Just 1 ounce separated the two frontrunners Saturday in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro, but it’s far from being a duel in Sunday’s finale, said the leader.
“It’s not just me and him,” said Edwin Evers, who replaced Randall Tharp in the catbird seat in the Lake Guntersville competition. “There are a lot of anglers in this yet who can catch them. Thirty-pound bags are possible.”
After adding 20-9 Saturday, Evers of Talala, Okla., racked up a two-day total of 47 pounds, 6 ounces, enough to budge him out of second place. Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., weighed 19-13 Saturday for a running total of 47-5, 1 ounce shy of keeping his lead.
The Evers-Tharp place switch was just the beginning of Saturday’s leaderboard shuffle. Moving up into the Top 5 was Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., up from 11th place into third with 43-5, about 4 pounds out of first place. Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., moved from seventh into fourth with 42-14.
The angler in fifth place leapt from 47th place to get there. Toting 32-3 to the scales — a one-day record for a five-bass-limit Classic — Paul Mueller of Naugatuck, Conn., amassed 41-13.
The field was cut to the Top 25 for the final push Sunday toward a first prize of $300,000 and the crown of the sport. The cutline fell at 34-2, the two-day weight posted by Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas.
Evers said he had just six bites Saturday.
“It was just a really hard day. I didn’t get the bites that I had been getting, and the fish were not getting the bait. I lost a couple fish at the boat, about 4-pounders,” he said.
Evers, who like Tharp is seeking his first Classic crown, said conditions changed on Lake Guntersville from Friday to Saturday.
“The water definitely cleared up, and the water was quite a bit cooler this morning,” he said. “They just didn’t bite. I don’t know why.”
Still, 20-9 is good, he said.
“I’ll take it,” he said.
Tharp was disappointed in his Saturday bag.
“Any time I go out there and catch 19 pounds on this lake, it’s a failure for me,” said Tharp, a veteran of Guntersville tournaments during his many years living in Northern Alabama before moving to Florida last July. “I had a couple of ‘good’ fish today; yesterday I had four. I was in a good rhythm this morning, things were clicking — then I had some issues with my boat.
“I never found it (rhythm) after that. I culled one time this afternoon after three hours of fishing. I’m not disappointed in the time that I lost; I’m just disappointed I couldn’t get back into my rhythm.”
The linkage in the motor’s gear case broke, he said. He lost about 1 hour and 45 minutes of fishing time between the tow-in and the wait for the service crew to fix the motor.
Tharp said he’s made adjustments constantly throughout the tournament and expects more of the same Sunday.
“We got a lot of flow going through, and the water clarity’s different every day, and even from morning to afternoon in some places. For that reason, you can’t possibly think you’re going to catch them the same way three days in a row,” he said.
The largest bass of the day was an 8-8 brought in by Carhartt Bassmaster College Series qualifier Jordan Lee of Vinemont, Ala. But Fred Roumbanis’ 9-3 largemouth from Day 1 remained the frontrunner for the event’s Carhartt Big Bass Award of $1,000 plus $1,500 for wearing Carhartt clothing.
“Weekender” Adam Wagner of Cookeville, Tenn., posted the day’s largest, a 39-1 sack of largemouth bass. Wagner, the Classic qualifier via the Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers, rose from 37th place into ninth.
Evers won the $1,000 GEICO Everyday Leader Award, plus another $1,500 if he has a GEICO decal on his boat’s windshield.
For the final round, the anglers will takeoff at 7 a.m. Sunday from City Harbor in Guntersville, Ala. In Birmingham, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods will continue Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Arena doors will open at 3 p.m. for the final weigh-in at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The Evan Williams Bourbon Classic Warm Up, a slate of pre-weigh-in entertainment, will include the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic “Iron Bowl” weigh-in at 3:45 p.m.
There’s no admission charge to any Bassmaster event.
Bassmaster.com will continue with its extensive all-day coverage, including the Lowrance War Room, GoPro videos, BASSTrakk from-the-water catch reports, photo galleries and live streaming of the weigh-ins and a leaderboard. All online access is free.
To see the Classic competition on ESPN2, fans can tune into The Bassmasters on Saturday, March 1, at 10 a.m. ET, for the first of 12 hours of Classic coverage. The show centered on Sunday’s finale will air in prime time — 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET — on Sunday, March 2.
Image courtesy Gary Tramontina/Bassmaster