In the spring of 1996 North Carolinian David Williams got his first taste of big-time tournament fishing. He teamed up with Rob Digh, who is now a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, to fish a Jerry Rhyne tournament at Kerr Lake. Rhyne’s tournaments were huge events then, and the winning team received a Ranger bass boat. Williams and Digh sacked enough bass to claim the boat.
“Man, this is easy,” Williams said to himself.
He soon learned that becoming a bass pro is no cakewalk. It took 19 years for Williams get there. He did so by qualifying for the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series via the Bassmaster Opens. He fished the Elite Series through 2017 before switching to FLW and MLF.
Williams signed up to compete in the 2021 Southern and Central Bassmaster Opens with the goal of winning one of the events. A victory would give him a birth to the 2022 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, a body of water he knows well.
He nearly pulled it off at the Southern Open on Lake Douglas where he finished fourth. He also finished fourth at the final Southern Open on Lake Norman. Add to this his 18th-place finish at the Harris Chain and Williams now reigns as the Southern Opens Angler of the Year points leader.
Since the top three in the final AOY standings in each of the three Bassmaster Open divisions qualifies for the Elite Series, Williams must decide which pro circuit to fish in 2022.
“I’m leaning toward the Elites, but I haven’t decided yet,” Williams said.
He could still pull off the hat trick and qualify for the 2022 Classic by winning the final Central Open of the season at Grand Lake. It’s a long shot, but perhaps Williams is due for a victory. He has led Open tournaments a number of times in the past, only to come up short.
Fishing shallow and covering water is Williams’ preference and his strong suit. His father, Gerald, got his son on the water at an early age and taught him the basics of worm fishing.
“I didn’t like that much,” Williams said. “I wanted to move and fish more aggressively with a spinnerbait and a crankbait. I’m not much of a slow finesse fishing type of guy.”
Williams and his father often fished local team tournaments together, many of which took place at Lake Norman. After graduating from high school, he joined the Denver, N.C., Bassmasters and started fishing tournaments on his own. After making his mark in club tournaments, he stepped up to higher level events, including the Bassmaster Opens.
“It took many years before I had success,” Williams said. “I had to take my lumps until I got more experience.”
Despite the recent advancements in forward-looking sonar, Williams more than holds his own by fishing shallow and keeping his trolling motor humming. He loves to fish any kind of topwater bait and excels with the skipping technique.
“Skipping is something I learned in the mid 90s,” Williams said. “I feel like swimming a jig kind of developed in our area. I caught onto it pretty quick.”
Then again, Williams claims that he does like the latest trends in offshore video-game fishing.
“It’s kind of freed up the bank the last year or so,” Williams said. “Everybody’s out there looking at bass on creek channels. That gives me a lot more room to fish on the bank.”
Williams lives in Newton, N.C., with his wife Jennifer and their 6-year-old son, Burgin.
His sponsors include Bass Pro Shops, Nitro Boats, Mercury Marine, Cashion Rods, Zoom, Precision Sonar, Duo Realis, Lowrance, Queen Tackle, Power-Pole, HI-SEAS Line, True South and Awning and Under Siding of North Carolina.