“Man, you’ve got me,” Brent Chapman said to Edwin Evers.
Evers was already in Sunday’s final-round hot seat of the Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite. Chapman, the leader for the two previous days, was the last of the 12 finalists to weigh in. He climbed the stage steps already knowing it was over for him.
No one in the crowd under Montgomery’s historic Union Station Train Shed heard Chapman’s remark on stage. But that’s how Evers later told the story.
“I didn’t realize until he said, ‘You’ve got me’ that I had a chance,” Evers said after he’d hoisted the eighth trophy of his Bassmaster career and claimed his second regular-season Elite Series win. “I’m so happy. I can’t believe it.”
Evers of Talala, Okla., got the best of Chapman by 1 pound, 12 ounces. Evers took home $100,000 and a win-you’re-in berth for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.
He took over the Charge by weighing four limits of spotted bass for a total of 75-13. The Charge was the first time, Evers said, that he’d won on spotted bass alone. He also hit a career high by weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces of spotted bass on Saturday, the largest sack of that species he’s ever caught.
To win in Montgomery was special for another reason, he said. In the 2010 and 2011 postseason events out of Montgomery on the river, he ended up second to Kevin VanDam in the tournaments and in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year races.
Evers began the tournament in fifth place, then rose to third place. After Day 3, heading into Championship Sunday, he was in second place, behind Chapman by 1-3.
Evers said sticking to his game plan — and keeping a sweet spot in Cooter’s Pond in reserve until the final hours — “saved” him Sunday, when he weighed 17 pounds, 12 ounces.
“I pulled up to that spot that I’ve been saving all week, and they were on fire,” Evers said.
Evers said he ran more than 125 miles every day on the river system, hitting areas on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and in the canal that connects the Walter Bouldin Dam tailrace to the Alabama River.
“I focused where the current made a direct hit on a vertical wall [bluff or cut in the bank] that was clean,” he said.
The biggest challenges of the tournament were adapting to non-stop changes in the current and water level over the event’s four days. By Sunday with the dropping water, he had to relocate fish, finding them in slightly deeper water.
Hook-ups with the strong spotted bass that live in the river systems were a big challenge, he added.
“They’re so strong. They’re some of the hardest fish to hook. I’m flipping braid on a heavy action rod, and I’ll hit them as hard as I can, and it’s like I didn’t even touch them,” he said.
His go-to lures were a War Eagle Spot Remover spinnerbait in a shad color, a Texas rigged Zoom Z-Hog Jr., and various crankbaits. His flipping line was a Bass Pro Shops braid with a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.
Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., said he chalked up his second-place finish to being too conservative.
“I didn’t run up to my best spot today,” Chapman said. “I saw Steve Kennedy and David Walker go up, and I should have tried. You don’t get that many opportunities to win. I don’t know if I could have by going up there, but I would have felt a lot better finishing second if I’d at least have gone up there to fish my good spot.”
Chapman’s “good spot” was about 1/4 mile below Jordan Dam in the Coosa River. To reach it, he had to shoot the rapids over rocks. Chapman went up there other days, but decided he should not risk it Sunday after the water dropped 7 feet. Several other Elite pros ran the whitewater successfully in their bass boats during the Charge, but several tried and struck rocks, damaged their boats or got stuck, even in higher water.
Finishing third in the Charge was Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., with 72-5. Fourth was Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas, with 71-8. Rounding out the Top 5 was Day 1 leader John Murray of Phoenix, Ariz., with 65-7.
Evers’ win in the Charge helped him beef up his lead in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race. But instead of Kevin VanDam, now Skeet Reese is hot on Evers’ heels. The leader going into the Charge by just six points over VanDam, Evers now has a 25-point lead over Reese. VanDam trails Evers by 37 points.
“We’re a long way from the end — nobody’s out of this AOY thing yet,” Evers said. “I’m just trying to finish each event as high as I can.”
Eight regular-season events determine the AOY winner. Pros earn points at each event according to their finishes, and the pro with the highest number of points is declared the winner of the title that Reese says is the most important to him in the sport of bass fishing.
Evers is after his first AOY title. VanDam has won it seven times. Reese was the AOY of 2007.
Bonuses Elite pros earned at the Charge:
• Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament, worth $1,000 plus another $500 for wearing Carhartt apparel: Kelly Jordon of Palestine, Texas, for his 6-4 weighed on Day 1.
• Berkley Heavyweight Award of $500 for the best five-fish limit: Chapman for his Day 2 bag of 23-5.
• Toyota’s $1,000 bonus to the leader in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race: Evers. This is the third consecutive time he’s been No. 1 in the AOY standings.
• Luck-E-Strike Comeback Award of $500: Chapman, who achieved the biggest jump in the AOY standings, from 83rd up to 26th place.
• Power-Pole Captain’s Cash award of $500 to the highest finisher equipped with Power-Poles: Evers.
• Livingston Lures Leader Award of $500 for heading up the leaderboard on the second day: Chapman.
The Elite Series’ competition out of Montgomery marked a return to the birthplace of B.A.S.S., owner of the Elite Series. Ray Scott founded B.A.S.S. in 1968 in the Capitol City.
ESPN2 will air coverage of the Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite on June 2 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET on The Bassmasters TV show.
The local host of the event was the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, http://www.montgomerychamber.com.
Next up on the Elite Series schedule is the June 20-23 Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole in La Crosse, Wis. The Elite Series was last on the Mississippi out of La Crosse in June 2012, when Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, won with 62-4.
Check in at Bassmaster.com for details.