DEL RIO, Texas — Billy Fillmon moved to this border town eight years ago, after retiring from American Electric Power in Abilene, Texas.
"My wife found a place on the lake here and asked me if I'd consider retiring here," Fillmon said. "I said, 'Maybe ... if you twist my arm.' "
Fillmon knew about Lake Amistad and its reputation for producing giant largemouth bass, having fished the lake for several years before making the move to Del Rio.
He put his knowledge of the lake to good use on Saturday.
Fishing his first BASS tournament, the Del Rio, Texas, co-angler weighed six bass over two days for a total weight of 33 pounds, 1 ounce. BASS officials reduced the co-angler limit from five to three for the Battle on the Border presented by Mahindra Tractors — an attempt to reduce crowding in livewells and eliminate fish mortality.
Fillmon backed up his 17-4 on Friday with a 15-13 sack Saturday, anchoring his bag with a 6-pound largemouth.
Victor Cunningham of Phoenix, Ariz., the first-day leader, dropped to second with 32-6. Thomas Frink of Simi Valley, Calif., was third with 29-1.
Fillmon doesn't look like the kind of guy who's easily moved to tears, but at the end of Saturday's weigh-in, he just couldn't help it.
Fillmon adjusted his glasses and dabbed at the corner of his eyes after walking off the Elite Series stage about 7 p.m.: The tears of joy weren't about the $25,000 first prize or the champion's trophy he cradled in his left arm.
"I've been fishing for 40 years, dreaming of something like this," said the 62-year-old angler. "I had no idea I'd ever have the chance."
His pro partners were Derek Remitz, last year's Amistad winner, and Takahiro Omori, the 2004 Bassmaster Classic champion. Remitz prowled deep water on Day One, but Omori went shallow on Day Two.
It didn't matter to Fillmon, who threw the same combination of three swimbaits both days — a Skinny Bear swimbait he bought at Amistad Marine, a 5-inch Storm swimbait and a Strike King Shadalicious. All were shad patterns.
"It was the same story as yesterday, but different depths," explained Fillmon. "Most of the time [Saturday] I could've got out of the boat and walked."
Fillmon had barely made it off the stage Saturday before his cell phone started ringing in his shirt pocket.
"That's probably my son or my grandson calling," Fillmon said. "They've probably been watching on the Internet."
Fillmon credited his son Larry, with whom he often fishes team tournaments, for preparing him for the Elite Series co-angler competition.
"He fishes out of the front of the boat, so I've had some practice out of the back of the boat," Fillmon said.
Fillmon and his son have had previous success on Amistad, winning the Honey Hole Championship here in 2002.
"That was the highlight of my fishing career," Fillmon said. "Until now."