DEL RIO, Texas — As the weekend progressed, the temperatures on Lake Amistad warmed up and so did Jason Williamson.
The third-year BASS pro from Aiken, S.C., shoved aside consistency and posted a backbreaking total of more than 68 pounds through the final two days. It was more than enough for Williamson to climb from 38th to third on Day 3 and secure his first BASS victory and the accompanying $100,000 top prize Sunday at the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series season opener, the OPTIMA Batteries Battle on the Border.
Williamson's four-day total of 96 pounds, 6 ounces, was enough to hold off a consistent Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, who finished second with 87 pounds, 15 ounces. Williamson was able to overtake Jones with a tremendous two-day charge, which accounted for more than 70 percent of his weight.
Williamson's catches Saturday and Sunday were all cultivated from one ultra-productive spot that yielded nothing for him in the first two days of competition. However, as the rain died, the clouds dissipated and the sun came out, the spot became crystal clear and an ideal area for big bass.
The area included three to four submerged trees positioned around a drainage channel and was a pathway for visiting and departing bass. Williamson mined the area with an 8-inch Osprey swimbait, which he threw to the trees in nearly 20 feet of water.
"There were so many fish in that area that I think they were in competition for my bait," said the 28-year-old. "That's not a bad thing when you can get that going. It was like clockwork."
No stranger to the particulars of the area, Williamson first found his productive spot in 2007 at an Elite Series event. He primarily focused on it at a 2008 Elite event and finished fifth, his best performance in an Elite event at the time. The key to enticing the right bites this year, he said, was allowing the swimbait to sink and keeping it wet for lengths of time.
Williamson has been close to a BASS victory before, scoring two second-place finishes, but he was able to close the deal this time at Amistad with a final-day total of 34-12, the biggest bag of the tournament. His limit was buoyed by a 10-4 lunker, the largest Williamson has ever landed.
"I'm just a country boy who grew up loving to fish, so you bet this is a huge deal. The victory solidifies everything I have ever done in this sport," Williamson said. "It's also a shot in the arm for the rest of the season. I can fish with confidence now. The timing of this win was just perfect."
While Jones finished second, it was more a case of Williamson seizing the day than Jones slipping. Jones, a steady veteran approaching $2 million in BASS career earnings, stuck with what put him in contention instead of going the unpredictable route and hunting for big bass.
While many others shuffled around the leaderboard throughout the tournament, Jones hung near the top, establishing a solid pattern that yielded fish in the 4- to 6-pound class.
All of his weighed fish fell for a Texas-rigged 6-inch Yum Dinger. The 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion threw the rig to shallow water, sometimes in less than 2 feet, and the key to his success was executing long casts to precise locations and slowly and deliberately fishing the bait.
"I maximized my area and overall it was a great week," said Jones, 45. "You don't mind getting beat by a giant bag like that. You never are pleased with second place but I gave myself a shot at it and that is all you can ask for."
It was a relative struggle for some of the other anglers who made the top-12 cut to fish the final day of competition. Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., and Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., were able to take advantage.
Like Williamson, both made charges after Friday. Lintner (76-10) advanced from 20th after two days to finish third, while Browning moved from 25th to fourth. Rounding out the top five was Day 2 leader Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, who finished with 74 pounds, 8 ounces.
Day 1 leader Mike Iaconelli, who landed the biggest bass of the tournament on the first day, a 12-13 behemoth, placed seventh and was followed by four-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., (eighth) and 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala. (ninth).
Safely in Sunday's top-12 cut line were 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion Boyd Duckett (sixth) and 2008 Amistad Elite champion Todd Faircloth (12th). Faircloth engineered a dramatic comeback last year on Amistad, surging from eighth place to the top spot on the final day of competition.
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the March 12-15 OPTIMA Batteries Battle on the Border on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, March 28, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2.