ON TO LAKE DECATUR...
Story and photos by Matt Pangrac
Decatur, IL – The second day of competition on Lake Shelbyville at Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in Illinois was a near carbon copy of Thursday’s opening round. Out of the 12 competitors vying for the title of All-Star Week champion, 11 brought fish to the scales but limits were hard to come by.
After distancing themselves from the rest of the field on Thursday, Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers and Tennessee’s Ott DeFoe continued to dominate on the 11,000 acre fishery on Friday. Backing up an opening round effort of 13-1, Evers crossed the stage with another five bass limit weighing and even 10 pounds to boost his two day total weight to 23-1 and earn the number one seed heading into Saturday’s bracket style elimination round on Lake Decatur.
DeFoe was close behind, earning the number two seed with a total weight of 22-15. After catching four keepers to the tune of 11-3 on Thursday, DeFoe found the elusive limit fish on Friday and brought in the day’s heaviest limit weighing 11-12.
While it was apparent that both Evers and DeFoe had virtually locked themselves into a semi-final appearance regardless of what happened on Friday, the remaining 10 anglers entered the day with the final two qualifying spots up for grabs.
Aaron Martens, who started the day in 3rd place, maintained his position and earned the number three seed heading into Friday. With just two keepers on the day weighing a paltry 3-6, Martens finished the opening two rounds with a total weight of 10-13.
The number four seed went to Gerald Swindle, who jumped from 8th place on Thursday to 4th place on Friday with a late day flurry that resulted in four keeper bites. Swindle’s 6-10 effort on Friday pushed his two day total weight to 10-6.
Mike Iaconelli, who finished Thursday in 7th place with 4-0, rushed off of Lake Shelbyville when he received the call that his wife Becky had gone into labor. Without a keeper in the livewell, he opted to head to the nearest airport to catch a flight back home.
On Saturday, all weights will be zeroed and Edwin Evers (#1 Seed) will go head-to-head against Gerald Swindle (#4 Seed), and Ott DeFoe (#2 Seed) will take on Aaron Martens (#3 seed) on Lake Decatur. The winner of each match will meet in the finals on Sunday.
Number One Seed: Edwin Evers (23-1)
Friday on Lake Shelbyville: “It went a little different today than it did yesterday. I ended up catching them off of wood and stumps with a jig for the most part. Yesterday, I caught them throwing a YUM Pumpkin’Ed on some off shore stuff and an Xr50 rattle bait.
“I caught eight keepers today, but I was about ready for this thing to be over by around noon.”
Biggest factor in making the final four: “Just fishing hard and keeping a good attitude. Getting that very first bite on the first morning really clued me in. It was a bite on the rattle bait in the middle of a pocket, and I thought that it was a fluke. I ended up catching quite a few more doing that.
“I also had one little spot where I could throw that Pumpkin’Ed jig with a 5” YUM Dinger offshore. That area proved to be where most of my bigger fish came from on Shelbyville.”
Wednesday’s practice on Lake Decatur: “It went decent. I didn’t get many bites, but I feel pretty good about it. I feel really comfortable on Decatur – it’s shallow and muddy and I was amazed at how one dimensional the lake is – you’ve pretty much got to fish stuff along the bank.”
Number Two Seed: Ott DeFoe (22-15)
Friday on Lake Shelbyville: “I caught two keepers pretty quickly and then caught my third keeper shortly after that. I went through kind of a dry spell and boated my fourth keeper at 11:00. My biggest bite came at 12:00.”
Biggest difference between Thursday and Friday: “Yesterday, I had one 15-minute flurry where I caught my three biggest ones. My bites were a lot more spread out today.”
Biggest factor in making the final four: “It really boiled down to fishing my strength, which is shallow cranking. I covered some water in practice and found a couple areas where I got bit. The key was staying in those areas because from what I can tell, there really aren’t a lot of good areas out there on Shelbyville.
“Today, I caught my best ones from an area that I found on Google Earth. There’s a good bit of timber in the lake and I think that’s where most of the fish live. If we could have fished the marinas, this would have been a totally different tournament.”
Wednesday’s practice on Lake Decatur: “I really like Lake Decatur. It’s a fishy looking lake, so I’m looking forward to getting on it. With one day of practice, this is anybody’s game. It’s all going to come down to decision making.”
Number Three Seed: Aaron Martens (10-13)
Friday on Lake Shelbyville: “I had more bite today and caught more fish today but the problem was that I kept missing the keepers. I probably had four keepers on that I lost. I’d hook them for a second and they’d come off. It was like a dog with a bone – they’d just come up and bite it and not eat it.
Biggest factor in making the final four: “I was really fortunate on Lake Shelbyville. There was some luck involved. I had a really good practice, so I think that I did really poorly in the tournament. That lake is tough – it’s brutal.”
Wednesday’s practice on Lake Decatur: “I think that I had a limit for about 13 pounds during practice on Lake Decatur, but I had over 15 pounds during practice on Shelbyville so I really don’t know what to expect. With the weather coming in, the lake will probably be even dirtier.
“I’ve driven through water the color of Lake Decatur on places like the Mississippi River, but it’s been a while since I actually fished in water like that.”
Number Four Seed: Gerald Swindle (10-6)
Friday on Lake Shelbyville: “I fished until 1:40 without a keeper in the boat. Yesterday, I flipped main lake trees with a Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm in Green Pumpkin Candy and had about 15 bites with only one keeper. I was determined that I wasn’t going to do that again today, so I threw a buzzbait, square lip, and flat sided crankbaits.
“At 1:40, I went back out the main lake and stated flipping the worm and got four keeper bites.”
Biggest factor in making the final four: "The biggest thing was that Zoom Magnum Finesse worm. The key was that I got a lucky bite when it started lightning and I realized that the fish had turned on. I caught three other keepers within the next 30 minutes.
“When I was driving back to the weigh-in, I had no idea that I had a chance of making the top four. My wife called and said that I had made the cut according to BASSTrakk. I really didn’t believe it because that BASSTrakk is kind of like an old ex-girlfriend – it’ll lie to you sometimes.”
Wednesday’s practice on Lake Decatur: “I didn’t fish that much on Lake Decatur. I fished for maybe four hours and then rode around a bunch. When I was out there, I just had a feeling that if I could make the cut and get to this lake, it could fish a little bit more to my strengths.”