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2013 Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at St. Lawrence River

Preview

Edwin Evers has built a substantial lead in the Toyota AOY standings going into the St. Lawrence River tournament. He’s been Steady Eddy thus far, but he can’t afford to stumble here or the biggest sluggers in bass fishing will gain on him. In second, third and fourth place, respectively, are Skeet Reese, Kevin VanDam and Aaron Martens. It’s enough to give an AOY leader nightmares.

Tour Review

AOY standings, Monday - August 12, 2013

 

1 Edwin Evers 594
2 Aaron Martens 564
3 Kevin VanDam 555
4 Bobby Lane 535
5 Chris Zaldain 521
6 Keith Combs 518
7 Alton Jones 502
8 John Crews 501
9 Ish Monroe 486
10 Skeet Reese 482
11 Stephen Kennedy 480
12 Todd Faircloth 472
13 Cliff Crochet 471
14 Gerald Swindle 459
15 Dean Rojas 454
16 Ott DeFoe 452
17 Cliff Pirch 451
18 Greg Vinson 449
19 Cliff Pace 444
20 Brent Chapman 442

 

AOY standings after day 3 on the St. Lawrence River

 

1 Edwin Evers 594
2 Aaron Martens 562
3 Kevin VanDam 555
4 Bobby Lane 535
5 Chris Zaldain 521
6 Keith Combs 518
7 Alton Jones 502
8 John Crews 501
9 Ish Monroe 486
10 Skeet Reese 482
11 Stephen Kennedy 475
12 Todd Faircloth 472

 

Day 3pm video report

Camera crew on board - day 3

Gear check on day3

Kevin checks his gear before day 3 on the St. Lawrence River.

 

VanDam – the man with the most experience on the Great Lakes – was asked what perfect weather conditions would be for smallmouth bass fishing this weekend. 
"Ten to 15 miles an hour wind with high, bright skies," he said. "It positions the fish on structure a lot better."
Saturday's forecast is for exactly that. It should make for an interesting day, and maybe the most important day yet in determining the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year. You can bet on that.

 

 

Current AOY standings, day 3 AM

 

1 Edwin Evers 594
2 Kevin VanDam 566
3 Aaron Martens 565
4 Bobby Lane 538
5 Keith Combs 521
6 Alton Jones 502
7 John Crews 499
8 Chris Zaldain 487
9 Ish Monroe 486
10 Skeet Reese 482
11 Todd Faircloth 472
12 Cliff Crochet 471

 

St. Lawrence River Showdown day 3 AM report
Palaniuk holds on despite penalty

 

One mistake in the excitement of zeroing in on a school of big smallmouth could have cost Brandon Palaniuk his lead in the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown.

It didn’t. But the 2-pound penalty the young pro from Rathdrum, Idaho, had to take for a six-fish livewell count on Friday morning could come back to haunt him over the final two days of the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the the St. Lawrence River.

Still, Palaniuk remained the Showdown’s leader for the second consecutive day. His Friday weight was 21 pounds, 5 ounces (after the penalty), for a total of 44 pounds, 14 ounces. That left him 1-10 in front of Cliff Pirch of Payson, Ariz., who had 43-4 for second place.

And Palaniuk kept an advantage of more than 2 pounds over each of his other close challengers: Kevin VanDam by 2-4, Aaron Martens by 2-12, and Jonathon VanDam by 2-13.

Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., crept up one tick into third place with 42-10. Martens of Leeds, Ala., popped up into fourth from eighth place with 42-2. Jonathon VanDam — Kevin’s nephew who is also from Kalamazoo — rose from ninth place into fifth with 42-1.

Those Top 5 lead the 50 anglers who survived Friday’s cut to return to the St. Lawrence River Saturday. Only the Top 12 after three days will compete on Championship Sunday for the Showdown title and prizes: $100,000 and an instant qualification for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

Friday morning, Palaniuk reported to tournament officials that he had six bass in his livewell. Bassmaster rules allow a maximum of five bass in an angler’s livewell at the point when an angler picks up his rod again and makes another cast.

