That’s what Leonardo da Vinci said. Herbert Hoover said “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.” Whenever I hear the word “simplicity” I think of one person: Jeff Evans. I’ve known Jeff for about eight years or so. I met him through a friend, Brian Holt, who like Jeff, is a registered nurse. Jeff and Brian worked in the Williston Hospital but Jeff really wanted to fish more, so he and his wife Debbie moved to Steinhatchee. In the time I’ve known him, Jeff, always fishing with Debbie, has won twice as many local tournaments as anyone I can think of. I know of at least three times when I had the lead in a tournament when I saw Jeff’s truck pull up for the weigh-in and I knew I was about to be bounced. In the last two weeks, Jeff and Debbie won the Carabelle Redfish/Trout Shootout, including the first place overall as a team, largest redfish (7.6 lbs.), and largest trout (5.2 lbs.). Yesterday Jeff won the Steinhatchee Community Tournament with a 7.75 lb. redfish and a 6.4 lb. trout, pictured below. These two tournaments provided Jeff and Debbie over $5000 in prize money. In other words, Jeff and Debbie Evans are amazing at finding huge inshore fish.
So….how do they do it? Winning that kind of prize money, they must have high-powered equipment, great electronics and high-end tackle. Nope, not really. Jeff and Debbie fish, and always have, from a canoe. Debbie uses a Zebco reel. From my perspective, the only change I’ve seen in how they fish is that they added a little kicker to their canoe. They access the gulf from primitive ramps that no full-sized boat can use, paddle or power out to the mouth, and usually fish within an easy paddle’s distance from the creek mouth. And ordinarily they only use one kind of bait….fresh pinfish filets. They move with the tide and seem to know exactly where the big fish are and how they move. I consider this amazing. Having expensive tackle and a nice flats skiff, and fishing the same area for about ten years, I have yet to catch a trout as large as the one he caught yesterday. He catches 6 to 7 pound trout on a regular basis.
I remember about three years ago Tommy Thompson and I were fishing with Roland Martin in the Mel Tillis Tournament. I knew where Jeff was going to fish and it just so happened the tides allowed us to get there first. He would have beaten us there, launching on a small primitive ramp, but on his way to the ramp his trailer went off the road and it took him a while to get it out. As we were fishing on the spot, I saw Jeff and Debbie come out of a nearby creek and paddle out about a quarter-mile away and drop their anchor, which is an old piece of rusty metal. We fished the area for an hour or so, I caught one nice redfish, and we moved on to catch a Spanish mackeral and a trout that ended up finishing third overall. However, after we left Jeff and Debbie paddled over to our spot, waited patiently and caught the largest and second largest redfish in the tournament (winning much more money than we did) from the same spot.
There’s something wonderfully poetic about a beat-up canoe and a Zebco and a metal chunk for an anchor (which is next to Jeff’s hand in the picture below) whupping up on fancy boats with jack plates and trim tabs and $500 rods and reels. I am ALWAYS rooting for Jeff to win (except, of course, if I’m in the tournament). Jeff also happens to be very soft-spoken, modest and a super-nice guy. Debbie is the more boisterous of the two, usually laughing and the life of the party. One of the most amazing pair of fishermen I’ve ever known.