- Steve Bowman, Outdoors
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EVANS, Ga. Jason Williamson made a loud statement Saturday when he posted the tournament's largest sack and took over the lead in the Pride of Georgia on Clarks Hill Lake.
He's on his home lake, so there isn't a lot of "who is that guy?" talk.
For the past three and a half Elite seasons, Williamson has quietly been making himself into a formidable opponent. In 2010, he expected to get louder. It's just fitting that it's on a lake he can call his home.
"It feels great to do this in front of my friends and family,'' Williamson said. "But in the Elite Series, there really is no home-lake advantage. I'd much rather be fishing against all the locals than these guys on this lake any day."
There are statistics that back that up. Davy Hite, who is also a local and won here, finished 51st in this event. And in two past trips against virtually the same competition, Williamson has a single top-25 finish, the other he languished in the 80s.
This year, though, he feels it's finally his time to shine.
"I don't want to be the guy who spends a couple of years on the tour and then is gone,'' Williamson said while waiting for the weigh-in to end.
Not many pundits are saying that at the moment. But anglers on the Elite Series, where props are hard to come when competing against the likes of Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam, are starting to notice.
"It's obvious, this guy is for real," VanDam said. "I don't see him on the water much, but I do see him on the leaderboard."
Williamson qualified for the Elites for the 2007 season and finished in the top 50 six times that year. His highest finish was 13th at Clear Lake. He had a similar story in 2008, and his 2009 season was highlighted by a win at Lake Amistad.
"I was staying in the top 50, but I was battling every tournament,'' he said. "I'd spend my two days fighting in practice and then hit it hard in competition. I was having trouble getting over the edge, and getting into the Classic.
"I didn't have the history that a lot of these guys had. It took me a year to settle in. I got here all of the sudden and I had a lot to learn."
His learning curve, though, has taken an upward swing in 2010. He's still not quite in the Classic. He was in 46th in the Bassmaster Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year standings going into this event, but he figures to make a jump after Sunday.
'I have just recommitted myself to the work,'' Williamson said. "This year I've spent my time working on these lakes whenever I get the chance."
That work may be jumping on a plane and spending a day in a borrowed boat just riding and learning, opening up his horizons in a way that two days of practice can't give you.
"I've put confidence in myself and pressure on myself to do better,'' he said.
The results? Along with a win at Amistad last season, he was second this season at Smith Mountain. Now he's in the lead and has shown those watching there is something special about the young, quiet angler from South Carolina.
He won at Amistad with a swimbait and finished high at Clear Lake on a swimbait. But then at Smith Mountain Lake, he almost won sight fishing. And at this one, he's way up the river throwing a jig.
"It's hard to put an identity on the type angler he is,'' said Mark Zona, Bassmaster Television analyst. "I look at KVD and there's an identity. I look at Tommy Biffle, I know what he's good at. It's the same with so many of these guys.
"But you look at what he's done in short time span and he looks to be an all-around hammer, a clear water expert."
Either identity is good with Williamson.
"I just want to be a household name,'' he said. "I want to be the guy who they look at every place we go and say, 'He's got a shot to win.' "
That may or may not happen for some time. One thing is for certain, though, when the Pride of Georgia's final day begins Sunday morning, Williamson will get his wish, at least for a day.
Fourth-year pro Williamson beginning to make name for himself