As the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series gets under way, let’s look back at what a number of Elite anglers did over the winter. Classic champ Edwin Evers had a super busy year trying to accommodate media and sponsors requests during his reign. He traveled plenty, mostly for sponsors, but he did manage to get away somewhere exotic. Of course, then he went fishing and landed a tuna. “Another first for me,” he said. “My first tuna and first raw fish right on the boat! It was actually really good!” Edwin, they call that sushi.
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Keith Combs married his girlfriend, Jennifer, and he posted: “It’s finally official.” Big congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Combs. For their honeymoon, they went somewhere out West, with canyons and rock bridges and posted a bunch of pics. The trip included a hot-air balloon ride to catch some sights. Looks like they’re thinking of something else. Get a room!
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Gerald Swindle had a rough go with a serious leg injury requiring hospitalization after wrapping up his second Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, but he slowly healed and managed to hobble out to bow hunt. He continued to mend while growing quite the impressive beard and getting back to fishing. The beard is living up to its legend here, showing it has the power to make huge bass jump in the boat. Swindle said this moose came right after another on Guntersville.
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In his garage/trophy room/man cave, Swindle recently performed what we call the G-Man Triton boat swap. That’s basically just moving all his gear and tackle from his old boat to the new one. Not all that thrilling, but it’s exciting for him and most of the Elites who count down the days until the season starts.
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Randall Tharp was sure to be sore after reeling in this monster grouper. A number of Elites take their time away from bass fishing and head out during the winter – to saltwater fish. Some do it more than others.
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Jeff Kriet is a regular saltwater angler, going out in early January and returning to get this shot. “Beat them up pretty good! Slipping in for one last tuna trip while my bass boat gets rigged,” he said.
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Adrian Avena, advertising that the striper fishing is red hot, guides saltwater trips out of Cape May, N.J., where he runs a Southport 28-foot center console.
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Like his father did before him, Aaron Martens leads his kids, Jordan and Spencer, on a New Year’s Eve hike.
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More recently, Martens, like all the other Elites, waited for the final details on his boat before taking it home and breaking it in.
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Brett Hite, John Murray and his son, TJ, take in an Arizona Cardinals NFL game in Glendale, Ariz. “So much fun!!!” Hite wrote on Facebook. “Glad to have my friends back in AZ!!!”
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Chad Morgenthaler celebrated the big 5-0 with friends in October. Ugh, that’s right. Most all of us are another year older.
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Luke Clausen, who lives in Spokane, Wash., posted that he scored big on a sea duck hunt: “My first harlequin! Awesome experience that has been on my bucket list,” he said.
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Brandon Palaniuk and Tiffanie McCall take in the view from the top of their world. Spectacular!
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With quite a bit less snow, Casey Ashley and son, Troy have fun making a snow angel.
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Andy Montgomery tells about his wrangling in the offseason. “Ok ‘MEN.’ I've done a lot in my young life. I’ve cut firewood, got up hay, framed buildings, roofed part of a house, carried calves, ‘drug’ 200 lb deer, been 200 miles round trip in a bass boat, and been in waves my mommy don't need to know about!! Things that one would think requires a strong back right? Wrong!! Try getting on your knees and giving the cutest 30 lbs you even seen a bath for two weeks! I feel like Mike Tyson has mistaken my back for Evander Holyfield's ear!”
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Sure those little ones brighten your life, but they also can make you proud, and, when they get a bit older, a bit envious. Just ask Stephen Browning, who saw his son, Beau, light up with this catch. “When the scales read 10 pounds!! Winter time lunker!” Browning wrote. “Beau caught this 10-pounder last night right before a front moved through. This fish is his personal best.”
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Never think your best days are past, and know you are never too old to appreciate a fish catch. Elite legend Rick Clunn shows that here with a tarpon caught on Islamorada, Fla., with Chris Barron. “Happy Holidays to all the fishing community! Give the gift of your time and attention to those you love," he said. "Make memories and never stop trying new things!” Yessir.
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These Elites enjoy most any fish catch, like Cliff Pace with this bull redfish. “Now this was a fun fight,” he said. “Still enjoying some time in 1 of my favorite places in the world ... South Louisiana.”
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Josh Bertrand offered one of the more unusual photos, from an unusual catch. “Big Daddy got a little snack today,” he said. “He tried to take this yellow bass off my client’s line but ended up in the boat instead!”
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Brent Ehrler gives us an interesting selfie – from the inside a huge catfish. He asked folks to guess what species and size. Go to his Facebook page to see how big that baby really was.
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Not quite baby pictures, but close. Jacob Powroznik does a Throwback Thursday. Go ahead and guess how old he was. The date was April 5, 2003, and he had caught 23 pounds on Santee Cooper to win $24,000 cash and Ranger boat/motor. It helped him get on the FLW tour the following year. One regret though. “I look like I was 14 years old!” Some say even younger, but he was 25 at the time.
