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Edwards wins $8,000 places ninth in national All-American fishing tourney

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By Sharon Graves

A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work, and Gary Edwards of Milton definitely had three good days of fishing, winning $8,000 in the All American fishing tournament.

Edwards, a local competitive bass angler and national winner fished his way into the prestigious All-American last October after coming in sixth in the Chevy Trucks Wild Card tournament.  Edwards took home $8,000 for his ninth place finish May 28-30 in Moline, Ill., in the All American.

The All-American is limited to the top 54 boaters and 54 co-anglers that have qualified by winning or placing in specific tournaments. It is considered one of the top tournaments in the nation.

In an article about Edwards in The News-Democrat Feb. 4, he said he would go to Moline for nine days to get to know the river and the fish there before the off-limits time began on May 18.

It must have paid off because Edwards had a great start to the three-day tournament by finishing third place, catching the five fish limit for over 12 pounds. Edwards said that he and his co-angler both caught their limit and were the only team to do so.

The tournament is set up with the top 10 boaters and 10 co-anglers from the first two days earning a spot to fish the third day for a $100,000 purse.  Edwards said that his goal all last year was to make it into the All-American.  Then to make it into the top 10 and finally he said after that “do the best I can.”

Edwards is a kind-hearted, always willing to help kind of a sportsman and because of that he doesn’t have many secrets from his fellow competitors.  He’ll tell you what the fish are biting on, how to use it and even where the fish are.

“A lot of people showed up in our spot the second day,” Edwards said.  There is a 50-foot courtesy rule that prohibits one boat from coming too close to an already established angler. Edwards found that not everyone is courteous in obeying the rules.  

Camera crews were on the bank and in boats following those top 10 boaters on the second day, and Edwards said that did factor in to his dropping to fifth place the second day.  

Edwards said he had one camera crew in his boat and one in a boat following him during the second day of competition and he said he tried to just fish around all the commotion, but it was difficult. He only caught two fish the second day bringing his total two-day weight to 15 pounds and 11 ounces.

But even with those problems, Edwards was still in fifth place and it was enough for him to make it into the final day for all the marbles – or lures.

On the third day, the press was on a feeding frenzy trying to cover whoever they thought would win it all. Edwards said being able to stay calm under the glare of the cameras is also part of big time competitive fishing.  He admitted he did lose several fish that could have moved him up in the standings due to the camera crew.

“I knew the camera boat was breathing down my neck and I lost some of those big fish,” Edwards said about the final day.  “I might have even said a couple of bad words,” he joked.

Edwards finished ninth overall on the third and final day of competition, which did satisfy his goal of making it into the top 10. “Me and 53 other guys beat them all,” Edwards said chuckling of the original 54 boaters that beat 54,000 others trying to make it into the All American.

Edwards advises all those dreaming of earning big money in competitive fishing to do their homework, fish hard and hope for a little luck.

Edwards’ son Stacey, also a competitive angler, did not make it into the All-American but he went with his father to practice fishbefore the tournament and also went to the tournament to watch.

Vickie, Gary’s wife, said she hopes someday to see both her husband and her son in the All-American, though she wouldn’t say who she would root for in such a situation.

Vickie says her husband Gary lives, eats and breathes to fish and he and Stacey have been fishing together since Stacey, now in his 30’s was in diapers.  “They have their own competition between them.”

She explained that he was a fisherman when she married him but he wasn’t into tournament fishing then. “He entered local tournaments and got his confidence up and just kept going,” she said.  “It has been a good thing for the father and son.”

Gary would like to see more tournaments in this area and he also said high school and college fishing teams are really gaining ground. There are actually people going to college on fishing scholarships, he said. “My son would have stayed in college if he could have fished.”