By BassFan Staff

The Elk River has always been special to Edwin Evers. Today, it became magical.

Evers and his son have camped along the shores of the Elk and canoed in the river’s upper reaches where it twists and turns by the Missouri-Oklahoma border before emptying into Grand Lake. He’s fished the river for years, but he favors the lake’s lower end because of its big-fish potential. On Sunday, he turned the Elk into his personal playground as he walloped a record-setting 29-03 to capture his first career Bassmaster Classic title in dominating fashion.

Despite weighing just four fish on day 1, the Talala, Okla., native finished with 60-07, the third-highest winning total since the Classic shifted to the February/March part of the year in 2006. It's the third straight Classic to be won by an angler competing in his home state.

Competing in his 15th Classic, Evers outdistanced close friend and fellow Oklahoman Jason Christie by more than 10 pounds after Christie had led following days 1 and 2. Christie, one of the favorites entering the event, faltered Sunday with four fish for 12-09 to finish with 50-02.

With the win, Evers sheds the label of being one of the best anglers without a Classic or Angler of the Year title to his credit. His previous best finish was 3rd at Guntersville in 2014 when he led entering the final day.

“My name’s going to be right there under Casey Ashley’s and I can’t wait,” an emotional Evers said afterward, pointing at the Classic trophy. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about the entire year just to make it here. When I saw shooting stars as a kid, my dream was to win the Bassmaster Classic. I’d see it in the magazines and how they used to ride in the boat. This means the world to me. I’m truly happy.”

His 29-03 stringer was also the biggest final-day effort by a Classic winner, eclipsing Randy Howell’s 29-02 at Guntersville in 2014. Evers also pulled off the biggest final-day weight swing by a Classic winner, coming from 6-05 down to win by 10-05, a swing of 16-10.

Christie has a long history of success at Grand, including several tournament victories and countless 20-pound bags. Even he was impressed by Evers’ performance today.

“That’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Christie said. “Hats off to him. I’m telling you the lake has them. When you make that right rotation you see they’re out there.”

Aaron Martens posted a 3rd-place finish, his fifth Top-3 finish in the last calendar year. He caught 16-00 to close with 46-05.

Bill Lowen bagged 15-03 to finish a career-best 4th with 45-11. Howell caught 16-07 and finished 5th with 45-10, his second Top-5 Classic finish in 3 years.

Here’s how the rest of the Top 10 finished up:

6. Todd Faircloth: 44-15
7. Dean Rojas: 42-11
8. Alton Jones: 42-08
9. Keith Combs: 40-13
10. Greg Hackney: 40-09

Todd Faircloth slipped from 2nd to 6th despite catching a 13-01 limit. He totaled 44-15. An 18-06 bag helped Dean Rojas jump from 14th to 7th with 42-11.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Evers compiled the majority of his huge sack during a 1-hour flurry in the Elk River.

Grand Lake and Tulsa proved to be worthy Classic hosts for a second time in 4 years. The lake didn’t show off the quality of fishing it’s known for, a result of the historic flooding the region endured in December that wreaked havoc on water clarity. The majority of fishing was done along banks and docks in zero to 8 feet of water with a mix of crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs.

The 2016 Elite Series season gets going at the St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla., starting March 17.

Evers Had Ace In the Elk

> Day 3: 5, 29-03 (14, 60-07)

While his competitors scratched their heads for 2 days as the water continued to warm and clear across the lake under mostly stable conditions, Evers had his eye on Sunday’s weather forecast for days. That’s when some heavy wind was due to arrive ahead of a low-pressure system. He saw it as the perfect opening to run up the Elk, where he’d gotten some good bites in practice in the clear water.

Stuck in 3rd place and facing a 6-05 deficit entering the final day, he took advantage of the windy conditions and hammered away on fish that were set up on logs that had become lodged on a shallow flat in the river.

“This was, by far, a neat Classic to win,” Evers said. “(The Elk) is one of my most favorite places in the world. My son and I camp there. I absolutely love it. The water’s flowing all the time and it’s crystal clear. There’s a wide, shallow flat and the water has to go over it and every time we get a flood it deposits logs in there and that flat is located where it narrows down.”

