J-Will takes on High School Combine as Erskine head coach

Jason WIlliamson poses with sons, Landon and Brycen, after the youth teamed to win an AOY title.

Jason Williamson never planned on becoming a college bass fishing coach. But when presented with the opportunity to take over the head coaching position about a year ago at Erskine College in his home state of South Carolina, it was the perfect fit.

After a successful first year at the helm, the 16-year Bassmaster pro is beginning his sophomore campaign at the Bassmaster High School Combine presented by Skeeter recruiting the next generation of anglers for the Erskine program. 

In total, 109 high school kids from across the country will be at Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala. to show off their skills in hopes of impressing Williamson and the other college coaches in attendance. 

“In my opinion, the Bassmaster Combine is the leader in the recruiting process,” Williamson said. “For a kid to register for the combine, they are all in and they are committed to wanting to go to college and bass fish. It is going to be interesting to see the talent level that is there and the amount of enthusiasm kids have. You can really see that at these types of events. It really ties a bunch of loose ends.

“A lot of positives come from this type of deal.”

While entering his second year as head coach, the two-time Elite Series champion has been familiar with the Erskine program for a while now. After several high school state championships and tournament wins, Williamson’s son Bryce committed to fish for Erskine. 

Between Elite Series events, Williamson helped out the Erskine team for two years before being offered the head coaching position. That familiarity has helped Williamson transition smoothly into the role. 

“I was happy to be in a position to help,” Williamson said. “My son had been there for a couple years now and I had built a relationship with the team. I even knew the new recruits coming in for the most part. It was kind of a no brainer to step in there and accept the job. From there, it was about building a championship level bass fishing team. There’s a lot that goes into that.”

So far, Williamson is on the right track. 

In his first season, Erskine won the School of the Year title as well as Angler of the Year in the Palmetto Boat Center College Tournament Trail in South Carolina while two teams finished in the Top 15 during the Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship at Lake Pickwick presented by Bass Pro Shops. 

“I don’t know if there is a better feeling than seeing the success come after all the hard work has been put in, especially when it is your kids and kids you have gotten close to. When you see that success, that is the most rewarding thing,” Williamson said. “I’ve enjoyed watching the kids and seeing them realize doing the hard work comes with results. Seeing the whole process has been enjoyable to me and rewarding.”

Competing against former college anglers like Patrick Walters, Drew Cook and Cody Huff (just to name a few), Williamson understands how important a step college fishing is on the road to becoming an Elite Series angler. 

In his short time as coach, he has already been impressed by the talent level his kids have displayed so far. 

“We are starting to see the effects of good college kids. They are on the Elites now. The process works,” he said. “Once I got in there and got to work with these guys, I was so impressed with how good they really are this early in the game. That is the biggest surprise. There are a few of them that can compete at the top level already.”

This weekend’s Combine will be an important step in building for the future at Erskine. 

“The biggest thing is seeing their enthusiasm and passion,” Williamson said. “It doesn’t take long talking to kids and parents that this kid is the real deal and has the work ethic. The Combine will really expose all of the things coaches are looking for early on in recruiting.” 

Williamson said is looking to have 5 to 10 kids seriously interested in his program at the end of the weekend. Along with good technical skills, Williamson will be looking at several other factors as well including work ethic, experience and mental toughness. 

For J-Will, technical skills can always be improved upon, but having mental toughness and great decision making skills are what will set young anglers apart.

“The conversations we will have will let a coach know if the kid can make quick, hard decisions on the water and on the fly,” Williamson said. “Mindset is everything. Watching them and then getting to have a conversation puts everything together pretty quick.”

When it comes to these one-on-one conversations, the Aiken, S.C. pro likes to start on a positive note, asking about their specific accomplishments and the steps that led to those accomplishments. From there, he moves on to strengths and then weaknesses. 

“I want to know some positive stuff, where they have competed and what they feel are some strengths,” he explained. “Picking their brain through the processes of the decisions that we have to make as professionals day in and day out. But I always want to start with something positive. That gets the conversation going and then we can move to areas they need to work on.”

Festivities for the Bassmaster Combine presented by Skeeter begin this afternoon on Wheeler Lake. Full coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com throughout the weekend.