Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation

Kelly Bostian: Edwin Evers tour rewards veterans, anglers with immeasurable catch

Tulsa World

MADILL — Fishing contests, on the surface, give us a yardstick to measure many things: angler skills, effective baits and techniques, the health of fisheries, maybe even one person’s luck verses another’s — the quality of an angler’s day on the water.

Always beneath that surface, however, is the immeasurable stuff. On Monday, eight men launched boats on a pair of private lakes in south-central Oklahoma and had a fishing contest. The results of the day were just that — immeasurable.

We’re not going to forget the actual measurements, however. No chance of that.

The Edwin Evers OPTIMA Batteries Healing Heroes in Action Tour produced some impressive numbers Monday. The group was hosted by the Basil Savage family, of Savage Equipment, on two 30-acre private lakes on their home pecan operation, Hauani Creek Ranch.

The event had Talala bass pro Edwin Evers with Purple Heart recipient Levi Crawford of Jonesboro, Arkansas, fishing against three other teams — two other Elite Series pros and two other Purple Heart recipients, plus a pair of brothers from the Tulsa area who won a Facebook bidding contest to compete in the event.

Chuck and Doug Wells’ $1,200 bid went entirely to the nonprofit Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation, which connects Purple Heart veterans across the country with outdoors-oriented adventures.

Crawford announced before breakfast that he “smelled bacon and a butt-whippin’,” and the former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. proceeded to deliver on that promise.

Former U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tyson Scott of Amarillo, Texas, fished with California angler Chris Zaldain, and former Marine Cpl. Grady Rakestraw of Shattuck fished with Alabama pro Timmy Horton.

Crawford and Evers brought three fish to the scales, weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces. Each team with a pro had to bring in one fish caught by the pro and two caught by the veteran.

Each of the three veterans caught the biggest bass of their lives. Crawford had yet to graduate from the 4-pounder club. He broke that mark many times on Monday and his largest was 7-11.

Each team brought in a bag averaging about 5 pounds per fish. They caught-and-released hard-pulling, jumping, running 4-plus-pounders all day long. Rakestraw and Horton hit 14-7, the Wells brothers posted 15-6 and Scott and Zaldain smacked 15-8.

This is Evers’ second year for the Heroes tour. He has three more events like it booked for this year, each taking place the day after a tournament. Evers said he sees it as a blessing.

“I’m in a position that, fortunately, people want to fish with me, and I was looking for a way to give back,” he said.

Chuck Wells is Postmaster in Talala and he knows Evers fairly well; well enough that he checked before he put in a bid — “Just to make sure it wasn’t a conflict or something,” he said.

The bid landed the brothers a chance to fish against the pros on the private lakes, but the stack of items in the prize package from Evers’ sponsors — Lowrance, MegaBass, Zoom, OPTIMA, General Tire and Bass Pro Shops — was generous, as well.

The brothers lost their uncle, Richard “Dean” Wells, who had two Purple Hearts, to health complications stemming from Agent Orange in 2008. A good fishin’ buddy of theirs, George Baker, a retired Air Force pilot, recently died of a heart attack while he was fishing on Oologah Lake.

“He was an amazing man. Great family,” Chuck Wells said.

Wells said he has been inspired by and worked with many veterans over the years.

“It was just to contribute,” he said of his decision to make the bid.

Each of the veterans walked away with fishin’ tales to share and so did the pros and the brothers Wells — an amazing catch, a fishing technique learned. To a man, however, they commented repeatedly, “What a day.”

The personal experience of fishing and fellowship, environment and nature is difficult to quantify.

Three Purple Heart veterans home and free from the sands and heat of Iraq and Afghanistan launched into smooth waters on a day that dawned gray and still, moist, with just enough breeze now and then to let a body breathe.

It was like heaven put a gray blanket over the place to erase the sun and the passing of the hours so they could just fish. Explosions of bass hitting surface lures echoed across those still waters like cracks of distant firecrackers, followed by the laughter of men becoming friends, making dreams come true, making memories for a lifetime.

That’s the immeasurable stuff.