He experienced an hour-long flurry that saw him crack the 20-pound mark and shake up the projected leaderboard. Still, he figured he needed to catch even more in order to surpass Christie.

“The day was going really well, but the whole time I’m still thinking Jason would have 25 pounds,” he said. “He’s one of the best on the lake, but when (Bassmaster analyst) Robbie Floyd showed up and then the slow-motion camera showed up, that told me I had a chance at this.”

In practice, there was a plenty of talk about how the Elk harbored the cleanest water that would be in play during the Classic. Some were hesitant to commit to the Elk because they felt it was going to be a popular area and they feared it wouldn’t hold up. After two days of mostly calm conditions with high, sunny skies, Evers knew it was time to give it a try.

“Wind was a big deal,” he said. “I wasn’t going to go without that wind. I was going to go today to check it. I’ve been looking at that forecast all week.”

His main presentation today was a 5/16-ounce finesse jig made by Andy’s Custom Bass Lures tipped with a Zoom Critter Craw trailer.

“It’s just a Midwest highland reservoir bait,” Evers said. “It’s good on Table Rock, Beaver Lake, Lake of the Ozarks.”

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Jason Christie, who led after each of the first 2 days, had to settle for a runner-up finish.

Asked what his interactions were like with Christie this week, Evers said it was much different than a typical Elite Series event when they room together and share some general information.

“Normally, we stay together and talk a bit about general stuff,” he said. “This week, we talked at media day, but never got into fishing and once the tournament started we didn’t talk to each other other than to say, ‘Good luck’ or ‘Good job.’ We’re still friends all year long.”

2nd: Christie's Fears Realized

> Day 3: 4, 12-09 (14, 50-02)

Christie had been concerned about day 3 due to the forecast for powerful winds – he'd had his worst day in practice under such conditions. He caught three early keepers before the breeze began to blow in earnest and then one more at mid-morning, but none over the final 4 hours.

"I was fishing the mud, and the more the water's moving, the harder it is to get (the fish's) attention," he said. "My practice started last Friday and it was good, then Saturday it was really, really good. It started warming up on Sunday and (the hot bite) started going away.

"I still thought I could catch 18 to 20 pounds, but those females aren't predictable under these conditions. I just tried to ride it out."

At 11 o'clock, he was told by a spectator on the bank that Evers had already put together a monstrous sack. The exchange was captured by Bassmaster Live.

He was unable to confirm it for himself as he couldn't get his phone to properly display the BASSTrakk weight totals, but he was visibly shaken up by the news and it impacted his decision-making for the remainder of the day.

Christie placed no blame on the spectator for how his day turned out.

"The guy is a fan of the sport and he was trying to help. I've already received an apology from the guy and I don't even know him.

"If I'd gotten beat by a pound or 2 I might've been a little upset, but dude, I got beat down!"

He gave all the credit to Evers.

"In all the years I've fished the lake, I remember maybe a half-dozen bags like that (in competition). It's one of the best I've ever seen."

He caught all of his fish on a 1/2-ounce Booyah spinnerbait with a YUM Pulse trailer.

3rd: Martens Close to Top Again

> Day 3: 5, 16-00 (15, 46-05)

Martens missed the fifth Classic runner-up finish of his career by a single place.

"The last practice day was really windy and I caught 23 pounds," he said. "Today I caught more fish, but they shrank. Maybe the big ones couldn't see or hear the bait."

He threw an old-school Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap square-bill crankbait that he said he's possessed since he was a teenager in California. It produced a dozen keepers on the final day, including a 4 3/4-pounder.

4th: Wind Hindered Lowen

> Day 3: 5, 15-03 (15, 45-11)

Although his final-day bag was right on his average for the event, Lowen was not happy to see the wind become the dominant element.

"Fishermen always talk about how much it helps, but I wish the wind would never blow," he said. "I was fishing behind a lot of docks and it was lifting the cables up and letting them down. It was like fishing behind a spider web.

"For me, the wind was a killer."

He flipped a tube and a jig in some of the dirtiest water in the lake between Sailboat Bridge and the Pensacola Dam.

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Aaron Martens turned in yet another high finish in a Classic, but he's still in search of his first triumph.