It happened this way, said Palaniuk: He returned to his hot spot of Thursday on Lake Ontario, more than 100 miles from the takeoff docks. Drop-shotting, he caught five 3-pounders.

“It was actually starting to get on my nerves because I knew 3-pounders weren’t going to do me any good,” he said.

AOY race down to 3

 

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — Skeet Reese was Edwin Evers' closest competition in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year race going into this event. After two days, he's long gone, as is Alton Jones, who was in fifth place.
The Bassmaster Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon St. Lawrence River Showdown has been just that – a showdown. Reese and Jones had mixed suits with a deuce and a trey when they had to put their hole cards on the table.
Kevin VanDam and Aaron Martens have survived to be dealt another hand in bass fishing's version of Texas Hold 'Em.
Theoretically, since points aren't official until the final standings, VanDam and Martens have shaved their AOY deficits to Evers from 50 points to 28 and 29 points, respectively.
"It puts me in the thick of things," said Martens. "If I make the 12 cut, it will be really interesting."
Evers is in 25th place going into Saturday, when the field will be cut to the top 12 for Sunday's final. He's got to be considered a long-shot to make that cut, with a two-day total of 37-1. VanDam (third with 42-10) and Martens (fourth with 42-2) appear to be shoo-ins.
If you think Evers has been playing it safe, trying to sit on his lead, you need to think again.
"I'm not ever conserving anything," Evers said. "I'm coming in with 30 seconds to spare, running 45 miles. If I was being conservative, I wouldn't be doing that crap. That's just how I fish.
"In general, that's how I live. I don't do anything conservative. Ask my wife."
Evers, as usual, wasn't emotional in his comments at Friday's weigh-in. He was just explaining his style of tournament fishing, whether he's leading an AOY race or not.
If you want to see the picture of conservatism, that would be KVD. VanDam still hasn't gone to his best spot in these waters. That would require a 140-mile run to Lake Ontario. 
"I've been torn all week about whether to go to the lake," VanDam said. "The biggest fish I've seen here are in the lake. Today would have been the day to go, if you're going to go."
Saturday's weather forecast is for west winds at up to 13 miles per hour. There was barely a breeze for much of the day Friday. Winds of 20 miles per hour make the long run to Lake Ontario a real gamble. If Saturday's forecast is accurate, it makes the long boat ride a questionable decision.
Brandon Palaniuk has been taking that gamble because he needs a victory to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. The AOY title is the tournament within this tournament. And there are now only three anglers in that event – Evers, VanDam and Martens. Reese eliminated himself with a 93rd place finish. Jones didn't make the 50 cut with his 58th place showing.
VanDam is playing this so conservatively that he spent most of Friday practice fishing after bagging 21-9 to go with his 21-1 on Thursday.
"I caught a good limit and basically spent the rest of my day searching for new water," VanDam said. "And I found some good stuff.
"You could catch a 23- or 24-pound bag (without going to Lake Ontario), but it would be hard to do more than that.
"Twenty-one or 22 pounds a day, that wins most multi-day events here."
Martens also knows the biggest smallmouth are in Lake Ontario, not the St. Lawrence River near Waddington.

"If Brandon and the other guys on the lake had more time, you'd see some 25-, 26-pound bags," Martens said. "But they're only getting a little bit of time to fish."
Martens is confident there's a 26-pound bag much closer to the Waddington launch site. He caught one during Monday's practice, which included the biggest smallmouth bass of his life. It weighed 7 ½ pounds.
"I had 26 pounds on Monday easily," he said. "The smallest one was probably 4-5, 4-6."
Martens, like VanDam, and to a lesser extent Evers, is spending most of his time fishing rather than running. He has found too much good water in the St. Lawrence River to do anything else.
"It's unbelievable," Martens said. "This whole thing has got rock. Almost every mile has good rock sites, so the fish are everywhere. That's what makes this place different (from the other Great Lakes). Like at Erie, you have isolated rock piles. Here, they're everywhere."
Like most anglers in this event, Martens is drop-shotting, concentrating on depths ranging from 10 to 45 feet. He using various colored Robo Worms – darker colors under cloudy skies and more translucent colors when the sun comes out.
Unlike most anglers, Martens is using 8-pound-test line – Sunline, to be specific. Most everyone else is using 6-pound test, and breaking off some big smallmouth bass.
"Six-pound is crazy here," Martens said. "I'd never use 6-pound unless it really slicked off and the wind didn't blow at all. It's crazy to use 6-pound."
VanDam – the man with the most experience on the Great Lakes – was asked what perfect weather conditions would be for smallmouth bass fishing this weekend. 
"Ten to 15 miles an hour wind with high, bright skies," he said. "It positions the fish on structure a lot better."
Saturday's forecast is for exactly that. It should make for an interesting day, and maybe the most important day yet in determining the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year. You can bet on that.

