JASPER, Texas — Edwin Evers clenched and unclenched his hands and checked on the five fish in his bag at the final weigh-in of the CITGO Bassmaster Central Open presented by Busch Beer. Evers was in third after Friday's round with a 30-pound, 7-ounce catch that put him just 3 pounds, 3 ounces out of the lead.
"I like to win," Evers said as he waited. "I've always dreamed of winning on this lake; this and Toledo Bend are my two favorite lakes in the country."
The Oklahoma angler had had a very, very good day on Saturday, but so had the guy in the number four spot, Texas' Brian Penso, who weighed in 18-4 for a total of 48-8 over three days. Evers, the winner of a 2003 tournament on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour, had caught an early limit of respectable fish and spent the rest of the day chasing deep-dwelling bruisers around Sam Rayburn Reservoir. He had had some success, but did he have the 18-2 he would need to beat Penso?
Evers' turn finally came, just ahead of Friday's leader, Tommy Durham of Texas, and second-place angler Tommy Martin, also of Texas. When the fish hit the scales, Evers' tense expression split into a wide smile; he had 22 pounds, bringing his tournament total to 52-7.
"My heart's pounding," he said a few minutes later. "Man, I won one, but you don't ever believe it and want to win two. You want to justify the first one."
Evers said the key to victory was a decision late on the second day of the three-day event.
"I was fishing for big fish," he said. "I made the decision late the second day that I was tired of fishing for peanuts and went for big ones."
To catch them, he used a Bill Norman Deep Diving 14 crankbait and a BASS Pro Shops XPS crankbait, along with a homemade wooden prototype that brought in a 7-plus-pound bass on Friday.
"What really helped me was I caught a limit (on topwater plugs) really early this morning, the first time I've done that," Evers said. "So I got to spend the rest of the day fishing for big fish."
For his win, Evers takes home a $50,000 purse and 300 points toward the Central Open season point standings. The top 15 boaters and non-boaters after the season's third and final event (on the Atchafalya Basin in Louisiana) will earn berths in December's CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship. The top three boaters in the championship will qualify for the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, bass fishing's world championship.
"I'm definitely fishing for the championship," said Penso, whose 48-8 total put him in second place, more than 3 pounds ahead of Tommy Martin. To earn those points and a good finish in the event, Penso took a different tack.
"These fish are spread out," he said. "I'm fishing shallow water, a foot to 2 feet max, grass with gizzard shad. You always have a certain amount of fish that are deep. It's like people; we don't all do the same thing at the same time."
On the non-boater side, Louisiana's Courtney Harris managed a wire-to-wire sweep, thanks in large part to the 16-12 total he brought in on the first day.
"I had some real good partners," he said, but added that a lot of the credit goes to a Texas-rigged 7 ½-inch Culprit worm in a color called blueblood.
"It's the ugliest worm you ever saw in your life," he said. "I had a dream three weeks before I came down here and I called my daddy and told him when I came down here I was going to use it."
Harris is also fishing for the championship but was disappointed in his finish at the previous event in Paducah, Ky.
"I think I finished 82nd,"he said. "I'm not sure. I know where I finished here, though. I won't ever forget it."
The Purolator Big Bass of the Day went to Derek Remitz of Minnesota, who won $1,000 for the boater side with a 7-11 lunker, and George Cox of Texas, who won $400 on the non-boater side for a 6-11 largemouth. No one brought in a bass big enough to challenge Tommy Durham's 9-8 big bass from the first day, which earned him a $1,000 bonus as the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Central Open presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include Jasper/Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.