Rookie Williams turned heads on Havasu

When David Williams signed up for the 2014 Southern Opens, he had no intention of fishing the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series. But with the way the first two tournaments played out, Williams cashed in on a third place finish at Lake Toho and then landed 39th at Smith Lake. With only one tournament left on the schedule, the possibility that Williams would qualify for the Elite Series was growing by the minute.

Not only was the final Southern Opens event on Lake Norman, his home lake, but it was also his entire reason for fishing the complete Opens schedule. In the end, he finished eighth on his home water after leading Days 1 and 2. That final day Top 12 was made up of six Elite Series anglers, two FLW Tour pros and a few locals including Williams.

“I had fished a couple [of tournaments] locally on Norman when they came here two years before,” said Williams. “I had pretty good success in just those events, so I took a chance to fish all three [Opens] and I ended up winning the points series.”

It took a while for the North Carolina pro to realize that he was in contention to qualify after two events and he would have a decision to make when the Elites came calling.

An Elite decision

“When I started fishing that year it never crossed my mind,” said the 42-year-old rookie. “I just wanted to fish them and so be it, but after having a couple good events I started to think about it more.”

Williams had no idea how he was going to fish the Elite Series, but after consulting with his wife and loved ones, it seemed that he was the only one hesitant about the idea. The overwhelming support from his wife and father pushed him to the sport’s highest level to see how he would stack up.

(See photos of Williams' 2015 season here.)

Winning the points series for an Opens region doesn’t yield an extra payday or a big trophy, but what it does give an angler is something Williams couldn’t put a price tag on.

“It makes you feel pretty good and it gives you a lot of confidence because in every Opens event you are fishing against probably … 50 to 75 of the best local anglers on that lake, 30 to 40 Elite Series anglers and then the other good sticks that travel with the Opens series,” said Williams.

Another factor when competing on the Opens is the unlimited practice schedule. Williams is an advocate of two and a half or three days of practice, tops. Once he breaks that mark he feels like he has established too many patterns, and it isn’t good for his decision making come tournament time.

Williams' experience

Before the 2014 Opens season, Williams made his name fishing the BFL series throughout North and South Carolina. With numerous victories and over $200,000 in winnings, his tournament success went back a number of years. The goal for most BFL anglers is to compete in the BFL All-American and make their way to the Forrest Wood Cup.

Williams fished four All-Americans and finished in the Top 20 in all of them. Most recently he placed third and fifth respectively. To qualify for the All-American, anglers have to qualify through their regional. Williams has double-qualified in past years through two different BFL divisions. He is set to fish the 2015 All-American just a few weeks after competing in BASSFest on Kentucky Lake.

The Maiden, N.C., pro also fished the Bassmaster Weekend Series in 2008. After winning the national championship, he went on to fish the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River where he finished in 46th place.

The Elites so far

So far Williams has made the most of his short Elite Series career. At the stingy Sabine River he finished in 16th place and brought the biggest Day 2 weight to the scales. After Sabine, Williams collected a 91st place finish at Lake Guntersville and then 81st at the Sacramento River. Lake Havasu was a different story as Williams made the Sunday cut and finished the tournament in fifth place.

“The Western swing taught me I need to get in better shape,” said Williams. “About 1 o’clock on the final day I was mentally and physically exhausted because of fishing two straight weeks. Anywhere you go, whether it is California or North Carolina it boils down to a bass is a bass. Those two weeks taught me to fish my style no matter what.”

Williams sits at 38th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race halfway through the season, and although he collected his first Top 5 at Havasu, he wasn’t so welcoming to the Arizona fishery when the schedule first came out.

“People asked me which event was not going to play into my favor the most and Lake Havasu was my answer,” said Williams. “I didn’t know anything about [the lake], you can’t find anything about it hardly and from looking at it I thought it would be won drop shotting. I wasn’t so sure about it, but the wind blew everyday and it kept the fish shallower and I was impressed during that week.”

Williams stated his goal for the rest of the season was simple.

“If I keep catching limits, good things are going to happen. I’ve had one every day of competition this year except Day 1 at the Sabine when I had mechanical issues,” said Williams who is third in the Rookie of the Year standings halfway through the season. “The big fish will come and good things will happen, my end goal is making the Classic at all costs.”