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2013 Elite Series Toyota All-Star Week and Evan Williams Bourbon Championship



Hartshorn Marina

920 W. Western Ave. 

West Western Ave. and Division Street

Muskegon, MI 49440

Boats Launch

7:15 a.m. ET

Tour Review

All Stars day 3 weigh in with KVD
Day 2 weigh in
Final Four set


MUSKEGON, Mich. — How’s this for a twist on a professional fishing tournament? Kevin VanDam, Edwin Evers, Cliff Pace and Hank Cherry didn’t really care which of them caught the biggest bags of bass after two days of competition on Muskegon Lake in the Evan Williams Bourbon Championship.

All that mattered to any of them was that they were one of the four pros to advance to the final roundSunday.

Their weights of Muskegon bass erased, the four finalists will begin again on nearby White Lake. The one-day shootout format means the pro with the most weight on Sunday will be the champ and claim the $50,000 first prize of the $100,000 purse.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Championship, the main event of the Friday-Sunday Toyota All-Star Week out of Muskegon, began with 14 Bassmaster Elite Series pros. Each competed for two days on Muskegon Lake in hopes they’d be one of the final four.

For the record, Elite Series rookie Cherry of Maiden, N.C., headed the leaderboard after Saturdaywith 30 pounds, 5 ounces over two days.

Cherry started his day by hooking into a 3-pound largemouth on a spinnerbait off a point he’d never stopped at before.

“That set the mood,” he said, adding that the point got his attention because of the way the wind was blowing on it.

He moved on to his other spots, amassing a limit. He hauled in a 4-pounder at about 2 p.m., the final fish to push his weight close to 17 pounds.

At 2:30, he called it quits for the day and checked in. One reason he left the water was because recreational boat traffic had chopped up the weeds in his key areas, and the water became unfishable, he said.

He was done anyway. “I figured I had over 16 pounds, and someone would have to really rack them to catch me,” he said.

Home-state favorite Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo didn’t, but his 12-6 for the day and a two-day total of 26-6 was enough to stay in the game.

VanDam said he had a “big bite” early Saturday on his second stop.

“That was what put me in (the finals),” he said. “I’m excited to be fishing tomorrow.”

VanDam has a cheering section of family and friends onsite. After the weigh-in, about 50 of them gathered around the stage for a reunion-style photo. VanDam was the centerfold: He climbed onto the table-length podium and stretched out full-length with his head propped on his hand.

Evers had his own way of celebrating: He hooted with jubilation.

Evers brought in 13-3 Saturday to claim his ticket to White Lake. One catch made all the difference.

“It was that smallmouth I caught right off the bat; it was a giant,” Evers said. “It was a 4-pounder. It was the fish that really changed things for me.”

He filled his five-fish limit with four largemouth, going at them any way he could think of. He flipped a jig, tried a topwater and flipped docks all day long.

“A little bit of everything,” he said.

Pace, the 2013 Classic champ from Petal, Miss., who led the Muskegon competition on the first day, held on to claim the last seat for the trip to White Lake.

“I fished for smallmouth here. I thought it would be the way to survive — which I did,” Pace said.

One shy of a five-fish limit, his Day 2 game was based on quality, not quantity. He caught three smallmouth early, including his biggest, a 4-9. He spent the rest of his on-the-water time with only one more smallmouth to show for it.

He’s over the smallmouth, he said.

“On White, I’m going to fish for kicker largemouth. You won’t see me with a spinning rod,” he said.

All 14 All-Star pros were given just one day of practice on White Lake earlier in the week. It was all the time most have ever had on the small fishery, with the exception of VanDam.

Good karma, as well as fans, follows VanDam to White Lake. He won his first event at the Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation club level of competition (now called B.A.S.S. Nation) on White and Muskegon lakes. He was 16 or 17 at the time, he estimated, and chose to travel into White for his winning bass.

“That was my first state-level win,” said VanDam, now a four-time Bassmaster Classic winner and a seven-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

Cherry, in the All-Star field by virtue of the berth reserved for the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, said he can’t wait to get to work again on the new lake.

“White Lake is going to be a lot of fun,” Cherry said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of flipping grass, flipping mats and topwaters. With the warming weather, I guarantee that’s what’s going to happen.”

Pace’s 4-9 smallmouth was the largest single bass of the day. But his own 4-14 of Friday was what kept him in front for the event’s Carhartt Big Bass award of $1,000, plus another $500 if the angler was wearing Carhartt apparel.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Championship is just part of Toyota All-Star Week. Running alongside the Elite event is the Friday-Sunday Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Bracket on Grand River. A Bassmaster Classic berth is the prize in that event. The two finalists — Jordan Lee and Shane Powell of Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. — will return to the river Sunday for the battle for the berth.

