HUDDLESTON, Va. — The sight bite was right for Jason Williamson Thursday on picturesque Smith Mountain Lake at the Evan Williams Bourbon Blue Ridge Brawl.
Williamson of Wagener, S.C., persevered through a frustrating morning, eventually regrouping at his primary area and picking off enough spawning bass to accumulate 22 pounds, 9 ounces, good enough for a scant 1-plus-pound lead over Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla.
The morning aggravation for Williamson was caused by fellow Elite competitors. His primary area was stacked with boats, which isn't unusual, but what was bugging Williamson was the way the area was being fished.
Anglers were on top of the beds and missing the larger bass. But Williamson parlayed the misjudgment of other anglers into a distinct advantage, amassing all his weight by 11 a.m. after the other anglers vacated the area.
"I couldn't have asked for it to go any better than it did today," said Williamson. "It started off slow but I was able to remain patient and that was the key."
While sight fishing is the dominant pattern on Smith Mountain this week, Williamson said he was executing a bit differently. He is working deeper water, four to five feet, and felt that was necessary to locate the bigger bass.
He mixed in typical springtime lures — a Zoom lizard and trick worm — and spent no more than 30 minutes on each bass. Williamson was one of a contingent of anglers who strictly sight fished.
The prevailing thought has been that as the week progresses, the bite could dry up, and mixing in cruising bass would thus be critical. But Williamson is confident that the sight bite will remain productive throughout the four-day event.
He didn't, however, rule out mixing things up if the conditions drastically changed and that included throwing a swimbait, which was the lure that lifted him to his first Elite Series victory on big-bass factory Lake Amistad.
"Everything is a timing deal right now," said Williamson, who broke into the Elite Series in 2007. "The less time you spend with the bedding bass, the more opportunities you have to explore. There are plenty of fish out there."
Sharing the area with Williamson, and fishing it correctly, was Lane, who totaled 21 pounds, 7 ounces. An accomplished sight fisherman, Lane boated all his bass by 10 a.m. Part of that limit was a 6-pounder, which was caught blindcasting a worm.
"I have been carrying around this lucky marble that my daughter gave me ever since Clear Lake (the last Elite event)," said Lane, who like Williamson scored an Elite victory in 2009. "It worked at Clear Lake and man, it worked today. I would rather be lucky than good any day."
But make no mistake; Lane is locked onto the bedding bass this week. He wasn't as optimistic as Williamson about the shared area for the rest of the week and therefore he would consider moving on if the area went sour.
While Williamson was looking deeper, Lane was working the extreme shallows — one to two foot of water depth — for bedding bass. Lane, who finished 25th on Smith Mountain last year, used his '09 experience to his advantage Thursday, working two areas that he found then.
Right behind Lane in third was another Florida-based shallow water expert, Terry Scroggins of Palatka, with 19-13. In fourth was Marty Robinson of Lyman, S.C., with 19-2. Rounding out the top five was Jason Quinn of York, S.C., with 18-11.
Other notables included 70-year-old Guy Eaker of Cherryville, N.C., who continued his 2010 tear and was eighth. Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points leader Skeet Reese of Auburn, S.C., posted another stellar day and was 10th. Kevin VanDam, who took victory here last year, was 34th.