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BASS Reporter's Notebook

11/10/2009

The Bassmaster Central Open season ended last Sunday like it began: in overtime.

Sunday on Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., outfished Mark Smith of West Monroe, La., to break their 35-pound, 9-ounce, tie, which both anglers tallied over the course of three days. Evers boated 14 pounds, 7 ounces, in the overtime period, enough to outlast Smith.

In the Central season opener on Toledo Bend in early March, two Texans went head-to-head to settle a 37-14 standoff. Elite pro James Niggemeyer of Van bested Jerrel Pringle of Hemphill in overtime for the season-opener win.

Tie-breakers are rare, let alone two in a single season in the same division.

Odd enough, for sure. But throw in another tie-breaker situation, the one on the co-angler side at the same Atchafalaya event, and the coincidence grows.

BASS has been conducting tournaments for more than 40 years and tiebreakers are extremely rare, let alone two in the same event.

In that co-angler situation, the tie-breaker of heaviest single-day catch broke the tie at 21-11 in favor of David Cooper of Vidalia, La., over Jeff Wade of Cabot, Ark., by virtue of Cooper's first-day bag of 13-5.

Yet another tie-breaker was triggered by the Central Open finale. When Niggemeyer double-qualified for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, BASS rules say he takes his Classic seat through the Central Open, not through the Elite Series. The next pro on the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points list is tapped.

But two pros, Mark Tucker of St. Louis, Mo., and Matt Reed of Madisonville, Texas, were next on the Elite list, tied at 37th place. The BASS tie-breaker applicable to the situation states that the award goes to the pro with the highest total weight from all full-field days of all eight 2009 regular-season Elite Series tournaments.

So Tucker, with 214-3 to Reed's 211-4, is going to the Classic.

There's yet another twist to the tale. That key 37th place was originally tied up three ways, with Jamie Fralick of Martin, S.D., shouldered in beside Tucker and Reed. But Fralick, with a weight of 220-2, was the first winner under the tie-breaker when he was awarded a Classic berth after defending champion Skeet Reese double-qualified through the Elite Series.

CONSORTIUM WRAP

In just two weeks' time, Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour pro Robin Babb pulled together an unusual sponsorship deal that includes a new boat wrap.

Babb, who lives on Lake Livingston in southeastern Texas, qualified just under the wire for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La., in October.

Spurred on by the promotional opportunities that come along with the Championship, Babb came up with an idea to entice many people to chip in small amounts of money to put her and her boat while promoting Lake Livingston. After doing her research, she pitched the idea to the president of her local chamber of commerce.

"I said to her, 'We have a wonderful opportunity because not only is the championship within three hours of Lake Livingston, but next year, four out of five WBT events are within four hours of our area, so we need to capitalize on this. In this economy, people are looking for places to go close to home, so this is a great chance to market the Lake Livingston area.'

"She started making phone calls, I made phone calls and it caught on. I got all the people on board, plus new tournament jerseys ordered, boat graphics designed and the wrap completed in two weeks," said Babb, who brought her new wrap to the championship and finished third.

The consortium includes the chamber, marinas, real estate agents, local businesses, restaurants, and even individuals interested in promoting Babb and the recreational opportunities of the 92,000-acre Lake Livingston.

"They're all kicking in whatever they can afford," Babb said. "I've agreed not to promote any specific company or entity. I'm marketing the Lake Livingston area. What I do for the individual companies are things like making appearances with the boat. It's working out wonderfully."

Babb and her Lake Livingston wrap will appear throughout the 2010 WBT schedule. Regular-season stops are March 18-20 at Lake Wheeler in Decatur, Ala.; April 22-24 at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Lufkin, Texas; June 10-12 at Belton Lake in Temple, Texas; and Sept. 16-18 at the Ouachita River in West Monroe, La. For the Oct. 15-17 Academy Sports + Outdoors WBT Championship, the tour will return to Sam Rayburn.

Women can join the 2010 circuit now. Details are at www.Bassmaster.com.

CLIFF-HANGER

If suspense could age a man, Cliff Crochet would be looking very gray at the temples instead of his 26-year-old, dark-haired self. He certainly went through enough last weekend to turn a hair or two pearly gray.

Crochet of Pierre Part, La., was competing in the Bassmaster Central Open season finale for one of the two 2010 Bassmaster Classic berths and one of seven Bassmaster Elite Series spots.

What he had going for him was home-water advantage. He's been fishing the sprawling waterways and bayous of the Atchafalaya Basin since he was old enough to keep a rod tip up.

Against him was the fact that five pros were ahead of him in the points standings; he was 67 points out of first. Fast forward: After three days of competition, at the end of the final weigh-in, Crochet was third in the competition, and second place in points — or was he?

Suddenly it looked like Bassmaster Elite Series pro Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., was challenging Crochet for the points position. Worse yet for Crochet, Evers and Mark Smith of West Monroe, La., were tied for first place and would compete another day to decide the winner and how many points each would earn. Crochet would sit on shore and wait.

But maybe not. Crochet waited as tournament officials worked on the big question: If Evers won through the fish-off, could Evers earn enough points to push Crochet to third in points?

"I knew it was tight," Crochet said. "I was on edge. That was the longest time of my life. I think it was 20 or 30 minutes. Might have been five minutes. Might have been forever."

Tournament officials had to run the numbers to be sure that any outcome of the overtime situation would not alter the points outcome enough to bump either of the leaders.

To Crochet's great relief, the announcement was made. James Niggemeyer of Van, Texas, won the Central Open race with 829 points, and Crochet was second with 793 points. (Evers, it determined after the overtime competition, ended in third with 786 points, just seven points back.)

Crochet won a Classic berth, his dream since he was a child fishing the bayou in front of his home.

"'Wow' is the only word I have to describe this," Crochet said. "I finally got some sleep Sunday night after my nerves calmed down."

A junior-high football coach and a sergeant with the Assumption Parish (La.) Sheriff's Office,
Crochet said he is leaning toward joining the Elite Series in 2010.

"I think I'm going to do it," he said. "I haven't officially committed to it, but that's my intention."

PRECIOUS AND FEW

"You just need to cherish each one. They're so hard to come by." — Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., after emerging victorious in overtime at the Bassmaster Central Open Nov. 7 in Louisiana, his fifth Bassmaster win