On Sunday, eliminated Elite pros will pair up with veteran and other guests in the Folds of Honor Foundation Pro-Am presented by ARE. The Folds of Honor Foundation provides educational scholarships to the dependents of service members killed or disabled while serving our country. Fans are invited to contribute to the cause during the “pass the bucket” on Sunday.

Another contest is slated for Sunday. This one is among fans, not among anglers. One of 14 finalists in the Toyota All-Star Fan Favorite Angler Sweepstakes on will win a 2014 Toyota Tundra valued at $35,000.

Those 14 fan names were randomly paired with the 14 pro names. The Toyota Tundra winner will be the fan lucky enough to have had their name paired with the All-Star champ. The pairings are:

            Hank Cherry: Clay Wilson of Rogers, Ark.

            Keith Combs: Tammy Jones of Grimesland, N.C.

            John Crews: Susan Blackwell of Lombard, Ill.

            Edwin Evers: David Johnson of Falls Church, Va.

            Michael Iaconelli: Tony McCraw of Galax, Va.

            Alton Jones: Stephen Eddy of Lakeland, Fla.

            Bobby Lane: Kevin Chaney of Tarpon Springs, Fla.

            Aaron Martens: Terry Crawford of Clyde, Texas

            Cliff Pace: Glenn Altman of Marion, S.C.

            Brandon Palaniuk: Chris Regas of Plainfield, Ill.

            Skeet Reese: Shawn Kleipe of Brooklyn, N.Y.

            Gerald Swindle: George Compton of Laurens, S.C.

            Kevin VanDam: Robert Catron of Stilwell, Okla.

            Chris Zaldain: Rocco Simeri of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

As of Saturday, only four fans were still in contention: Wilson, Catron, Johnson and Altman.

Weigh-ins for all events will begin at 4 p.m. ET Sunday at Heritage Landing, 1050 Seventh St., Muskegon. Also at Heritage Landing, fans can watch the pros take off at 7:15 a.m. ET. Beginning at noon at the adjacent park, fans can enjoy Muskegon County’s Family Fun Fall Festival and the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo featuring the Elite trail’s sponsors.

There’s no admission for Bassmaster events.

TV coverage of Toyota All-Star Week will be presented on The Bassmasters on Sunday, Oct. 13, on ESPN2, in three hour-long shows. At 2-3 p.m. ET, and again at 4-5 p.m., the first show will set the stage. Two more shows about the competition will air at 6-7 and 7-8 p.m. ET.

Day 2 blog updates


1:25 PM EDT, SEP 28, 2013 | 

Kevin VanDam has run a Z pattern down Lake Muskegon since we've been following him. First he left Bear Lake Channel and headed south across the lake to Great Lakes Marina. After jerkbaiting his way through it - to no avail - he ran back across the lake, just west of Bear Lake Channel.


KVD is flipping his way through a shallow flat that is loaded with wood structure. It's only 4 or 5 feet deep here, but he's far from the shoreline.


The wind has really picked up now. It's blowing out of the south-southwest.


VanDam is on the move again.




1:08 PM EDT, SEP 28, 2013 | BY STEVE BOWMAN

Getting caught up a bit from some of the spectators. Like we guessed, these guys are running and gunning.


We just learned that KVD went to a place called the McCracken. I'm not even sure of the spelling. But if you've watchedThe Wrath of the Titans, then you will understand what went through my mind when I heard that: Uh oh, KVD fixin' to release the McCracken on that ...



1:01 PM EDT, SEP 28, 2013 | 

Kevin VanDam has to be feeling some pressure right now, as much as KVD can feel after accomplishing two lifetimes worth of B.A.S.S. titles. He knows four bass weighing 8 1/2 pounds isn't going to get it done today.


VanDam is at Great Lakes Marina, fishing near the Milwaukee Clipper ship that is now permanently anchored here. He's having to spend some time directing traffic among the observer boats he has following him. VanDam is working the channel edges as he goes back into the marina.


VanDam has mentioned more than once this week how meaningful it is to have a B.A.S.S. event so close to his home. Kalamazoo is only an hour and 15-minute drive from his house. Even though he hasn't fished a tournament  on Muskegon in over 20 years, he grew up fishing this lake and still uses it often for various video work.


It would be a blow to VanDam if he isn't among the Final Four at White Lake on Sunday, and right now he's not.



