Simple question: What would you do if you won Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing? We mean, the whole enchilada? Would you buy a new boat? Would you buy enough Rapala lures to last you a lifetime? Would you buy fishing gear for all of your closest friends and family members?
Well, the second year of Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing recently concluded and we have a winner! It’s Bill Wiles, 52, a resident of Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City. Wiles is married, has two stepchildren, a grandson.
A longtime B.A.S.S. member, Wiles scored 11,316 points over the course of the 2021 season, 95 more than his closest pursuer, according to Bassmaster. Wiles will be awarded a grand prize of a $15,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card, $5,000 cash, one autographed Rapala and Bassmaster co-branded 3-foot giant lure, and a Rapala prize package.
Leveraging a passion for bass fishing
Did Wiles just get lucky? Well, sure there’s a little bit of luck involved in Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, but Wiles took after his fantasy fishing like his real-life bass fishing and won big time! Wiles owes his success to his passion for bass fishing, his knowledge of the nation’s top bass anglers, and a unique strategy that set him apart from the estimated 40,000 anglers who play Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing throughout the season, from February to August.
“I guess you could say I’m an avid bass angler,” said Wiles. “During the fishing season, I probably fish four out of every five weekends. I love tournament fishing. I follow fishing, too — my DVR is full of fishing shows, whether it’s Jimmy Houston or its Bassmaster coverage. There are very few shows on my DVR that are not bass fishing related. So, yes, I’m kind of obsessed with it.”
The director of finance for a company that owns restaurants, Wiles fished for fun as a kid growing up in Kansas but started to get into competitive bass fishing in his late-20s. He fishes a number of different trails, including the BFL and the ABA series. “I’ll jump into jackpot here and there, or if a friend calls me and needs someone to fish with them. I just fish wherever.”
While he tends to fish Grand Lake and other nearby bass lakes in Oklahoma, Wiles’ favorite lake is Table Rock, located in southern Missouri near Branson, a five-hour drive from his home. “I will go there any chance I get,” said Wiles. “I absolutely love that lake.”
We have a guy close to home here, Jason Christie, that I like watching a lot, and I took him a lot this year in my fantasy fishing. I also follow Brandon Palaniuk, too.”
Building on his passion for bass fishing, Wiles started playing Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing about 10 years ago, when he first learned about it. While he did well several years ago, this year was different.
Building a winning fantasy fishing season
“I’ve never even come close to doing this well, for the entire season,” said Wiles.
In recalling the season, Wiles said he started off slow. “After the first tournament, I was probably in 6,000th place. In playing in previous years, my highest finish, I think was in the mid-400s,” said Wiles.
While Wiles never won an individual tournament during the season, by sticking with it from one Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing tournament to the next, Wiles gradually started rising in the standings. For one particular tournament, the Bassmaster Classic, Wiles selected a local pro angler that he knew a lot of other players didn’t select. “I selected Chris Jones because I thought he was going to do well, and he did really well. Because he had a very low owner percentage that jumped me up quite a bit in the overall standings,” said Wiles.
“Even after that tournament,” said Wiles, “I was still probably in about 2,000th place. And then towards the last few tournaments, I jumped up, with about three or four tournaments left, to 600th place. Then, going into the last tournament, I jumped up to 12th place.”
Then came the final tournament
“Going into the last tournament,” said Wiles, “I was in 12th place overall and after day one of the last tournament, I was in third place. I couldn’t believe I had jumped up because I didn’t think I had that good of a day, but I jumped up to third place and I called my buddy and I told him, ‘If Garrett Paquette does not do well tomorrow, I win everything.’ And my friend said, ‘Oh really?’ And I go, ‘I’m telling you, if he doesn’t catch them tomorrow, I’m going to win this tournament. I’m going to win Fantasy Fishing.’ And he went out the next day and he didn’t do well, and I was driving to a fishing tournament to meet my buddy, and it popped up that I was in 1st place.”
“And I could not believe it.”
Sitting at a campsite that evening, Wiles realized that there were still two days left to go in the last Bassmaster fishing tournament. So he refused to get too crazy. But as he talked about his Fantasy Fishing pro picks and weighed one scenario against other scenarios, Wiles declared to his friends, “I don’t think I can lose. Unless one of my guys doesn’t catch a fish tomorrow, I don’t think I can lose.”