Day 2 PM report from the st. lawrence river
the usual suspects

 

The guys making a run at AOY this year are older than the usual suspects — but that's partly because they were the usual suspects and they're a year older than they were last year. Out of the top five going into this tournament — Evers, Reese, VanDam, Martens and Jones — only the leader is less than 40 years old. That's pretty unusual. There's usually at least one young gun in the race until close to the end. The past two seasons it's been Ott DeFoe. Evers is 38, which is a little older than average for an AOY.

 

Jones just turned 50. If he wins AOY this year, he'll be the oldest in history, surpassing Roland Martin, who was 45 when he won in 1985.

 

And believe it or not, Kevin VanDam — the Kalamazoo Kid — will be 46 later this year. He would also be the oldest ever if he wins again.

 

You have to go all the way down to Chris Zaldain, in 13th place, to find an angler still in his 20s. Zaldain will be 29 later this year.

Day 2 AM report - St. Lawrence River
AOY standings after day one on the St. Lawrence River

 

1 Edwin Evers 594
2 Kevin VanDam 565
3 Aaron Martens 561
4 Skeet Reese 539
5 Bobby Lane 533
6 Keith Combs 512
7 Alton Jones 511
8 John Crews 484
9 Todd Faircloth 475
10 Ish Monroe 474

 

KVD makes his run on the AOY

 

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — Why would you go to your second-best spot on the St. Lawrence River if you were 50 points behind in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year race?

Yours is not to question why, when the seven-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Kevin VanDam, employs such a strategy.

Of course, it worked.

Theoretically, VanDam sliced 21 points from Edwin Evers' AOY lead on Day One of the Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at the St. Lawrence River. In other words, never question the BASS master.

"The biggest fish I've found, I didn't go to because of where I'm at in the points," VanDam said. "It's far enough away that you can really screw up."

In a testament to just how good the smallmouth bass fishery is here, Evers "screwed up" by catching a five-bass limit weighing "only" 18 pounds, 7 ounces. VanDam had 21-1. He was one of 24 anglers that caught a bigger bag than Evers. At almost any lake or river anywhere, five bass – largemouth or smallmouth – weighing 18-7 would be a satisfying day on the water. But not here, not now.

VanDam, who is from Kalamazoo, Mich., and grew up fishing the Great Lakes, can't help but notice that smallmouth bass fishing in these lakes is better than it's ever been, at least in his 45 years on this earth.

"These lakes have sure changed," he said. "I don't know if it was the gobies or the zebra mussels, but these fish are so fat (now)."

Edwin Evers' chances of closing out the AOY race on the next-to-last Elite Series event of the season are a bit slimmer. VanDam applied the pressure Thursday. He added some subtle smack-talk (if there is such a thing) when he said on-stage, "Honestly, I've been catching a lot bigger fish than that in practice."

So you weigh-in a fourth-best 21-1, and you say you've been catching bigger bass elsewhere? Really? Or is that just talk?

Backstage, VanDam explained his strategy. It has been formed from while winning his first AOY title in 1992, winning six more since then, and being in the running for the title almost every other year.

The basic tenants are: One, don't gamble on Day One. By making a long run to the biggest fish he'd found in practice, VanDam would be gambling with the weather. Two, see if the other guy slips a bit. Then you can really tighten the screws, weather permitting.

"I didn't want to have a bad day today," VanDam said. "Taking a gamble on a really long run was something I didn't want to do. You've got to see what Evers does."