5th: Howell Relied On Blade

> Day 3: 5, 16-07 (15, 45-10)

Howell threw a variety of baits throughout the tournament, but stuck with a spinnerbait on blustery day 3.

"I think they bit the spinnerbait good because of the wind," he said. "Where I was fishing, the wind dirtied the water up a little bit and put the fish on the wood cover where I could catch them on it.

"I only had six or seven bites all day and my biggest was a 4-08. I didn't lose anything."

6th: Another Good One for Faircloth

> Day 3: 5, 13-01 (15, 44-15)

Faircloth logged his sixth Classic finish of 6th or better in the last 7 years, but is still in search of his first victory in the event.

"Someday I want to bring one of those (trophies) home to Texas," he said.

He caught most of his fish on a Strike King Bitsy Bug jig.

Notes From The Field

BassFan asked some other anglers who finished among the Top 25 what they'd change if they got the opportunity to fish the event over again.

Dean Rojas (7th, 42-11)) – "I don't know what I would've done different – it just wasn't my Classic to win, but hopefully another one will be. I know the lake well enough that I thought I could make it through 3 days with what I found, but it's just so tough going against local anglers."

Keith Combs (9th, 40-13) – “I thought the big ones were in the murkier water by the dam. I pushed that hard on day 2. Today I started in the clearer water so I think I should’ve started in the clear, then went to the dirty water later in the day.”

Greg Hackney (10th, 40-09) – “I avoided the Elk on purpose because it was clearer and I figured it’d be crowded and I don’t like to fish in crowds. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change anything. I still believe the majority of fish in this lake live on the lower end.”

Bobby Lane (11th, 37-15) – "I'd have stayed out of water that was 45 or 46 degrees. I caught most of my fish where it was 47 to 48, but my biggest bites came from water that was 52 degrees. I wouldn't spend any time down by the dam, and I spent some there every day."

Brandon Palaniuk (12th, 37-15) – “You throw in a 3-pounder each day and it becomes a much better tournament for me. I would’ve spent more time down lake knowing what the conditions were. I felt like I could’ve made things happen down there.”

Brent Ehrler (13th, 37-03) – “I had nothing to lose so I fished a bunch of new stuff. I fished scared the first 2 days. I fished easy today and got on a pattern. I can’t believe the difference it makes when you fish like you have nothing to lose. I always do that, too, when I fish scared.”

Micah Frazier (14th, 36-15) – "I'd practice differently. I wasted 2 days on the football jig/jerkbait thing and I ended up catching everything from 2 feet of water on a spinnerbait."

David Walker (18th, 33-00)) – "This was a tournament where almost everything changed – we went from winter fishing to spring fishing during the course of the week. I was on the right track, but I just didn't get there soon enough."

Skeet Reese (19th, 32-03) – "I think the only thing I'd do is fish a different section of the lake – I probably needed to stay in the upper end where the water was clearer."

John Crews (20th, 31-13) – "I'd have fished the (Spro) Fat John more, which I didn't do in practice. The first day I threw the Little John, the spinnerbait and the ChatterBait and they were short-striking all of them."

Matt Herren (21st, 30-15) – "The biggest thing that got me was I was geared up to fish in colder water. Something happened between Wednesday and Friday when the water warmed up, and the fish just changed."

Greg Vinson (22nd, 30-03) – "I might've tried to spend some time in the clearer water, but the section I fished was set up so well to win. Some areas had more fish, but when you have access to all the fish in an area to yourself, that balances things out."

Chris Lane (24th, 27-05) – “I wish I would’ve been able to follow the fish a little better. This morning I lost track of them. This water literally cleared up while we were here and when that happens you might as well expect a different event.”

Ott DeFoe (25th, 26-02) – "That's a tough one, but I'd have probably spent more time in the clearer water. I'd have stayed from the (Sailboat) Bridge up instead of ever going down."


> Day 3 stats: 25 anglers, 13 limits, 6 fours, 3 threes, 3 twos.