9:32 AM EDT, SEP 28, 2013 | BY KEN DUKE

Kevin VanDam seems to have been right on the money Thursday night when he told me 13 pounds a day would put you in the top four at Muskegon Lake. After the first of two rounds, each of the top four has better than 13 pounds and everyone else has less than that. Will it continue on Day 2? I wouldn't bet against it. The top four when the semifinals are over should all have at least 26 pounds. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if more anglers than that had 26 or better. After all, Michael Iaconelli (currently fifth) has 12-15 and Alton Jones (sixth) has 12-8. Chris Zaldain is also over the 12-pound mark. It's certainly conceivable that six or seven anglers will end the two days with better than 26 pounds, so the fishing may be a little better than KVD anticipated.

9:30 AM EDT, SEP 28, 2013 | BY STEVE BOWMAN

Hank Cherry may have just assured himself a spot into the final four.
In the last few minutes he's made a couple of big culls, catching what appears to be back-to-back 3-pounders.
That should put him in that 12-pound range, which could be enough. While he was doing that, KVD was culling as well.
Both are far enough away to not have a definitive weight. But we are guessing KVD is in the 10-pound range. That's a total guess. Either way, this little area is serving up the keepers.


KVD heads to the pier heads

All Stars, day 2 AM video
KVD on day 1 - Toyota All Stars 2013


Most of the other All-Star pros also produced mixed bags, including VanDam, who had one smallmouth and four largemouth.

Unlike Pace, who had never seen Muskegon Lake before the one day the All-Star pros were given to practice, VanDam often fished Muskegon Lake in the early days of his career.

“The one good thing — and the one bad thing — is that I have a lot of history here. You can’t fish for ‘ghosts’ that aren’t there anymore,” he said.

And he has not competed on Muskegon Lake in more than 20 years. Because he lives 90 miles away from Muskegon, he was easily able to scout to the 4,232-acre fishery before it was off-limits to All-Star pros.

VanDam’s uncharacteristic scouting trip paid off with an early limit Friday, including a 4-2 largemouth. He then searched for hours for another big one to cull one of his smaller bass from his livewell.

“There are a lot of big fish in this lake, I just couldn’t get a second bigger one,” he said. He tried everything he could think of.

“I had to change up a lot today,” he said. “I’m going to fish differently tomorrow.

VanDam’s prediction for Saturday: “It’s going to be a shootout.”

5 questions with KVD, Ike and Swindle


1. What is the thing you like most about Muskegon Lake?

Ike: Diversity, and it has tons of industrial stuff – like iron pilings – city fishing kinda stuff like I love and grew up on. Plus, docks, vegetation, humps, largemouth, smallmouth. It’s got it all, man.

KVD: It’s a really diverse little fishery.

Swindle: I like the fact that this lake is small enough for me to actually see my competition. I feel like a free safety in football keeping my eye on the offense.


2.  What’s the one song you can’t get out of your head?

Ike: Music from the Octonauts cartoons my kids watch.

KVD: Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” because they played it live for Mariano Rivera in a retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium this week. That was cool and classy, and it’s always been one of my favorite songs.

Swindle: Sonny Bama’s “The Bottom” – it’s about life in southern Alabama.


3. The biggest concern you have about the fishing in Muskegon Lake?

Ike: Trying to catch one over 3 pounds. It’s loaded with 2-pounders but to do well you’re going to have to get the bigger, quality bites.

KVD: Making sure I execute. Catching what bites. Fishing mistake free.

Swindle: Not jerking too fast when I get a bite.



4. Two lures you won’t leave the dock without on Friday morning?

Ike: Shaky Head and a vibrating jig from Molix Lures we call “The Lover.”

KVD: KVD politely declined to answer, with a wink and a grin.

Swindle: I’m going old skool with a jig and a War Eagle spinnerbait.


5. The best meal you’ve eaten in Muskegon?

Ike: A lobster sandwich at Lake House Waterfront Grille. It was awesome! It was on a toasted bun, and came with a side of sweet potato fries.

KVD: The beef tips and mashed potatoes at the Shoreline Inn.

Swindle: Shrimp stuffed with crabmeat on a bed of mashed potatoes.

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2013 Elite Series Toyota All-Star Week and Evan Williams Bourbon Championship
Muskegon Lake and White Lake, Muskegon, Michigan
Sep 27 - Sep 29, 2013


Hank Cherry
1. 13-08, 2. 16-13, 3. 17-08
Kevin VanDam
1. 14-0, 2. 12-06, 3. 14-14
Cliff Pace
1. 14-04, 2. 12-01, 3. 11-06
Edwin Evers
1. 13-03, 2. 13-03, 3. 10-15
Michael Iaconelli - 12-15
Alton Jones - 12-8
Chris Zaldain - 12-3
Bobby Lane - 11-13
Keith Combs - 11-11
Aaron Martens - 11-11
Gerald Swindle - 11-5
Brandon Palaniuk - 9-6
Skeet Reese - 8-5
John Crews - 6-2

History & Notes;

Big Bass - day 1 - Cliff Pace 4-14