Looking back at Tulsa

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Chris Mitchell

Edwin Evers waited over 41 years to get the Bassmaster Classic trophy in his clutches, working through near misses and multiple disappointments, but when the opportunity finally stuck around, he carpe diemed the heck out of that sucker.

The best part of this Classic for me is that the winner truly won, rather than someone else stumbling and giving up the title. Take my word for it, as someone who followed Jason Christie for the final two days of the event, he did not lose the tournament in any sense of the word. His decision to stick with a certain part of the lake, and with specific lure choices, will be questioned ad nauseam but was calculated to aim for the win and nothing else.

While he turned in his worst bag of the tournament on Day 3 (12 pounds, 9 ounces), three bags of that size would’ve had him in 13th place overall. The only anglers in the field who didn’t have a daily catch lighter than that were Evers, A-Mart, Bill Lowen and Todd Faircloth, and none of them except the winner came within 3 pounds of the 20-14 Christie weighed in on Day 1.

This time around, those of us in the media gallery got to shed the snowmobile suits we wore at Grand in 2013, and Evers got to shed the much repeated albatross of “best never to win a title.” I’m not sure which of us was more relieved. Now he can move on from that backhanded compliment and seek to establish his place in the pantheon.

With one more B.A.S.S. title of any kind (AOY or Classic), Evers will pass Greg Hackney, tie Mike Iaconelli and Skeet Reese and come within one win of Aaron Martens. Of course, grabbing that next title is not necessarily easy, but with 11 wins under his belt, he has at least three more than each of them. It’s clear proof that he belongs in their ranks among the greatest anglers of this generation.

Sadly, the dreaded title will now fall to Todd Faircloth, who likewise has shown his ability to win just about anywhere, but not in the biggest show of them all. He has five B.A.S.S. wins, and once again came close at Grand, notching his seventh Top 10 Classic finish in the last eight of them. He’s almost a year younger than Edwin, so maybe it’s just a waiting game.

As for Christie, he too has to wonder if he let his last best chance slip by. Like Faircloth and Evers, he has traditionally been a coast-to-coast closer, as evidenced by Bassmaster wins at Dardanelle, Bull Shoals, Fort Gibson and the Detroit River, as well as FLW Tour wins at Hartwell, Beaver and Grand. Therefore, there’s nothing to say that he won’t win a Classic whether it’s held in Florida, Texas, California or anywhere else that bass swim. Nevertheless, he had two shots as a notable pre-tournament favorite and both times got upstaged in the end by his peers.

The one good piece of news for Christie is that he probably didn’t give away too much to the local weekend warriors who followed his every move. Had the fish been in a true wintertime pattern, rather than transitioning, he would’ve had to have show off his key brushpiles and offshore trickery. Instead, he beat the bank, and while he might’ve disclosed some better areas, it probably wasn’t much they couldn’t have found on their own.

While Christie didn’t win, Edwin’s victory makes it three straight years that a home-state angler has taken the trophy for a short drive to the house after the tournament ended. This trend is one that absolutely baffles me. For nearly four decades of the tournament’s existence, no angler won the Classic in his home state. Then Boyd Duckett did it in 2007, and perhaps because he was largely an unknown commodity at the time, no one really thought anything of it. Now we have three more…consecutively.

The trifecta of locals could mean nothing, just the fact that states like Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma turn out good anglers who in this case benefitted from their personal history. On the other hand, if there’s some unseen reason for it I can’t figure it out. Given the advancements in electronics and in angling skill in general in recent years, I would assume that the field has been leveled, and a local would be less likely to win at home, not more.

As we departed the victory party on Sunday night we watched Evers and family ascend the hotel elevator to their room and someone yelled out to him, “The best part is that you’ve already qualified for next year’s Classic.”

A big smile spread across his face. It seemed to me that although the pressure valve had been released a few hours earlier, in no way did it quench his thirst to head back out there again.