After the first two Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open tournaments of 2018, Florida angler Will Evans has impressed. He finished 20th at the Kissimmee Chain, fourth at Lake Norman and is now fourth in the AOY standings. Evans is happy with the strong start but claimed it doesn’t compare to fishing with his grandfather, Bill Harris when he was a tad.
“It was the best time I’ve ever had in my whole life,” Evans said of his early fishing trips.
Grandpa Harris, who passed 15 years ago, took Evans fishing every weekend on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. These outings began when Evans was 6 years old. They would head out after crappie and bluegill in a 16-foot aluminum flat bottom powered by a 40 hp outboard.
“By the time I was 10 we were bass fishing all the time,” Evans said.
Evans’ grandparents owned a small convenience store called the 36th Street Market in Winter Haven, Fla. They lived in a trailer park near Camp Mack on the Kissimmee River. Grandma Joyce is still alive.
“That little trailer park is where I grew up,” Evans said.
Grandpa Harris had a heart condition and was only able to fish for three hours in the morning and for another three hours in the evening. During those hours Evans and his grandfather would cast Cotton Cordell Boy Howdy propbaits.
“The only thing my granddaddy wanted us to do was topwater,” Evans said. “We used to catch plenty of big ones back then.”
Evans caught his biggest bass on a Boy Howdy when he was 11 years old. It weighed 11-pounds, 2 ounces.
When Evans was 13 he got his first taste of tournament fishing thanks to Jimmy Rogers, a local bass ace. Rogers fished several Bassmaster Opens in the 1980s and qualified for the 1980 Bassmaster Classic on the St. Lawrence River via the B.A.S.S. Nation.
“We fished a pretty big two-day tournament on Lake Toho,” Evans said. “I don’t remember what we caught, but we won. After that, I was hooked on it.”
Tournament fishing would have to wait because money was tight. There was also baseball at Lake Region High School where Evans played shortstop and was coached by grandpa Harris.
It wasn’t until Evans had a steady job at the Walmart warehouse in Winter Haven that he had enough funds to get seriously into tournament fishing. He competed in local circuits, such as the BFLs and ABAs.
From 2009 through 2014, Evans competed in six southern Bassmaster Opens, five of which were in Florida. His best finishes during that stretch were seventh on the Kissimmee Chain in 2011 and ninth on the Harris Chain in 2012.
“I cut back on my fishing for about five years so I could coach my son, Ty, in baseball,” Evans said. “He made the varsity team at Lakeland Christian High as a ninth grader.”
Evans is back to full-bore tournament fishing and, thanks to some good business moves, has the funds to do so. He currently works with Advanced Industrial Services in Winter Haven.
There was a time when Evans dreamed of becoming a professional bass fisherman. However, at age 39 he isn’t willing to leave a successful business to pursue a fulltime fishing career.
“I enjoy fishing the Opens,” Evans said. “My number one goal has always been to fish in the Bassmaster Classic. The whole reason I fish the Opens is to try and achieve that goal.”
The dream of fishing professionally is now alive in Evans’ other son, Colby, who is 21. Colby is fishing local events and Evans is his mentor. If things go as hoped for, Colby will gradually compete at higher levels until he is shoulder-to-shoulder with the Elite Series pros.
“My favorite way to catch bass is on topwater because of the way I grew up,” Evans said. “But I spend more time fishing offshore shell beds and things like that than most Florida fishermen.”
Evans’ sponsors are Blazer Boats, Fitzgerald Rods, Gambler Lures and Fish 13 reels.