By Terry Brown

I spent some time in the boat yard at the Toyota All Star event in Decatur, Ill., with some of the best pros in fishing. Kevin VanDam, Aaron Martens, Matt Herren, Terry Scroggins, Gerald Swindle, Brent Chapman, Edwin Evers, Ott Defoe, Randy Howell, Todd Faircloth, and Skeet Reese were all there working on tackle, talking to a few fans milling around, and cutting up with each other as they prepared for the tournament.

While many of those there wanted to talk about autographs, the prior two days of practice or how much they thought they would catch, I dug deeper.  I personally, was more interested in the bait they were tying on and the approach they took to get ready. I wanted to dig into their psyche and understand the competitor. I wanted to understand the mind set, their disposition and even though I listened to their words, I watched their eyes. A few simple questions immediately came to mind. What makes them tick, how do they always figure them out and what makes them better than the rest of us? So much of this game is a mind set, swagger or confidence and I wanted to explore that with them.

All of the other Elite Series events are about points, Angler of the Year and Classic berths but this one was suppose to be more relaxed. No points worries, no Bassmaster Classic at stake, no heavy pressure from sponsors to perform or to attend functions. This was to be like other sports All Star events where the win has less importance. It is about the fans and it’s about the fun. The fans make this sport tick and it was very apparent as they came out in droves both at the morning take off’s and at the weigh in’s. For this group of pros it was time to be on their best behavior, and it was “handshake and baby kissing time.”

Watching them prepare proved much more was at stake than relaxing for a few days on a new body of water. Even though it is more relaxed with less mandatory obligations, their competitive fires still burn too deep not to creep.

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Decatur, IL – Over the course of the first two days of competition on Lake Shelbyville at Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in Decatur, Illinois, the 12 All-Star competitors battled the tough central Illinois fishery and combined to bring in a total of three five bass limits.  Lake Decatur Crowd

On Saturday, the field was whittled down to the top four anglers and the venue shifted to Lake Decatur.  Only Edwin Evers managed a limit, boosting the grand total of limits crossing the stage over the first three days of competition to four.

It seemed to reason that when Aaron Martens and Edwin Evers launched their boats for the final round of competition Sunday morning on Lake Decatur, the first angler who managed to boat a limit of largemouth on the shallow water fishery would all but secure the title of All-Star Week Champion.

That wasn’t the case.  Sunday turned into a shootout on Lake Decatur, as both Martens and Evers boxed a quality limit and left the outcome of the final Elite Series event of the 2012 season up in the air until the final bass hit the scales.

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This one had it all — long runs, risky strategies, run-and-gun fishing and a dramatic save of a stranded competitor. In the end, Alabama’s Aaron Martens edged out Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers to win the 2012 Toyota Trucks All-Star Championship.

Martens’ strategy of staying close to the launch area to increase his fishing time bested Evers’ choice of making a long, difficult run up the Sangamon River. Martens’ win was the culmination of four days of fishing featuring 12 of the best anglers in the sport on two lakes that presented some of the most challenging fishing in B.A.S.S. tournament history. In the end, Martens’ final day catch of 13 pounds, 8 ounces on Lake Decatur was enough to outpace Evers by 1-4. Martens’ total was the heaviest catch of the week.

Though there were only two competitors on the water for the final round of the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship, the day had a little of everything. Evers made a long run up the lake, pushing through silt and mud for more than an hour to reach his best fishing area while Martens stayed closer to the launch area. Evers pitched and flipped stumps and laydowns or threw a crankbait to catch his bass; Martens did the same. Both missed bass that might have been game changers.

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by Cara Clark / B.A.S.S.

DECATUR, IL. – Ten superstar bass anglers have been eliminated, but one more must go before the 2012 Toyota Trucks All-Star Week champion is crowned. Last year’s All-Star runner-up Edwin Evers and 2005 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens advanced to the fourth and final round of the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star championship on Lake Decatur. They eliminated 2004 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle and defending All-Star champ Ott DeFoe, respectively.

On Sunday, Oklahoma’s Evers and Alabama’s Martens will meet on Lake Decatur for a second day of fishing to determine a new champion and award $60,000 to the winner.

With Evers and DeFoe in different brackets on Saturday, the stage was set for a finals rematch. Those dreams fell apart for DeFoe when he lost a bass weighing between 5 and 6 pounds. He was flipping a Berkley Tube (black with red flake) on a 5/0 VMC heavy duty extra wide gap hook behind a 5/16-ounce Reins Tungsten sinker around laydown trees when the big one -easily the biggest bass of the tournament -jumped and threw his bait near the boat.

DeFoe slapped the water surface with his rod tip, and dejectedly offered his ultimate oath -“Dang it!” He was never able to recover. Martens easily outpaced him with the day’s only five-bass limit -8 pounds, 13 ounces to 2-12, respectively.

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