BUFFALO — Saving his best for last, Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., boated the heaviest limit of the tournament, 23 pounds, 14 ounces, of Lake Erie smallmouth bass Sunday, to outlast a hard-charging Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., by 4 pounds at the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors.
Evers, 32, totaled 65 pounds, 7 ounces, over the course of the tournament, which was shortened from four days to three because of inclement weather, to win his first Bassmaster Elite Series event and the $100,000 top prize. With the victory, the four-time BASS winner has totaled more than $1 million in career earnings — the 19th BASS angler to accomplish that feat.
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the Empire Chase on The Bassmasters at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, July 28, on ESPN2.
"This is one of the most awesome days in my whole life," Evers said of the final day. "This is unbelievable. To tell you the truth, I didn't even really know if I won it, even though I had such a great day."
Ironically, Evers doesn't consider fishing for smallmouth as one of his strengths. With the victory, the versatile Oklahoma pro expanded his skill set.
Throughout the tournament, Evers drop-shotted a green pumpkin Yum Houdini worm in 36 to 42 feet of water. During the first day of competition, Evers scored a sixth-place finish despite motor trouble that cost him some of his fishing day. Saturday, he took over the lead with a 21-pound limit, and he closed the deal Sunday with the big limit.
Kiriyama totaled 61 pounds, 7 ounces, of smallmouth and posted the best Elite Series finish of his career. The 36-year-old keyed on areas that were filled with shad, primarily working a worm. He was traveling farther from the launch site than any of the other competitors, trekking almost 60 miles each day.
"Today was a beautiful day," said Kiriyama, who notched his fifth second-place finish in BASS competition. "The key to my success was adjusting to the weather. I had my areas all to myself and we don't experience that too often."
In third was John Murray of Phoenix, with 60 pounds, 8 ounces. In fourth was Terry Butcher, also of Talala, with 60 pounds, 3 ounces. Butcher shared an area with Evers, his brother in law, for much of the tournament but left the area to Evers on the final day.
In fifth was Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., with 59 pounds, 15 ounces. Hackney's limit included a 5-pound, 10-ounce smallmouth that earned Purolator Big Bass Honors for the day.
Thursday's leader Paul Hirosky, of Guy Mills, Pa., slipped to eighth with 58 pounds, 1 ounce.
After the ninth Elite event of 2007, the season-long points races remain tight. Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., increased his lead to 20 points over two-time Bassmaster Classic champ Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich. In the Toyota Rookie of the Year race, two 2007 Elite winners, Derek Remitz of Madison, Ala., and Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., are battling it out. Remitz, who won the season-opening event on Texas' Lake Amistad leads Ashley by 30 points.
The next tournament for the 51 qualifying anglers from the 108-angler Elite Series is the Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon July 26-29 in Syracuse, N.Y. The next Elite Series event is set for Aug. 9-12 on the Potomac River out of LaPlata, Md. The 11th and final Elite event of the season is scheduled for Sept. 13-16 on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga.