An eighth-place finish at the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic — I am happy with that. But while coming close in the Classic is better than not coming close in the Classic, it’s nothing like winning.
This event is not like any other we fish. It’s a winner-take-all tournament, not in monetary terms, but in terms of the boost it gives your career.
Everybody tries to fish that event to win, but I always try to takeaway something positive from every tournament. In this case, I won’t minimize a Top 10 finish at the Classic; so the takeaway is that it gives me great momentum heading into the Bassmaster Elite Series season.
To know that I out-fished most of the field and was able to put together a solid pattern, find some good fish and execute, that always feels really good.
Beyond that, I’d like to share my Bassmaster Classic reflections in a few key areas:
1. Long-term weather patterns — Ever since the Classic, I’ve been thinking about how important these patterns are. Leading up to the tournament, I was thinking that this would be a major factor, and it certainly turned out that way.
Because we’re in the middle of an El Niño we’ve had a warmer winter and a lot more rain than normal. The combination of these factors created the scenario that I had suspected — the fish moved shallow and they were a little ahead in more of a prespawn pattern than a winter pattern.
Current conditions are always important in a tournament, but I’m really learning to appreciate and understand the impacts of long-term trends ahead of a tournament. That’s a Classic takeaway that I’ll reference the rest of my career.
As far as this Elite season, I think this is particularly relevant considering the weather anomalies we’re having because of El Niño. One of the examples of how I think this is going to play out is the Elite event on Toledo Bend toward the end of May.
Normally that time of year on Toledo Bend, it would be early summertime patterns like deep cranking, structure fishing, Carolina rigs, spoons and schools of fish ganging up offshore. However, that region of southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana has experienced record rainfall and floods, similar to what Grand Lake had before the Classic.
I think this is going to make the water murkier than we’d normally see this time of year on Toledo Bend. There’s been so much mud coming into that lake, it’s just not going to clear up in the next couple of months.
I think this will make the tournament fish shallower than normal, so I’ve already started adjusting my frame of mind for other tournaments based on what I learned about long-term weather patterns at the Classic.
2. The Classic impact — I’ve always believed that this is not just another bass tournament. From the competitive standpoint, you still have to go out and find the fish, figure out the pattern and catch the fish. But, in terms of fans following the sport, there’s nothing else like the Classic.
During a normal week on my Facebook fan page,, I get about 50 new likes. During Classic week, I got 1,200 new likes. Part of that was because I was in contention all week.
This attention is just a big exclamation point to me for my career, and for all pro anglers, it’s a reminder just how important it is to qualify for that event and why the Classic really is the crown jewel of our sport.
Even though it is just a single event, the brownie points you get for being at that event, doing well at that event and, hopefully, winning that event are not like any event in the history of bass fishing.
3. My fan interaction — On Day 2, I was in third place, and I had a large flotilla of boats following me. I had in excess of 50 boats at times.
You know, you get so dialed in on fishing that you forget they’re out there. But then you catch a 4-pounder and that crowd erupts behind you. It literally sends chills down my spine and I get goose bumps on my arms because it’s such a cool thing.
And then to be able to turn around and exchange kind words with the people that are cheering you on; that on-the-water interaction is like nothing else you can experience as an angler.
We tend to think of fishing as the solitude of being out in the quiet of nature, but you take all that, roll it up into a ball and throw it away when you’re in contention to win the Bassmaster Classic.
It definitely takes mental fortitude to fish through that, but I have to say that the fans who were following me on Grand Lake were probably more courteous than any fans I’ve been around. I’ve never really had any bad fan interaction, but this was a super good experience.
4. Edwin Evers is a super hero — This Classic really put an exclamation point on how good he is. He’s the best I’ve ever seen at changing water — especially after he’d had a good day. Most people, if they have a good day on the water, they go back to the same place.
He changed water every day, even after catching decent stringers of fish. After catching over 17 pounds on Day 2, I might have been tempted to run back up the Neosho River on Day 3, but not Edwin.
I saw him do that on the St. Lawrence River last season when I finished second and he won. He changed to completely new water and put the hammer down. So this wasn’t an isolated event, but it takes guts to do that at the Bassmaster Classic.
That kind of move could have burned him, but he’s learned how to use this boldness to his advantage. It usually doesn’t burn Edwin Evers.
My hat’s off to Edwin. Winning the Classic is going to change him — not as a person — but rather, his perspective on fishing. It’s going to give him a voice and a platform like he’s never had before.
He’ll work harder than he’s ever worked on the promotional side. But he’ll have a very enjoyable year because he’s achieved something very few people will ever achieve.
Most of all, Edwin Evers will be a fine ambassador for the sport of bass fishing.