The 30-year-old Oklahoma pro will be trying to secure a wire-to-wire victory on Sunday. He went out Saturday with a four-pound, three-ounce lead and proceeded to catch a five-bass limit weighing 15-2. That gives him a three-day total of 62-9 and a lead of two pounds, 15 ounces.
Veteran Texas pro Zell Rowland, who won here in 1991, brought in Saturday's largest catch (22-6) to move into second place with 59-10. Fellow Texan Bud Pruitt (21-15) is third with 59-2, followed by Japan's Morizo Shimizu (12-1) with 55-4, David Fritts (15-7) of North Carolina with 51-14 and Virginia's Mike Hicks (10-14) with 50-14.
Evers is riding a wave of momentum that began last September with a victory in a CITGO Bassmaster Central Open and picked up speed when he earned a ticket to the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh by finishing in the top five at the Open Championship in December. A good day on Sunday would seal his third BASS tournament win.
“This horse race is getting tighter and tighter,” the four-time Classic qualifier said. “It's neck and neck.”
Evers has been fishing a red lipless crankbait in relatively shallow grass all week, but the pattern produced his smallest limit of the week on Saturday following opening-rounds of 27-15 and 19-8.
“I lost a 6-pounder today that broke my heart,” he said. “She just pulled off at the boat. I was pretty upset.
“I'm just glad to survive and be able to go fishing Sunday. I feel pretty confident that I can catch them tomorrow.”
Rowland, 47, got into the hunt for his fifth career BASS victory by claiming Saturday's Busch Heavyweight prize of $1,000 after bringing the day’s biggest catch to the scales. It also puts him in the running for one of 13 spots in the $200,000 Busch Shootout, a one-day tournament that features the largest single-day catches of the Tour season.
“I had a good day — very enjoyable,” Rowland said. “I went to the spot where I caught my fish the first two days, but there was a boat there from another tournament, so I went fishing new water, and I just had a blast.”
Rowland is fishing shallow grass in the same area where he won the 1991 Alabama Invitational with 55-10, but he’s changed tactics each day. The first day he caught 17-1 on jerkbaits; Day Two was spent throwing a lipless crankbait to collect 20-3; and Saturday's 22-6 came flipping the vegetation.
“I'm going to have a real good time tomorrow,” Rowland said. “I've got three different ways I can probably catch fish. The problem is it's getting tougher to get bites. I'm not getting a whole lot of bites, but when I get one, it's a big fish.”
Pruitt, 38, moved into contention for his fourth BASS win largely on the strength of Saturday's Purolator Big Bass winner — an 8-pound, 4-ounce largemouth that was caught on a Berkley Frenzy Rattl'r lipless crankbait.
“That was the coolest strike,” he said in reference to the big bass. “My bait came out of the water, and that fish smoked it!”
There has probably never been a happier or more excited fourth-place angler than Shimizu, 35, a Japanese pro living in California. He smiled broadly when answering questions about his fishing on Saturday.
“I was very, very nervous,” he said of the early part of his day. “I caught my first fish and cooled down.”
Shimizu’s strategy was simple. “Same lure, same pattern, same area. I didn't think I could make the top six, but I did,” he said. “I missed two big fish — big mamas.”
In the non-boater division, the winner was Florida's Terry Bloom, who brought in a three-bass limit on each day of competition to bring him a shared weight total of 92 pounds, eight ounces. His prize is a $38,000 Triton/Mercury package.
Bloom's catch was nearly 30 pounds better than that of second place finisher Steve Knight of Georgia (69-12). Alabama's Tommy Swindle (66 pounds) and Richard Hachey (62-7) were third and fourth, respectively. All earned a Triton boat with Mercury outboard.
Knight took the non-boater's Purolator Big Bass award Saturday with a four-pound, seven-ounce largemouth.
In the CastingKids competition, Cole Clifton, 12, was the champion of the 11-14 age group and Jacob McDonald, 8, took first place in the 7-10 bracket.
Jacob hopes his victory foreshadows even bigger things. “Some day I’m going to try to win the Classic,” he said.
Cole shared his optimism and has plans for his fishing future. "I practice every day I can so I can become a pro some day," he said.
North Carolina pro Dustin Wilks was cited yesterday following an incident during Wednesday's practice round when he encountered a gill net on the lake. Wilks was not sanctioned by BASS Tournament Department officials because the incident did not occur on a competition day. Formal changes against Wilks by local law enforcement authorities are pending.
Coverage of the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Lake Guntersville will be telecast on March 5 at 10:00 a.m. ET on The CITGO Bassmasters on ESPN2.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include the City of Guntersville, Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce, Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Guntersville Merchants.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.