Like so many others, Brycen Williamson is heading back to school, but the 19-year-old son of Elite pro Jason Williamson returns to Erskine College with varied emotions and increased resolve.
The Williamsons have great hopes the college experience will bolster Brycen’s fishing career and help him follow his father’s footsteps. He left school last March after tragedy struck the private Christian school in Due West, S.C. Brycen’s close friend and team partner, Jack Hunt, died in a boating accident.
“It’s been a really difficult time for everybody," Jason said. "I’m sure Brycen wondered why did that have to happen. It plays with your mind, your emotions.
“But he’s dealt with it well. Time has kind of healed it as much as it can be healed. I told Brycen he’s got to kind of use it to his advantage, go up there and fish hard for Jack.”
Erskine bass fishing coach Ryan Teems said Hunt’s death affected the entire community, especially Brycen, in whom he sees renewed purpose.
“It took a big toll on Brycen, and he needed to step aside. The time that he’s had off, it’s kind of kick-started the level of seriousness. He’s got a whole other reason to fight for his dream,” said Teems, whose Flying Fleet squad is dedicating its efforts for Hunt with the hashtag #Caughtitforjack. “One of the anglers came up with that, and it’s really the whole team’s motto. I’m excited to see Brycen get back and what’s to come of it.”
Teems hopes Brycen will be one of the building blocks to help his young team become a major player in the college bass fishing world. The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops continues to grow, with hundreds of schools fielding teams. Adrian College just won the 2021 National Championship, and the College Bracket competition to determine the series’ automatic Classic berth will be held this fall. The College Series has sent an angler to the Classic for the past decade.
Behind Teems’ efforts, Erskine is now among the dozen or so schools offering bass fishing scholarships. That helped attract Brycen, who had a number of options. Jason said they fell in love with Teems’ personality and vision, and it didn’t hurt that Erskine is less than two hours from home in Wagener, S.C.
“Ryan has a true passion for the outdoors,” Jason said. “He’s a great leader and a great person. He wants to win, and he wants the recognition for his team and his guys, but he also helps them out in the school and business end. He does a really good job of staying in contact, making the kids feel almost like he’s a second dad.”
Maybe more like older brother, since Teems is among the youngest head coaches at 24. He fished on Erskine’s club team then convinced the athletic director to the benefits of making it a school-affiliated sport. That also got him hired as coach in May of 2019, and plans like this were most likely why.