Of course, needless to say, Wiles’ mind was not on winning the actual, in-person, real-life fishing tournament in which he was participating that weekend. When he returned home after his fishing tournament, he checked the Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing standings for possibly the millionth time – “I was in first, and I celebrated!” said Wiles. Several days later, Bassmaster contacted Wiles to validate his win.
Investing in more fishing
While Wiles has fished many real-life fishing tournaments over the years and has actually won a number of tournaments, winning Rapala Fantasy Fishing was a completely different experience.
“I’ve never won anything close to as lucrative as this,” said Wiles. “This definitely felt much better, but then you also think there’s a lot of luck involved in winning a Fantasy Fishing. But it’s like I tell people and I’ve read in the past, people that don’t even follow it have done really well, I follow it very, very closely, and so does that help me? Yeah, I think so. But can it hurt me? Maybe, because I over-analyze it sometimes. By the way, I’ve won bass tournaments and not caught nearly as much flack from my buddies as I have with this. My fishing buddies are ribbing me pretty good.”
Even though Wiles is taking some ribbing, there will likely be a few of his friends who will want to fish from the new fishing boat for which he placed an order with his prize winnings.
Last spring, Wiles announced to his wife Charlene that his stepson had always wanted to buy his fishing boat. So he said to her: “Next spring (2022), I’m going to buy a new boat. I’m giving myself a budget of $55,000 and if someone has one for sale, I’m going to buy it.”
Then he wins Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing.
“Listen, what are you going to do with $15,000 in Bass Pro Shops gift cards? Buy a bunch of beef jerky?” said Wiles. “So I went and I ordered a new 2022 Nitro Z20 bass boat with a Mercury 250 hp engine and I ordered it with everything that I wanted on it, and it came in about 20 grand higher than the budget that I had already set aside. And my wife’s like, “Why do you have to spend so much?” And I said, ‘Because I was given 20 grand for free, I was already going to spend this amount, I might as well get a brand new one with everything I want on it.’ And she was fine with it.”
Wiles shares his Fantasy Fishing secrets
To win at Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, Wiles avoided following the crowd. He also put his knowledge of real bass fishing to work.
With each tournament, Wiles does an extensive analysis before finally selecting his team of pro anglers before the start of each tournament. Like doing a homework assignment, Wiles will create his initial team and then do more research. A fan of fantasy football, Wiles will often change his pro fishing team line-up at least three or four times before he finalizes his picks, just hours before the next tournament begins.
In addition to researching pro anglers on bassmaster.com or listening to a number of pro fishing podcasts such as the Open Anglers Podcast, Wiles puts his extensive knowledge of fishing different waters in bass fishing country to work. For each tournament, he factors in the lake, the species of bass being sought (largemouth or smallmouth), the time of the season, and whether some anglers are better fishing in the shallows versus fishing deeper water. For example, one angler may excel at catching smallmouth bass in northern bass lakes, while another angler excels at catching shallow water largemouth on Southern rivers and reservoirs.
Wiles also takes a close look at what other players are doing. If he sees a large trend for players choosing a selected pro to win a tournament, he looks for pros he thinks have a chance of winning a tournament but are not on everyone else’s radar.
“It’s similar to fantasy football in a way,” explained Wiles. “The people who consistently win fantasy football make exceptional picks in the last five rounds of a draft.”
“You got to know what the angler’s strengths are,” said Wiles. “When they’re at that level, I mean, everybody can do everything. They can all drop shot, they can all flip a jig, they can all do it. But what are their real strengths? Jason Christie and Greg Hackney, their strengths are shallow water flipping. Brandon Palaniuk, he’s a deep-water guy, Chris Johnson and Cory Johnson, they’re deep water drop shot, guys, and so you got to know that stuff.”
Love is playing Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing together
By the way, in the Wiles household, Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing is a fun way to keep the romance alive. While Wiles’ spouse, Charlene, maybe isn’t into Fantasy Fishing to the extent that Wiles does, she still enjoys playing it from tournament to tournament.
“Oh yeah, Charlene loves playing Fantasy Fishing,” said Wiles. “As a matter of fact, she gets upset when I don’t remind her to turn in her lineup. I guarantee you, she’s going to be there for every single tournament next year. She was so excited for me.”