Lake Erie, site of last week's Empire Chase, solidified its reputation as one of the — if not the — best smallmouth venues in the world. Kotaro Kiriyama caught 20 bass that weighed 93 pounds, 6 ounces. That's a heavy tournament weight anywhere, anytime.
"I said before the tournament started that even though my practice fish were running a little smaller this year, there'd be some serious weights brought to the scales," said third place finisher Edwin Evers. "I predicted the winning weight would be heavier this year and it was."
Kiriyama's bass averaged just shy of 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Evers' bass in the 2007 event — an event which he won — averaged about 4 pounds, 6 ounces. Five ounces is a huge difference when you consider it involves 20 and 15 smallmouth bass, respectively. Evers got it right.
Evers said this would be a tournament won or lost by finding schools of bass. He was dead-on about that.
Kiriyama himself said he won because he found concentrations of suspended bass below baitfish over deeper water. "I spent most of my time locating baitfish... It was really easy fishing. I did nothing but drop the Ninja Worm down to them. I didn't do anything else," he said of his winning pattern after the tournament.
Evers' cut weight predictions were close, if not exactly on the money.
Zell Rowland claimed the last spot on Saturday's launch list with a weight of 30 pounds, 6 ounces, not too far from the 34 pounds predicted by Evers before the tournament. And, Greg Hackney claimed the 12th slot on Sunday morning with 55 pounds even. Evers predicted it would take 50 pounds.
His big bass prediction was 6 pounds, 4 ounces. In fact, Kiriyama caught the big one on Saturday and it weighed 5 pounds, 15 ounces. Who among us would fault a man for a 5 ounce error?
Evers also said the wind probably wouldn't be much of a factor but with Erie you can never be sure. It did cause some problems, especially on Thursday, but most of the anglers dealt with it fairly well. No one can honestly say it altered the results.
But, by far the best summary of Evers' understanding of Lake Erie is his own performance. He put together four strong days — three days of 21 pounds and change along with a fourth day at 20 pounds plus — and finished a respectable third with a total weight of 84 pounds, 8 ounces. That's strong.
"I caught my fish and I had my chances," he said. "I lost several good bass during the tournament that would have made a big difference. One in particular just swam off with my lure. I couldn't do anything with it. It just kept going. I'm sure she would have weighed 7 or 8 pounds.
"But, I was still was almost 9 pounds behind Kota. He did one heck of a good job. He found some really big bass and he won the tournament. I figured there'd be a 25-pound bag but who'd a thought he would put together two bags like that, and back to back no less. He caught them and deserved to win."
Evers clearly understands Lake Erie. His predictions and his performance show it. He deserves an A.