Jeff Sprague and Edwin Evers are virtually neck-and-neck in both points and season statistics heading into the final event of the season.
By Joel Shangle - June 24, 2019
NEENAH, Wis. – The analogies to professional boxing and MMA are unavoidable: Two dominant competitors whose performances can be separated by only miniscule numbers, squaring off for the title.
If you ask Mercury pros Edwin Evers or Jeff Sprague to sum it up that way – this Race for the Bass Pro Tour Points Championship that’s about to go down in Neenah, Wisconsin – they’ll both shake their heads and “Aw shucks” it off.
“We’re just here to catch fish,” they’ll say.
But as Stage Eight looms Tuesday morning and Evers and Sprague enter the final rounds of their season-long battle for the top of the Bass Pro Tour standings, there’s no denying what we’re witnessing. It’s Gennady Golovkin versus Canelo Alvarez. Tyson Fury versus Deontay Wilder. Robbie Lawler versus Rory McDonald. And may the best man win.
By the Numbers
As Shotgun Round 1 gets underway on Tuesday, Evers holds a scant three-point lead over Sprague (471 to 468). A handful of other anglers – Michael Neal (424), Jordan Lee (422), Jacob Wheeler (414), Brent Ehrler (413) – hover within mathematical range of overtaking the two frontrunners, but to call a spade a spade, the Points Championship is Evers or Sprague’s to lose.
And judging by just the raw numbers of their individual seasons, this upcoming final faceoff is a pick ’em.
Evers has weighed 854 pounds on the season to 841-14 for Sprague, an astoundingly small difference of 13-2. Sprague has put 482 fish on SCORETRACKER® to 458 for Evers. Evers’ most productive event produced 179-5, Sprague’s 168-9. Sprague’s highest single-event catch count was 115, Evers’ was 94. Evers’ average finish this year is 13.7, Sprague’s is 14.1.
“How amazing is it that these two can be on 13 pounds apart after seven events?” mused MLF NOW! analyst JT Kenney. “It’s pretty unbelievable, but it shows you the depth and talent of the Bass Pro Tour field. You have a relative newcomer in Sprague and one of the titans of the sport in Evers, and there’s barely any difference in their numbers for the year.”
How They Got Here
Evers started the season like a house afire, finishing second, first, fourth and seventh in the first four events. By all measure, the Oklahoma pro was running away with the Points Championship through the first half of the season while putting on a performance that MLF NOW! analyst Marty Stone described at the time as “one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments in sports”.
Sprague hung tough, though, finishing eighth, second and seventh in the first three events before dropping to 22nd at Stage Four Dayton and losing 15 points to Evers. The Texas pro has averaged a 20th-place finish in the three events since, and took the points lead away from Evers after Stage Six at Table Rock – that event was Evers’ lowest finish of the year (42nd), and allowed Sprague to make up 23 points.
Evers finished 24th at Stage Seven while Sprague finished 30th, giving Evers the points lead for the fourth time in seven competition weeks.
They’ve Been Here Before
Students of the game will recall that both Evers and Sprague have been separately locked in down-to-the-wire AOY races before, Sprague in 2016, Evers in 2013. Sprague led the FLW Tour AOY standings for much of the 2016 season before surrendering it to Andy Morgan, while Evers saw a 30-point lead dissipate to Aaron Martens in the final event of the 2013 Elite Series season.
“I got outrun by the GOAT,” Sprague jokes about the 2016 race. “That was a heckuva experience at the time – my third year as a pro and I got to go head-to-head with one of the greatest of all time. Not much different than this year, is it? I’m thankful to be here and to have the kind of season I’m having, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like to win the race this time around.”
Evers fishes the Group A Shotgun Round on Tuesday, Sprague fishes Group B on Wednesday.