Evers' 18-7 left him in 25th place. The 21-point "theoretical" shrinking of his 50-point lead is based on the standings finishing as they are now – with 21 anglers between VanDam and Evers. That's the thing about this AOY race: To make up significant ground on the leader, you need a bunch of other guys to do well too.

"If I can continue to do that, and Edwin doesn't catch 'em, and finishes 30th to 50th, I'm right back in this thing," VanDam said. "That's my goal."

Evers, naturally, didn't express any panic. He said Wednesday that 20 pounds was his goal today. He didn't miss it by much.

"I could have really had a good day," Evers said. "I think I should have had about 20 pounds."

But he didn't. That also left the door open for Aaron Martens, who is in eighth place with 20-9. He made up points on Evers too Thursday, cutting his deficit from 50 points to 33, theoretically.

There are some six- and seven-pound smallmouth bass swimming in the St. Lawrence River that could make all the difference for any of these anglers at the top of the AOY race.

"I caught a 7-8 (in practice) Monday," Martens said. "It was my biggest smallmouth ever.

"I lost a six-pounder (today) after fighting it for two minutes."

The St. Lawrence River holds the key to everything in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year race at this point. All scenarios are possible.

"The strategy in winning Angler of the Year is not having a bad event," VanDam said. "So far, Edwin has had a great season. I've left some things on the table here and there. I know these last two events are my kind of fishing. This is where I've got to make it happen."

VanDam made it happen on Thursday, but that's just one day.

Day 1 St. Lawrence River report
AOY standings heading into the St. Lawrence event

 

1 Edwin Evers 519
2 Skeet Reese 475
3 Kevin VanDam 469
4 Aaron Martens 469
5 Alton Jones 460
6 Cliff Crochet 456
7 Ish Monroe 453
8 Bobby Lane 453
9 Keith Combs 441
10 John Crews 440
11 Chris Zaldain 437
12 Todd Faircloth 431
13 Dean Rojas 426
14 Casey Ashley 394
15 Stephen Kennedy 387
16 David Walker 376
17 Gary Klein 374
18 Rick Morris 374
19 Cliff Pace 373
20 Gerald Swindle 370

 

2013 Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at St. Lawrence River
St. Lawrence River, Waddington, New York
Aug 8 - Aug 12, 2013

Leaderboard

1
Brandon Palaniuk - 88-12
1. 23-9, 2. 21-5, 3. 20-9, 4. 23-5
2
Jonathon VanDam - 81-4
1. 20-9, 2. 21-8, 3. 19-10, 4. 19-9
3
Ott Defoe - 78-10
1. 18-5, 2. 23-5, 3. 17-0, 4. 20-0
4
Cliff Pirch - 78-6
1. 20-11, 2. 22-9, 3. 17-4, 4. 17-14
5
Aaron Martens - 77-15
1. 20-10, 2. 21-8, 3. 16-14, 4. 18-15
6
Bernie Shultz - 77-12
1. 18-7, 2. 23-5, 3. 17-3, 4. 18-13
7
Stephen Kennedy - 77-10
1. 14-12, 2. 19-10, 3. 23-14, 4. 19-6
8
Josh Bertrand - 77-10
1. 19-5, 2. 18-13, 3. 20-6, 4. 19-2
9
Kevin Hawk - 76-11
1. 19-5, 2. 19-0, 3. 22-1, 4. 16-5
10
Chad Pipkens - 76-0
1. 20-4, 2. 21-2, 3. 18-7, 4. 15-9
11
Gerald Swindle - 76-0
1. 19-9, 2. 19-13, 3. 19-2, 4. 17-8
12
John Murray - 75-17
1. 19-9, 2. 20-7, 3. 19-15, 4. 15-8
14
Kevin VanDam - 57-14
1. 21-1, 2. 21-9, 3. 15-4

History & Notes;

Big Bass

Day 1: Brian Snowden - 5-8

Day 2: Brandon Palaniuk 5-12

Day 3: Stephen Kennedy 5-13

Day 4: Ott DeFoe 4-14