Opens profile: Williams making a statement

Tyler Williams

Add Tyler Williams’ name to list of Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifier upstarts who are making a statement with their fishing rods. The 21-year-old from Belgrade, Me., earned a birth to the 2024 Bassmaster Classic by winning the seventh EQ tournament of the 2023 season at Watts Bar Reservoir.

A Top 10 finish at the next EQ event on Lake of the Ozarks jumped him to ninth place in the Bassmaster Opens EQ standings. With only the final EQ of the season at the Harris Chain remaining, Williams could well become one of the best of the best, a Bassmaster Elite Series angler.

Although he was introduced to ice fishing and trout fishing by his father, Bob, his first passion was baseball. Baseball became secondary when Williams began watching fishing videos on YouTube in his early teens. He especially liked Facts of Fishing, which is hosted by Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer.

“The first time I watched his show, I bought a baitcasting rod, filled the reel with 20-pound test line and tied on a 1/2-ounce brown and orange jig. I made my first ever cast with it off a dock at Torsey Pond and caught a 5-pound largemouth.”

He spent the next few years slinging the jig from the bank, boat docks and boat ramps at lakes close to home. The jig, dressed with the same Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog he relies on today, often put a lively bow in his rod.

His family bought a 16-foot aluminum deep V boat powered by a 40 hp motor when Williams was old enough to get a driver’s license.

Over the next year, he launched the craft at many of the more than 120 lakes within an hour of his home. Some of the larger lakes receive regular fishing pressure, but he often had smaller waters to himself. He continued to score with a jig, but he began experimenting with topwater baits, Senkos and other lures and techniques he learned about on the internet.

He competed in his first tournament the next year, an open derby at Lake Torsey. A jig and a Whopper Plopper carried him to second place. His $20 entry fee earned him a $100 payday.

“That was really exciting,” Williams said. “A hundred dollars was a lot of money to me then.”

Although his high school did not have a bass fishing team, he and his friend Colby Carrier competed in B.A.S.S. Nation High School tournaments. By this time Williams was fishing from a fully equipped fiberglass bass rig. During their junior and senior years, they won Maine’s state B.A.S.S. High School championship and fished the B.A.S.S. High School National Championship both years.

The championship took place at Kentucky Lake. The young team nabbed 10th place the first year and 26th the second. These events were the first time Williams had fished for bass outside of Maine.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Williams said. “Kentucky Lake is tougher than fishing back home, but I enjoyed the challenge and learning how to adapt.”

Williams also fished many local open bass tournaments while in high school. For some of these events he teamed up with Dave Cousins, a professional compound archer who was formerly ranked number one in the world.

“He’s a really good fisherman, too,” Williams said. “He taught me a lot of what I know about bass fishing and the mental aspects of competing.”

After graduating from high school, Williams fished the 2021 Bassmaster Northern Opens. It was his first taste of big-time tournament fishing.

“I’m one of those people who has to go in over my skill level and force myself to get better,” Williams said.

He also worked with his family’s business, the All Around Fence Company, which builds residential fences in whatever material and style the customer wants. Williams still works with the business when he’s not competing in the EQs.

After the three 2021 Opens tournaments, he finished the year 11th in the division standings. Encouraged by his success, he signed on to fish all nine EQs in 2022.

“That was a humbling year,” Williams said. “I broke a lot of things. I’m really not hard on my equipment. I haven’t broken a single rod. When something breaks, it’s usually a lot more expensive.”

Breakdowns during the 2022 season taught Williams that he needed to be prepared for the worst. He now brings four props, two tool kits, extra graphs and other emergency supplies to every EQ tournament.

At his first EQ of the 2022 season, a mechanical issue forced him to fish from a borrowed boat. He landed in 174th place. He followed that up with three more poor showings.

The second half of the season produced much better results. He credits the improvement to learning how to grind with LiveScope and returning to the bait that got him hooked on bass fishing — the jig.

“In Maine it takes only one cast to catch a bass you see on LiveScope,” Williams said. “At Watts Bar I had to throw at 100 fish to get one to bite. I fish with the same jig I started with, but I’ve gone up to 3/4 ounce. I read the fish with LiveScope to know whether to hop, shake or leave the jig still to get a bite.”

The hard knocks education Williams received during last year’s EQs have benefited him greatly this season. He figures his best chance for qualifying for the Elite Series at the Harris Chain is to locate bass in submerged grass.

“I’m better at fishing offshore,” Williams said. “Anytime my motor is tangled in weeds at the Harris Chain, I won’t be having a good day.”

His sponsors include Greenfish Tackle, Sidepot Fishing, Duckett Fishing, Waterland Fishing Optics, All Around Fence Co., 44 Tackle Co., Rigid Industries and TIS Offroad.