Suddenly, Kevin VanDam was no longer in Edwin Evers’ virtual crosshairs.
VanDam, the man who for two years running has beaten Evers out of the coveted Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, was eliminated Sunday from Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. Evers survived that Lake Jordan competition to advance to the next leg, the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship, Friday-Sunday on the Alabama River out of Montgomery, Ala.
So there will be no Evers-VanDam match, no chance this week for Evers to even an old score.
“I would have loved to have had him there. I wanted to compete against him,” the Talala, Okla., pro said Monday morning while relaxing in Montgomery with his family on an off day.
All Bassmaster Elite Series pros compete against each other, but the Evers-VanDam history is unique. In the 2010 postseason on the Alabama River, Evers finished second to VanDam’s first. VanDam earned enough points for his sixth, and third-consecutive, Angler of the Year title. Evers fell 11 points short of his first AOY title.
In 2011, when the Angler of the Year format changed back into a regular-season contest, VanDam did it again. He won his fourth consecutive AOY title, again leaving Evers as runner-up.
Then both advanced into the July 23-31 postseason, setting up the possibility of KVD vs. E2. When it didn’t happen, Evers was resigned to waiting for another day.
“I’ll just have to compete against him for that next year,” Evers said. “Now it’s all about beating Aaron Martens.”
Martens of Leeds, Ala., and Evers will be July 29 opponents on the Alabama River. They were matched up by the event’s seeded and bracketed format. The eight survivors from the Lake Jordan competition were seeded according to their finishes, then slotted into the bracket format: No. 1 vs. 8; 2 vs. 7; 3 vs. 6; and 4 vs. 5.
Martens was the No. 3 seed; Evers was No. 6. The other first-day matches will be No. 1 seed Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., vs. No. 8 Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.; No. 2 Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., vs. No. 7 Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.; and No. 4 Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., vs. No. 5 Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala.
The four Day One victors will fish again on Saturday. The two winning anglers Saturday will be the only pros in Sunday’s finale. The winner will claim the entire $100,000 purse.
Evers estimated that counting last year, he’s competed three times in his career on the Alabama River. Conditions now appear to be optimal, he said, although his knowledge of the off-limits fishery is only what he saw Sunday while driving across a river bridge.
“The Alabama isn’t flooded, or muddy, and the current’s flowing,” he said. “Those are the three factors that affect how the river fishes.”
And VanDam or no VanDam, “It’s going to be a great tournament.”