PALATKA, Fla. -- Edwin Evers relied on two implements, a bucketful of wits and some go-for-broke nerves to wrangle victory this weekend.
Besides rods, reels and baits, Evers had a push pole and a bush trimmer in his Nitro as he came from behind to win the Power-Pole Citrus Slam. Two of Evers' hot spots along the St. Johns River required a full-speed run over water less than a foot deep; one he had never been into, and the other required a landscaper's touch.
Salt Creek was coveted ground for the final day. From blastoff, Evers was in a boat race with Terry Scroggins and Casey Ashley to see who would fish it first thing Sunday morning.
Evers had a better boat number and was never passed. His Mercury was wound up for a prop-dragging charge into the creek, but before he entered, he had to clear a 100-yard-long flat.
Once he settled into the creek, he retrieved his hedge trimmer and began pruning a willow tree. Beneath the branches was a pair of bedding bass. After his gardening, he caught them in short order.
The still water of Salt Creek required Evers to move as stealthily as possible. He decided to forego his MotorGuide in favor of a Stiffy push pole. He shoved his boat along, raising and lowering his Power-Poles as he settled in on bedding bass.
As he fished in the creek, fans waded across the ankle-deep flat at the mouth of the creek. Boats beached themselves in an attempt to follow him.
What really spooked -- and excited -- Evers was a creek that he discovered in his hotel room. He ran to new spots every day, but none had him as worried as this one.
"I saw this place on an aerial map and it looked like it had good, deep water in the back of it," he said of the creek that never got wider than 20 feet and dead-ended into a 1-acre pool after nearly a quarter-mile. "I had never been in there before, not even in practice, so I didn't know what to expect."
Evers used a head of steam worked up during the run from Salt Creek as he charged into the canal, skittering across the sandy bottom along on the way. Once inside, he poled and trolled around, hooking up with one fish that culled for him, and losing another.
"Dude, I was real worried about running in there," he said. "I was scared to death, because I had been in the other one, but this one had me nervous. It looked good on the aerial, so I decided to take a gamble, and it paid off."
His efforts provided stellar video from his cameramen, who caught the usually stoic Oklahoman's enthusiastic winning catch.
"Stay on there, fish," he said after hooking up with an 8-13 bass from the shoreline reeds. "Stay on there, girl. Stay on there. Yes. Wooo. Woo-hoo-hooo."
Evers knew the big bass could possibly give last year's Bassmaster Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year runner-up his first Elite Series victory since 2007. It did.
"Seems like I was there 15 minutes," he said, "but my cameraman said I was there an hour and a half."
Time flies when you're having fun, and Evers looked like he was having a blast. His 19-0 total Sunday gave him 77-1 over the four days, and more importantly sends him back to the Classic.
He had only missed two of the last 12 Classics, including the 2010 event, something the consistent and quietly competitive pro lamented. He had worries this past weekend as well, but ingenuity with a trimmer and push pole, along with his desire and fishing skills, put him back on top.
"I thought I'd lost this tournament numerous times every day," Evers said after the weigh-in. "Getting the Classic berth is huge, an important step that takes a lot of pressure off."
Note: Be sure to visit the Edwin Evers Day Four On the Water photo gallery for a sequence of shots chronicling his day and the winning catch.