Edwin Evers had one word to describe how he felt Sunday.
"Awesome, awesome, awesome," he said after catching an 8-13 "mule" on the final day and rallying to victory in the Bassmaster Elite Series Power-Pole Citrus Slam.
Targeting the backwaters of the St. Johns River system, he weighed in 19-0 to total 77-1 and shut out three-day leader Alton Jones and hard-charging local favorite Terry Scroggins.
Trailing Jones by about 2 1/2 pounds before Sunday's finale, Evers sealed his sixth Bassmaster victory by overtaking Jones and besting him by almost 3 pounds.
Jones' sight bite, which included the event's biggest bag of 26-9 on Day One, died, and he only brought 13-2 to the scales Sunday. He finished in third place with 73-12, leaving second place to Scroggins, who moved over him with the day's biggest bag of 20-4 for a 74-3 total.
"I thought I'd lost this tournament numerous times every day," Evers said. "Getting the Classic berth is huge, an important step that takes a lot of pressure off."
Sight fishing the flats of a St. Johns lake the first day he shared with many other Elite pros, Evers started out in 20th place.
He made a crucial decision to leave the community hole and find more private water. He climbed into fourth on the second day, improving once again on the third day when he took the runner-up spot behind Jones. His catches were fairly consistent — 16-8, 22-5,19-4 and 19-0.
Not to mention the 8-13, his big fish of the day, the fish that sealed his climb into the winner's seat.
"It was a fish that I'd found the second day, really shallow," Evers said. "I went there the third day, and Scroggins was there. I turned around and left. I went there second thing this morning, and the northeast wind held the water up, and ended up catching the male.
"It was actually the second time I'd caught him — I lost it and he bit again. She bit five or 10 minutes later. She was a mule."
Evers said he hit many spots over the four days, including one area where he had to saw off overhanging willow branches to be able to put his lures in front of spawning bass.
Sunday afternoon's 15- to 17-mph winds hurt some of the final 12, but helped Evers. His water was stained, hard to reach and had not been pounded by the field.
"I had areas that were protected," he said. "I just had to get them to bite and get them in the boat. When the tide was low, the fish got freaky. I lost some big ones today, at least a 10-pounder and another at the end of the day — but it doesn't matter now."
He credited a new formula Yum bait, the F2. He used several styles, including Wooly Bug, Money Craw and a Craw Papi.
Runner-up Scroggins, who gave Evers a little advice as the tournament began, also got a tip from another Elite pro in the top 12.
Knowing he could not win, Casey Ashley stepped back from going to a big bass he'd seen in a canal, and gave the location to Scroggins. But when he got there, the fish was gone, but Scroggins found another nearby. It weighed 7-12, and was a key to his finish.
"Without that, I wouldn't even have come close," Scroggins said.
Competing on his home water, Scroggins said he was happy to do well, even if he ended as runner-up.
"I'll take second place every day," he said.
Jones said the wind on Sunday killed his Lake George sight bite.
"You're not going to catch the big ones unless you're looking at them, so I was fishing for buck bass most of the day," he said.
With his back-to-back Top 12 finishes, Jones took the lead in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race from last week's event winner, Shaw Grigsby. Scroggins moved into second, Kevin VanDam is third, and Evers moved into fourth place.
Berkley Big Bass honors of the tournament went to Jason Williamson of Aiken, S.C., whose 10-3 lunker from the first day withstood all challengers — and several of those were in the high 9s. Williamson won a $500 bonus.