Despite having little knowledge of the Arkansas River stretch out of Muskogee, Okla., a handful of Bassmaster Elite Series anglers are licking their chops at the prospect of scouring an area of water that can be considered quasi-new territory.
One of those anglers, Edwin Evers — despite residing in Talala, Okla. — has only visited the area twice, on scouting trips this year. Currently sitting in second in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, Evers could have a lot to gain — and lose — heading into the final regular season Elite event of 2010, the Auto Zone Sooner Run, set for June 17-20.
"I love new bodies of waters," said Evers, 35. "It makes things really challenging. I don't know much about it. It's big. We have 100 miles we can fish, so there will be lots of water. It's going to be a visual deal. You won't be looking at the graph. What you see is what you get there."
Evers said shallow water will be the primary focus for all of the competitors. He says the river is capable of yielding quality weights — Evers said more than 20 pounds a day is possible — but it will be nearly impossible to sustain that stout number.
As is, Evers targeted 16 pounds a day as a weight that could take home the victory and the $100,000 top prize. He said that the potential for a rapidly changing leaderboard is there on the Arkansas River.
According to the five-time Bassmaster winner, the magical spot that has produced victories at many Elite tournaments won't be a factor on the River. While a spot can produce one day, Evers said duplicating success will be extremely tough, and, in order to be most successful, the Elite pros will have to identify a ton of productive areas, be nimble and move around.
With such an unknown and so much at stake, many anglers will be biting their fingernails heading into the regular-season finale. Pros will be jockeying for final positioning in the Angler of the Year standings and looking to secure qualifying spots in the Bassmaster Elite Series postseason (the top 12), the 2011 Bassmaster Classic (the top 37) and the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series (the top 84).
While it would take a monumental stumble for Evers to fall out of postseason contention, he will be looking to do all he can to close the gap on the sizable lead that Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., opened up in the AOY standings. More will be determined with this weekend's Tennessee Triumph on Kentucky Lake out of Paris, Tenn., but as of now, Reese has a 178-point lead.
Close behind Evers in the AOY standings is Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas. Klein has posted two top-five finishes on the Arkansas River in past BASS events, but that was in a totally different location. Klein is essentially going into the tournament blind and with little knowledge of the fishable portion, but that is exactly the way he likes it.
"Bring it on," said Klein, a two-time AOY. "It's nice to go into an event with no preconceived areas. I haven't even looked at tournament results from the past. I heard it's a little treacherous in certain areas, and that is an element that I like. I know they live there and that is all that matters."
The top level of Bassmaster competition last visited the Arkansas River in 2006, when Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark., won the Bassmaster Legends event with 34 pounds, 9 ounces. Also, fellow Arkansan and Elite pro Mike McClelland won the 1996 Bassmaster Arkansas Invitational on the fishery.
The Arkansas River has hosted two Bassmaster Classics, serving as the scene of Rick Clunn's historic, record-setting victory in the 1984 Classic and an unforgettable weigh-in involving then Gov. Bill Clinton and then Vice President George H.W. Bush.
The river, a hotbed for striped bass fishing, is 320 miles long, and its 12 navigational pools are formed by a system of locks and dams. Anglers will be able to go one lock down out of the Muskogee pool and two locks up.
Along with the top prize of $100,000, the Auto Zone Sooner Run awards valuable points in the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Behind Reese and Evers in that race is Derek Remitz of Grant, Ala., in third with 1,393; Klein in fourth with 1,382; and Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., in fifth with 1,381.
The public is invited to attend the Auto Zone Sooner Run's daily launches (6 a.m. CT) Thursday through Sunday and weigh-ins (3:30 p.m.) at Three Forks Harbor, 5201 Three Forks Road, Fort Gibson, Okla. After Day 2's competition Friday, the field will be cut to the top 47 anglers for Day 3. Only the top 12 will go on to compete in Sunday's Day 4.
Activities will begin at 12 p.m. CT at Three Forks Harbor. All events are free and open to the public. Included in the festivities will be a kids' area with face painting, arts and crafts and games.
On Saturday, the penultimate day of competition, the Okie Country Music Fest will take place featuring Jason Boland and the Stragglers as well as Brandon Jenkins and The Swon Brothers. On Sunday, Brian Jackson will be on hand and will attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records in the category of blowing up the most balloons by an individual.
The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance will be on hand Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m., presenting youth outdoor activities including archery, casting, game calling, boating education and trapping.
The local sponsor of the Auto Zone Sooner Run is the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce.
At the conclusion of the Auto Zone Sooner Run, the top 12 pros in the AOY standings will advance to the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series postseason, in which the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year will be determined.
Toyota Trucks Championship Week is set for July 24-31 and will be played out once again on two productive Alabama fisheries. The first leg, the July 24-25 Ramada Trophy Chase, returns to Lake Jordan out of Wetumpka. The finale, the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, is slated for July 30-31 on the Alabama River from Montgomery.
In the competition for the final 2011 Bassmaster Classic (Louisiana Delta, Feb. 18-20) qualifying spots are Elite Series rookie Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, La., and Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan. Both are on the bubble, in 36th place (1,158 points) and 37th place (1,139 points), respectively. Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., is just behind them in 38th, with 1,133 points.
Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Skeeter, Yamaha and Bass Pro Shops.
Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance, Triton Boats, Nitro Boats and Ramada.