- Lynn Burkhead
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Editor's note: This episode of "BassCenter" re-airs on ESPN2 at 5:30 a.m. ET on June 27 and June 29.
Good to the last drop.
To quote the old coffee commercial, that might be the most appropriate way to describe this year's NBA Finals.
It might also be an apt description of the recently completed Bassmaster Elite 50 series.
While Kevin VanDam did the usual as in qualify for every six-man Elite 50 finale this year en route to capturing his second straight series title there was plenty more excitement, intrigue and surprises this year, too.
Such moments will be the subject of an Elite 50 top-10 special on "BassCenter" at 7 a.m. ET this abbreviated Bass Saturday. (Note that the usual 11 a.m. ET airing of "BassCenter" will not take place this Saturday due to ESPN's continuing coverage of Wimbledon.) This show re-airs at 5:30 a.m. ET Wed., June 29, on ESPN2.
What will viewers see? Here are a few examples:
VanDam's Elite 50 domination
VanDam has been called the "Kalamazoo Kid" by some observers.
Based on his performance in the brief history of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, perhaps he ought to receive the moniker of "Mr. E-50."
That's because the Kalamazoo, Mich., product continued his dominance on the circuit, making the cut of each event this year, winning his first and second E-50 tournaments in back-to-back fashion in Texas and Wisconsin, and in capturing his second E-50 series crown.
"It's amazing to me, too," VanDam said of his recent Elite 50 run. "You go and go and go and try and try and try and can't get it done and then it just all falls into place. It's just weird how it all works out."
One reason that VanDam feels that it works out for him is his enjoyment of the E-50 format.
"I put a lot of emphasis on them, without a doubt," he said. "I enjoy them a lot and put a lot of time and effort into preparing for the event."
And that's not to mention the fact that the 2001 Bassmaster Classic champ and three-time Angler of the Year believes that the quick-paced format of the E-50 series fits his style of fishing very well.
"When you make the finals, I really like that covering the water quickly and trying to figure a pattern out real quick," VanDam said.
"I've always really thought that it fit my style of being a power fisherman like I am.
"You've only got an hour in each hole, so you've got to be making it happen since you may not see that type of water again."
As scary as this might sound to his fellow competitors coming from an angler with nine BASS wins under his belt, VanDam believes the E-50 series has actually helped to make him a better tournament angler.
"I try to make good decisions and try to learn from my mistakes in the past," VanDam said.
"I've reacted more to my gut instincts and it has paid off. I'm learning to trust my gut instincts more and to do so quicker."
Evers' 'pop the question' surprise
Around much of the nation, June is a month for weddings.
It's apparently also a month for a fella to "pop the question" to his special girl.
Such a romantic moment is rarely caught by television cameras no less so in the middle of a big bass tournament, as an angler is trying to win a $100,000 payday.
But that's exactly what happened to Edwin Evers on June 3 at the Bassmaster Elite 50 event on Lake Lewisville near Dallas.
"I just pulled up to fish this little pocket and I looked up there and there was a guy in tennis shoes, shorts, a tuxedo coat, a bow tie, and with his hair all fixed up," Evers said.
"He had roses in his hand and had rose petals on the trail all the way down to the lake. I asked him what he was going to do, and he said that he was going to propose to his girlfriend.
"He even had a little kick boat that he was going to paddle out onto the water to propose to her with and a buddy with a video camera to record it all."
Of course, while the Texan had the holy bonds of matrimony on his mind, the Oklahoma angler Evers had winning his fourth BASS tournament on his mind.
"I had just caught one at that time," Evers said. "I was trying to get out of there, but I needed to fish that spot, too.
"Plus, there were about 20 or 30 boats following me at the time and I had a cameraman with me.
"It was a pretty funny."
What did the five-time Classic qualifier do?
"I went on and went to the next fishing spot," he said.
After Evers decided to move along and not interfere with the special moment, did the potential bride-to-be say yes to the aquatic proposal on Lewisville?
"He was pretty nervous, so who knows," Evers chuckled.
Key veterans miss the Classic
The Elite 50 series also concluded the race for the final 10 coveted spots for the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic scheduled for July 29-31 on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers near Pittsburgh.
But the E-50 circuit also proved to be the Classic undoing for some of the sport's biggest names as veterans like Denny Brauer, Mark Davis, Gary Klein, and Kelly Jordon failed to qualify for the Classic through the E-50 series.
Between those four anglers alone are two Classic wins, six Angler of the Year titles, 57 Classic appearances, 31 BASS tournament wins and $4.8 million in BASS career earnings.
While Klein was clearly not happy with the way he was knocked out of the Classic, "The bottom line is that I finished where I did and I accept responsibility for that," he said. "This is not going to make or break Gary Klein."
Still, he admits that it bugs him knowing that he will not get a chance to go to Pittsburgh in an attempt to win his first Classic title after so many close calls in the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
"I would be a fool to say that it doesn't hurt," Klein said.
"I'm a competitor. I've always said that if I can't compete at this level, I'll quit. And I'm not ready to quit. I got myself in a position that I shouldn't have and have nobody to blame but myself.
"Had I made better decisions throughout the course of the year and fished better, I wouldn't have been in this position."
What Klein is speaking to is having to try and qualify for the Classic field through the last-chance E-50 tournament series.
"I should have qualified during the Tour and not have had to rely on the E-50s. I should have been competing in the E-50s already having the Classic locked up."
What Klein promises is that missing out this year makes him just that much more motivated to come back and make it again next year.
"Yeah, missing the Classic hurts," Klein said. "It's a feather in everybody's hat. Plus, I hate guys competing in competitions that I'm not a part of.
"I'll just focus, come back next year and kick their butts and get revenge that way."