Thanks to some final tournament heroics, Bill Wiles (Ive Witnessed a Howler) took home the grand prize in Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing in 2021. In the final event of the season, Wiles selected Bernie Schultz in Bucket E at a 3.1% player percentage which was the push he needed to go from 12th overall to eventually become the champion.
Wiles is an avid bass fisherman and loves following Bassmaster events. Once Fantasy Fishing began, Wiles jumped on board and has been playing ever since. He even talked his wife into playing even though she doesn’t follow the sport as closely.
The Oklahoma native scored 11,316 points over the course of the 2021 season, 95 more than his closest pursuer. Wiles will be rewarded a grand prize of a $15,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card, $5,000 cash, one autographed Rapala and Bassmaster co-branded 3-foot giant lure and a Rapala prize package. We were able to catch up with Wiles and gather some insight on his Fantasy Fishing strategy.
Are you a B.A.S.S. member?
Yes, I am. I’ve been a member for a long time. I’m glad too because I won the additional $500 Bass Pro Shops gift card for being a member.
Did you have a go-to angler you selected often during the year? Also, who is your favorite Bassmaster Elite Series angler?
I had three or four anglers I chose pretty often. Greg Hackney and Jason Christie carried me early on in the season as well as Chris Zaldain. Towards the end of the season, I was really mixing it up. Being from Oklahoma, my favorite Elite Series angler would have to be Jason Christie.
Do you believe in selecting anglers for Fantasy Fishing that have built up momentum in past events?
Yeah, I think so. I typically select anglers based on what I think the pattern is going to be. Early on in the season I figured it would be shallow water, flipping type events which is where I went with Christie and Hackney. Once they went up north, I would select light line, smallmouth fisherman. Momentum played a role in it, but really I still selected anglers who didn’t really have any momentum built up.
Do you tend to pick anglers that are local to the lake or do you try to pick anglers based on their strengths and what techniques they are known for?
I definitely pick more based on anglers' strengths. An example of that would be when I selected Jason Christie at the Sabine River. Although his past events there were less than stellar, I still felt like it would play into his strengths. A lot of the time I just go with a gut feeling.
What was your highest tournament finish this year?
The last tournament of the year at the St. Lawrence River was my best finish. I finished that event 412th overall.
How far in advance do you set your lineup before the event starts?
Probably four or five hours before the tournament starts. I start looking at the buckets as soon as they're open, and I’ll make rough drafts so to speak but I won’t set it for good until the night before the event starts.
How often do you change your lineup after you set it?
At least three or four times before I finalize it. A lot of times I will select anglers in certain buckets and keep them all the way up until the tournament, but sometimes I’ll spend some time doing more research on anglers in certain buckets.
How closely do you pay attention to anglers' social media feeds to see if guys are catching them in practice?
I follow all of the anglers, but I don’t let that sway my picks at all. Nothing against the guys, but I don’t trust them. If they’re really on them then they’re going to tell you they’re not, and if they aren’t on them then I don’t think they’re going to say anything.
What are you going to spend the money on?
I’ve already decided that I’m going to use the money to buy a new 2022 Nitro Z20 bass boat. I was probably going to buy a used boat after the first of the year so now I can just buy a new one.
If you had to give Fantasy Fishing players one last piece of advice to be successful, what would it be?
Don’t quit. I got off to a really slow start, and it's easy to just give up because you’re down in the standings early on. When it comes to making picks, don’t always go with the highest percentage picks, but also don’t try to reinvent the wheel by picking anglers who are at .01%.
To play Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing in 2022 click here and chose your lineup. The first Bassmaster Elite Series tournament begins Feb. 10 at the St. Johns River.