Final Standings

1. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 14, 60-07 -- 0 $300,000
Day 1: 4, 13-12 -- Day 2: 5, 17-08 -- Day 3: 5, 29-03

2. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 14, 50-02 -- 0 -- $50,000
Day 1: 5, 20-14 -- Day 2: 5, 16-11 -- Day 3: 4, 12-09

3. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 15, 46-05 -- 0 -- $40,000
Day 1: 5, 13-08 -- Day 2: 5, 16-13 -- Day 3: 5, 16-00

4. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 15, 45-11 -- 0 -- $30,000
Day 1: 5, 16-09 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 15-03

5. Randy Howell -- Guntersville, AL -- 15, 45-10 -- 0 -- $25,000
Day 1: 5, 17-06 -- Day 2: 5, 11-13 -- Day 3: 5, 16-07

6. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 15, 44-15 -- 0 -- $22,000
Day 1: 5, 14-15 -- Day 2: 5, 16-15 -- Day 3: 5, 13-01

7. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 13, 42-11 -- 0 -- $21,500
Day 1: 5, 12-07 -- Day 2: 3, 11-14 -- Day 3: 5, 18-06

8. Alton Jones -- Lorena, TX -- 14, 42-08 -- 0 -- $21,000
Day 1: 5, 17-13 -- Day 2: 4, 11-12 -- Day 3: 5, 12-15

9. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 13, 40-13 -- 0 -- $20,500
Day 1: 5, 12-14 -- Day 2: 3, 11-06 -- Day 3: 5, 16-09

10. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 40-09 -- 0 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 16-02 -- Day 2: 5, 09-13 -- Day 3: 5, 14-10

11. Bobby Lane Jr. -- Lakeland, FL -- 12, 37-15 -- 0 -- $15,000
Day 1: 4, 11-02 -- Day 2: 3, 09-12 -- Day 3: 5, 17-01

12. Brandon Palaniuk -- Rathdrum, ID -- 12, 37-15 -- 0 -- $14,500
Day 1: 4, 12-07 -- Day 2: 4, 12-07 -- Day 3: 4, 13-01

13. Brent Ehrler -- Newport Beach, CA -- 11, 37-03 -- 0 -- $14,250
Day 1: 3, 10-13 -- Day 2: 3, 07-07 -- Day 3: 5, 18-15

14. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 15, 36-15 -- 0 -- $14,000
Day 1: 5, 13-02 -- Day 2: 5, 13-10 -- Day 3: 5, 10-03

15. James Watson -- Nixa, MO -- 13, 35-08 -- 0 -- $13,750
Day 1: 5, 13-10 -- Day 2: 5, 14-07 -- Day 3: 3, 07-07

16. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 12, 33-04 -- 0 -- $13,000
Day 1: 5, 15-05 -- Day 2: 4, 11-02 -- Day 3: 3, 06-13

17. Boyd Duckett -- Guntersville, AL -- 12, 33-02 -- 0 -- $12,900
Day 1: 3, 08-08 -- Day 2: 4, 10-02 -- Day 3: 5, 14-08

18. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 12, 33-00 -- 0 -- $12,800
Day 1: 5, 14-02 -- Day 2: 5, 15-04 -- Day 3: 2, 03-10

19. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 11, 32-03 -- 0 -- $12,700
Day 1: 3, 12-12 -- Day 2: 4, 10-09 -- Day 3: 4, 08-14

20. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 12, 31-13 -- 0 -- $12,600
Day 1: 3, 07-02 -- Day 2: 5, 16-10 -- Day 3: 4, 08-01

21. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 11, 30-15 -- 0 -- $12,400
Day 1: 5, 16-04 -- Day 2: 2, 05-12 -- Day 3: 4, 08-15

22. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, AL -- 9, 30-03 -- 0 -- $12,300
Day 1: 5, 18-01 -- Day 2: 2, 05-12 -- Day 3: 2, 06-06

23. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, SC -- 10, 28-07 -- 0 -- $14,700
Day 1: 4, 14-12 -- Day 2: 2, 04-10 -- Day 3: 4, 09-01

24. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 12, 27-05 -- 0 -- $12,100
Day 1: 5, 11-01 -- Day 2: 4, 09-00 -- Day 3: 3, 07-04

25. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 11, 26-02 -- 0 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 11-01 -- Day 2: 4, 08-07 -- Day 3: 2, 06-10