“Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’”
Jason Williamson lives by that axiom. Now, he does his best competing on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but he gladly trades potentially higher tournament finishes to be with his wife and children.
Maybe he’d have qualified for more than three Classics, earned a skoosh more than $1.01 million in B.A.S.S., and won more than two Elite tournaments. But to Williamson, 38, family comes first.
“I feel like I’ve succeeded at both, at being a dad and being a fisherman,” Williamson said. “I don’t have any regrets because I couldn’t consistently stay on the road.”
Pretty much a self-taught bass angler, Williamson has competed on the Elite Series since its second season in 2007. He came on like gangbusters in B.A.S.S., posting some tops 10s on tour events before cashing checks in six of his first 11 Elites. He slipped a notch in 2008 but had two top 10s in Texas. Williamson broke through with an Elite title in each of the next two years, but he’s only had five top 10s since.
“(Bassmaster TV host Mark) Zona asked a few years ago, ‘What’s the deal?’ Dude, there’s no deal with me,” Williamson said. “I’m totally content with who I am as an angler and what I’ve accomplished. Over the years, I’m totally content with the success that I’ve had. I’ve raised two fine boys who want to be in this sport.”
That’s not making any excuses, Williamson said. He’s just telling it like it is. When he began on tour, his children were young and he spent more traveling to pre-fish, visiting the far-flung fisheries on which the Elites compete. But as his boys got older, he wanted to be more a part of their lives.
When he won his first event on Lake Amistad in 2009, Williamson was 28, the second youngest to win an Elite event at the time. His oldest son, Brycen was 7, and Landon was 4. Like sands through an hourglass, he wasn’t going to let the days of their lives slip through his hands with dad not being there.
“My kids were still really young,” he said. “I was putting a lot of time in. As my boys got older and before Addy was born, I wasn’t as willing to sacrifice as much time. I wanted to be at their baseball and football games.
“When you’re on tour and catching them and doing well, that is the dream that people talk about – you’re living the dream as a professional fisherman. But when you’re on tour, you’re getting your rear kicked, you haven’t seen your family in three weeks, I don’t know that it gets any worse than that. I wasn’t going to go from one lake to the next and pre-practice. I was going to be home with my family.”
Williamson said young anglers with no home-front responsibilities are dangerous. They get in an RV or camper and hit the road for months at time, learning the lakes during prepractice then keeping lines in the water at nearby lakes to pick up any clues they can. Knowledge as well as experience can be picked up quickly today. That helps the new guys compete at a high level earlier. Williamson said it’s the rare angler who can maintain that while being heavily involved in a family.