Ten superstar bass anglers have been eliminated, but one more must go before the 2012 Toyota Trucks All-Star Week champion is crowned. Last year’s All-Star runner-up Edwin Evers and 2005 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens advanced to the fourth and final round of the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star championship on Lake Decatur. They eliminated 2004 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle and defending All-Star champ Ott DeFoe, respectively.
On Sunday, Oklahoma’s Evers and Alabama’s Martens will meet on Lake Decatur for a second day of fishing to determine a new champion and award $60,000 to the winner.
With Evers and DeFoe in different brackets on Saturday, the stage was set for a finals rematch. Those dreams fell apart for DeFoe when he lost a bass weighing between 5 and 6 pounds. He was flipping a Berkley Tube (black with red flake) on a 5/0 VMC heavy duty extra wide gap hook behind a 5/16-ounce Reins Tungsten sinker around laydown trees when the big one — easily the biggest bass of the tournament — jumped and threw his bait near the boat.
DeFoe slapped the water surface with his rod tip, and dejectedly offered his ultimate oath — “Dang it!” He was never able to recover. Martens easily outpaced him with the day’s only five-bass limit — 8 pounds, 13 ounces to 2-12, respectively.
While DeFoe was struggling to make up for the lost lunker, Martens slowly and steadily put together the best catch of the day. He was fishing extremely shallow and covering as much water as possible.
“The water’s really dirty — zero visibility — and it’s pretty scary to motor through to get to my fish,” Martens said.
In the other bracket, No. 1 seed Edwin Evers motored for an hour and 20 minutes through silt and mud to get to deeper water on the upper end of the lake. There he caught four keeper largemouth weighing 8-6 to No. 4 seed Gerald Swindle’s 1-12. Evers’s momentum from two strong days on Lake Shelbyville didn’t let up as he jumped out to a quick morning lead and never looked back.
“I don’t think I can get back to my fish,” Evers said. “That north wind dropped the water level so low that I’m sure I can’t get through.”
Swindle, who is known for his comedic commentary on stage, was characteristically humorous about his disappointing day. “Thank God it’s over,” he said. “Lake Mashed Potatoes and Gravy has been tough on me. I lost $3,000 worth of crankbaits, 140 jigs and bent the shaft of my trolling motor. Other than that, I can’t wait to come back.”
Fishing was much better on Clinton Lake a half-hour to the north, where five All-Stars eliminated in preliminary rounds served as fishing guides for five wounded veterans in the Hope For The Warriors Tournament.
Service members were allowed to weigh in their biggest bass, and Sgt. 1st Class Gary Everett of Dayton, Ohio, brought in a 4-pound, 9-ounce largemouth while fishing with seven-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam.
The veterans — many of them new to bass fishing — caught numerous bass and other game fish in the 4 1/2-hour competition, which is a regular highlight of All-Star Week. It is designed to help returning and injured service men enjoy recreational activities similar to ones they enjoyed before life-changing injuries. For the bass fishing professionals, it’s a way of saying thank you to men and women who sacrificed so much for their country, said VanDam.
“It’s humbling. It’s an honor to get to go out with these guys,” VanDam added.