In March we all watched as Edwin Evers put together a magical day during the finale of the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake.
I was one of the lucky ones who got to sit in a boat and watch it live on the water, trying my best to capture the moment in photos and blogs. We all got to see one of those days every angler dreams about but so rarely happens.
The next day, I was driving home from the Classic when Evers called my cellphone. My first thought was he wanted to visit about this amazing day he had put together, that we had actually shared.
Like he did the day before, he blew me away.
Less than a day after Evers had captured the most sought after crown in bass fishing, after a full week of rigorous battling with emotions, anglers and fish, all Evers wanted to talk about was his Healing Heroes in Action Tour. The tour is a series of fishing days set up with soldiers wounded in recent conflicts. Each of them paired with an Elite Series pro, while making room for a team of amateur anglers to fish against them. That amateur team receives the honor after a short bidding process on Evers’ Facebook page.
Hours after hoisting the Classic trophy over his head, Evers wanted to work out details on how to make it all happen, instead of taking advantage of his new title and the riches that typically follow.
I was reminded of that the Monday following the Texoma Elite Series event. Evers had spent yet another week of pounding on the lake, as did Chris Zaldain and Timmy Horton. Yet, all three were eager to climb in a boat with a Purple Heart recipient and pour out their fishing souls on a day when they could be closer to home.
Evers had spent weeks coordinating soldiers, lining up professionals (Zaldain and Horton stepped up before the third phone call could be made), securing fishing holes, involving sponsors, cheerleading on Facebook and other social media while lining up coverage, so all the pieces and parts of the event would be taken care of. All this in a year that is arguably the most busy, time-crunching year for a Classic champion, a time when people are willing to pay big bucks for you to show up at their gig.
Saying Evers is married to the project is an understatement.
Taking men fishing who have stood at the front lines of battle and suffered in ways many of us could never understand is something he says is, “Maybe the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” Evers knows there is healing power standing in a boat, feeling a fish bite and reeling in a fighting, jumping bass. Passing that on to broken and scarred men is how he can best help them heal.
It gives you the idea if Evers were a doctor, he would be on the front lines physically bandaging those hurt and fallen. He’s doing what he does best, and it’s working in a way no one could have fathomed.
You get a glimpse of it watching these men interact with our pros. The smiles on their faces, the true belly laughs and the giddiness of just being together. The respect goes both ways: pros to warriors and certainly warriors to the pros.
Levi Crawford is a wonderful example. Crawford is blind in one eye and carries a massive scar on his right arm after a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in front of him. It took most of a year for him to recover in the hospital and the scars are still there six years later.
Still, Crawford was quick to say: “It’s all in how you look at stuff. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here fishing with Edwin.”
Those words sum up the whole Healing Heroes in Action Tour.
While all of us in the industry know the pulls and tugs of time for the top angler in the land, wondering how in the world anyone can do it all, it strikes me that Evers is doing the exact thing I would want my Classic champion to do. When he says, “give something back” you immediately see it and in a way that is more beneficial to those receiving than those giving.
The thing the rest of us can draw from that is, what can we do? I would expect there’s plenty of healing room in your boat for a local hero. Maybe there’s some time in your life to give back, even without the boat, to the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation. Maybe you have some encouraging words to those on Facebook who would bid on the opportunity to compete, or know someone who has the means to be a part of one of these events.
Evers will kick off another Healing Heroes in Action event following the Cayuga Elite Series tournament, then again in July, and the final one after the Potomac Elite.
Each time, while he’s practicing, he will be coordinating all the things that matter on a different scale. Those of us watching will witness a healthy champion working on winning so he can give back to the battle-scarred, real heroes of this country.
For a chance to fish against Evers and the Heroes, enter a bid on his Facebook page. The money will be used to help Wounded Warriors.