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Hey, hey, hey, Combs, thought we told you to get a room
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It was a real Disney winter for Jonathon Vandam – Beauty and the Beast. A-ha. Sorry. JVD did marry the former Arika White and bagged this big buck. He also had knee surgery but promised he’d be healed by the season's start.
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Matt Herren, aka Poppa, had a lunch date that got a little tuckered out at a local pizza joint. Herren later posted some bad news. He showed an image of his leg in a walking cast because of a partially torn ligament in his ankle. Herren is supposed to rest it but said he’ll just have to be careful as he toughs it out on Cherokee Lake.
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Another grandpa on tour, Shaw Grigsby, had better news. “I just became a grandfather, for the second time, to a 8-5 little girl. Totally incredible!!” Grigsby also reported that his son, while out duck hunting, saved a 350-pound man whose boat capsized, kind of how David Walker did during Classic practice for Lake Hartwell two years ago.
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Mike Iaconelli was busy with Ike LIVE and Bass University, but he also made a trip to Naples, Fla., for his daughter’s field hockey tournament. “Congrats to Rylie & the entire Xplosive field hockey team for a GREAT tournament this weekend,” he said. Never thought you'd see a field hockey photo on Bassmaster, huh? Wrong.
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Black and yellow … and a touch of Trokar blue. Skeet Reese wasn’t laying down on the job to help outfit his girl’s team. “My daughter Lea’s soccer team the ‘Shooting Stars’ decided to dress up as me for their Halloween tournament this weekend. They all have SR Trokar jerseys on.” One question, Skeet. What’s the story with the one guy in the fish head and the other with a net?
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A good ways south of Skeet was Britt Myers on a working trip to the SEMA show in Las Vegas. As owner of CS Motorsports, where he tricks out many of the Elites rigs, Myers was excited to see the new products, the best of which will eventually be seen on Elite trucks.
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Terry Scroggins has the hat to deliver the message. “Happy New Year y'all! Wishing you a wonderful 2017!!”
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Gary Klein oversees work on his Texas ranch. “Finally repairing a ranch lake dam and getting it ready for Fisheries Biologist Steven Bardin!” That hound looks like it'll enjoy fishing there.
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How ‘bout that one, right there? Kevin and Sherry VanDam’s twins, Jackson and Nicholas (at the front of the toboggan), are pictured with their VanDam cousins 17 years ago and this winter.
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Jordan Lee shares a cool shot. Say, who took that? “Kristen and I are enjoying our vacation here in Colorado, but I'll admit I was wishing this trout stream wasn't frozen over.” Yeah, Jordan likes fishing, and he started off the season in the Harris Chain Open with a 9-4 (inset left), the biggest bass of his life.
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Fletcher Shyrock admits girlfriend Rosemary Patchan started the couples’ quest to bow hunt, which led to his first deer this winter. Not a bad start, Fletch. So did you, uh, fletch your own arrows? No? They also rang in the New Year together with a new pup. Guess what a guy named Fletcher names his dog. That’s right, that common pooch name – Steve. Nice.
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Here is the most picturesque shot, courtesy Justin Lucas, along with the prevailing thought of most outdoorsmen. “Some people think we get up early for the morning bite...”
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Seth Feider became somewhat of a legend when he won on his home water of Mille Lacs Lake, and an artist gave him his proper due. Feider-Man, Feider-Man, catches smallmouth like no other can, there goes the Feider-Man.
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Jason Christie got into running around shooting folks on the Booyah/Yum Team as they had a friendly paintball match. “Good news, I tagged the ‘Producer’ (pro staff manager’s nickname) right between the eyes," he said. "Bad news, I'm not going to be able to walk tomorrow!”
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Like most Elites, Mark Menendez made the show rounds. Here he works the Rapid Fishing Solutions booth at the Greater Niagara Sport and Fishing Show. He gave seminars and enjoyed working with folks like Andrea Blakelock and Jennifer Lowe, who got photobombed by “Bones,” the RFS mascot!
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New Elite Skylar Hamilton showed off the Express aluminum boat he will fish in this year.
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Chad Pipkens, of Lansing, Mich., said it felt good to be out of the 20-degree temps and breaking in the boat. “The BassCat and Suzuki Outboard is loving Florida.” More photos show him getting a cast off his right arm he’s hiding in the picture. “I broke my scaphoid in my casting wrist while out west in November. Good news is the bone has healed. Bad news is I have very little range of motion and some not so good tendonitis and stiffness. Looks like I will be a lefty for the first event in Tennessee.”
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Greg Vinson and the family visited somewhere Chewbacca hangs out. “Met a wookie today,” Vinson wrote. And of course, all his jolly joker friends just had to comment; “Which one is you?” Which is actually kind of funny when you think about it.