DEL RIO, Texas — Give it up for Jason Williamson, he of the 96 pounds, 6 ounces, of the comeback from 38th place on Day Two, of the incredible 68-9 over the final two days. That weight alone would have put him in ninth place in the OPTIMA Batteries Battle on the Border. The 28-year-old Elite Series pro simply whacked them on the way to his first BASS win.
Almost as impressive were the list of scalps on his belt at the end of Day Four: Alton Jones, Gary Klein, Dean Rojas, Mike Iaconelli, Kevin VanDam, Boyd Duckett, Todd Faircloth.
That stunning 34-12 sack he inflicted upon the weigh-in scales was the story of the final day. But almost as surprising as what Williamson caught was what some of those bass fishing big dogs didn't catch.
Only seven of the top 12 caught five-fish limits on Day Four. Kenyon Hill, who stormed into contention with a Day Three sack of 26-14 caught only two fish that weighed 5-8. Klein, Duckett, Short and Faircloth put only four apiece in their livewells on the final day. Iaconelli and VanDam managed limits that went less than 14 pounds apiece.
Granted, most of those anglers knew they had to risk fishing for big fish all day in order to make inroads on Day Three leader Alton Jones. And the day was warm, sunny and pleasant after a week of dreary, cold, rainy conditions. But still. It's not often that five of 12 Elite Series pros fail even to catch five apiece on the renowned bass factory that is Lake Amistad.
"The longer I do this, the more I really I don't know about fishing," said Iaconelli, who only had eight bites on Day Four. He got seven of those eight bites within one hour in the morning.
He knew he'd have to hit upon some freakish fish in order to move up from fifth. So he gambled. He threw a deep swimbait for about four hours and bombed. He ran to the bank to fill his limit, and accepted his mediocre day on the water as the cost of shooting for the top.
"Most of these guys are fishing for big fish," Faircloth said. As for what happened to his bite? "I can't put my finger on it," he said. His best guess is that when the wind died, around the time the sun made its rare cameo in the late morning, the fish shut down.
"I've fished this lake I don't know how many times," he said. "This is the least action I've seen on the water. Next week this place is going to be wide open, after we get some sun."
Duckett echoed Faircloth's lament: "They just became completely inactive. It was pitiful."
At least he was able to fish "relaxed," he said, knowing he would have a hard time contending for the win but assured the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points that a top-12 finish would bring.
Still, he was gunning for the win.
"I've never won one fishing for keepers," Duckett said. "You just go out and fire at 'em."
And why not? Short found himself in similar straits, catching only 8-9 on a day when he would have needed almost five times that to usurp Williamson.
"I knew it was going to have to be one of those glory days, one of those Hail Mary days, where you absolutely whack 'em," he told the audience at the weigh-in. All day he slung a big jig and a big swimbait (same as Williamson's, he said later: a 7-inch Osprey Talon in light hitch color).
The formula for a rotten day, for Short, is simple: "Clouds in the morning, sun in the afternoon and no wind? On this pond? Sucks."
The preferred conditions, he said, are the inverse. When the water's cold, early sunshine pull the fish up. Then some clouds and wind allow an angler to target them.
Perhaps the most perplexed angler at the Day Four weigh-in was Hill, whose limit dropped off by more than 21 pounds from a day earlier. He hadn't practiced on a swimbait, and decided he'd live or die by the homemade 1-ounce jig he was throwing.
"I don't get why they didn't bite today," he said. "They should have bit."
He was at peace with his two fish. "I gave myself the best opportunity I could to win," Hill said. Under the circumstances, he could have done no more.