Enduring a tough day marked by mishaps and disappointment, Tommy Williams of Shepherdsville, Ky., won the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Lewisville Lake with a three-day total of 41 pounds, 15 ounces.
On Day 1, Williams caught a second-place limit of 18-8 and trailed early leader Brandon Dillard by 6-1. Adding a Day 2 limit of 15-8 sent him into Championship Saturday with a 6-3 lead.
On Saturday, that margin proved essential as Williams found only three keepers for 7-15, but held on to claim the top prize of $35,933 and a berth in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk scheduled for March 19-21 on Lake Ray Roberts.
“Everybody knows how tough it is to win a tournament when you have a missed opportunity and I had a couple of them,” Williams said. “The fish bit funny today. I had fish blow up on a spinnerbait and I lost fish on a flipping stick.
“I fished clean all week, but today, they just pulled off. But it’s been a wonderful experience. Texas has treated me well. This is the first time I’ve been in contention to win one of these events.”
Williams spent his tournament in three areas. Two comprised windward pockets with baitfish blown into dense tangles of shallow wood. The third was a main-lake flat.
“I spent seven days of practice and it came together on the third day,” he said. “I fished my strengths through the whole thing.”
He flipped the wood with a Texas-rigged green pumpkin creature bait with the tails dipped in chartreuse. On the flat, he fished a 1/4-ounce spinnerbait with a single No. 3 willow-leaf blade and a chartreuse curly tail grub for a trailer.
The two-pronged attack served him the first two days, but he struggled in the final round.
“My first fish this morning came off when I pinned him against a log,” Williams said. “He was about a 2 1/2-pounder and I said ‘This is how it’s gonna go.’
“The next bite, I caught a good one, then the next fish came off. Then it was the dink-fest. I caught more short (undersized) fish in an hour and a half than I caught all week.”
Williams added another keeper mid-morning, but after multiple days of fishing pressure from him and other competitors sharing the area, the shallow wood bite fizzled.
“I told the camera crew ‘I have some spinnerbait fish that I’m going to have to go fish sometime today,” he said.
Making that move in the latter part of the day, Williams experienced one of his most frustrating moments around 1:30. Williams had a big fish boil under his spinnerbait without committing. When he followed up with the creature bait, the fish bit but missed the hook.
“I threw in there and he thumped it, but I missed it — twice,” Williams lamented.
Notably, Williams caught his third and final keeper on his spinnerbait spot, but he caught it on the Texas-rigged creature bait.
Branden Hollingshead of Azle, Texas, finished second with 40-6. Turning in the tournament’s biggest comeback, Hollingshead struggled with the Day 1 wind, catching only a pair of keepers for 7 pounds and placed 51st place.
With calmer conditions on Day 2, he found a limit of 20-12 and moved into third. Continuing his improvement, he caught a final-round limit of 12-10 and gained one more spot in the standings.
Targeting deeper rocks on ledges and a couple of isolated trees in 12 to 16 feet, Hollingshead caught his bass on a 3/8-ounce jig with a Yamamoto craw trailer.
“The bite was a lot tougher and I think the fishing pressure was getting to them,” he said. “I could see a lot of fish were suspended up in the water column. I was just hoping one or two of them would pull up there to feed and I could catch them.”
Brian Clark of Haltom City, Texas, finished third with 37-11. Days 1 and 2 saw Clark miss his limit by one fish with weights of 12-12 and 9-3 that put him in 12th, then eighth place.
He made up for those deficits on Day 3 by catching the day’s only limit. Clark anchored his 15-12 — the final day’s biggest catch — with a 7-10 largemouth. He caught his bass on a YUM Vibra King tube, a Strike King 5XD crankbait, a 1/2-ounce mop jig and a Lucky Craft 1.5 squarebill.
“I caught fish from 5 inches of water to 12 feet,” Clark said. “I knew I could go into this tournament trying to get a lot of bites or try to get five big ones a day.”
Brandon Dillard of Grapevine, Texas, won the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for the 8-11 largemouth he caught on Day 1. Hollingshead won the $500 Garmin Tournament Rewards prize.
Joe Lee of Midlothian, Texas, won the co-angler division title with a three-day total of 20-15. He sealed the win Saturday with a three-bass limit that weighed 7-7.
Michael Grossman of Dallas, Texas, won the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award among co-anglers with a 6-4 largemouth.
Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., won the Central Opens Angler of the Year title with 719 points. He earns an automatic invitation to fish the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Louisiana pro Greg Hackney (716) finished second in the points race, followed by Japanese pro Kenta Kimura (713) and Georgia’s Marc Frazier (688). They will also receive invitations to fish the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Christie also leads the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year standings with 1,179 points. The final Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens event is scheduled for Dec. 3-5 on Alabama’s Lay Lake.
The tournament was hosted by the Lewisville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Basspro.com
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Abu Garcia, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Yamaha
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Carhartt, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Mossy Oak Fishing, Rapala
B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bassmaster Team Championship, Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.