."
The immense number of smallmouth in Erie and the Northeast lakes does strange things to men.
It puts spinning tackle and finesse worms in their hands. It makes them watch sonar screens on their deck like pre-teens glued to Hannah Montana. It makes them brave 5- to 8-foot rollers and long runs.
"The first day I had a 19-pound limit in 30 minutes before the waves got going," Butcher said. "Then after that all started, I got scared. I don't have any experience with that, so I left and started back … those were the biggest waves I've ever seen.
"It was like surfing with a bass boat, literally going to the top and when you broke over the other side you let off the gas and were running downhill big-time. The outboard was 3 feet higher than you, behind you, while you're going down that backside. When you're fishing, you're on the trolling motor with waves crashing on the deck and the bilge pump running almost all the time."
Evers broke a motor mount on the first day. The boat, motor and trolling motor service crews were busy as bees buzzing around a kicked hive. The first day was rough and the second day of competition was canceled.
But there were fish to be caught, and the field was ready to get back out there.
"I've never been on a bite like that," Butcher said. "Once I figured out how to catch them, it was unreal. The most smallmouth I've ever caught in one day is maybe 10 to 15. I caught probably 40 just on Sunday and that's not exaggerating."
That's not even on the spot that put Butcher in the final round. He and Evers may be brothers-in-law, but they don't spill all the secrets. They found the same good spot in practice, albeit at different times, and alternated on the first and second days.
When they realized what was going on, Butcher followed one of the unwritten rules of the sport. He gave up the spot to Evers, graciously took a few GPS waypoints from his brother-in-law for a couple of other spots and then headed in a different direction on Sunday.
"He had a good chance to win and I figured we could both fish it and earn some points but he might not win, or I could give it up and he'd have a better chance to win," Butcher said. "I had 16 or 17 pounds in about 15 minutes on Sunday, so I figured that was a pretty good spot to start on and work up."
Butcher finished with 21-15, the third biggest catch of the day. Despite the fun with the bronzebacks, Butcher's ready for a Southern swing.
"That's a shallow-water deal and I'm looking forward to it," he said of the next tournament, on the Potomac River next month. "I'll put away my spinning rod for a while and get back to something I'm a little more familiar with … but it wasn't too bad this week."