A LONG TIME COMING
Oct 8th, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Oct 8th, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Bassmaster Central Open pro Jerry Williams of Conway, Ark., is close to repeating an accomplishment of 35 years ago.
Williams competed in the third Bassmaster Classic, in 1973. Now, 35 years later, he’s poised to be one of the three Central Open pros who qualify for the 39th Classic, set for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Williams got in line for a 2009 Classic spot when he took the lead in the Central Open points race after the Sept. 25-27 event on Kentucky Lake. He placed second there, just missing the win after leading for two days. With his third-place finish at the season opener on the Red River, Williams is in prime position in the points race.
At the end of the three-event Central Open season – the final tournament will be Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Lake Texoma out of Denison, Texas – the top three in the standings will win Classic entries. The top 10 will be invited to join the highest level of tournament fishing, the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“It wasn’t a goal of mine coming into the Open this year to make the Classic or the Elites,” Williams said. “I enjoy fishing with these guys and the competition. Many of these pros are the best fishermen in the world, bar none. But going back to the Classic would be nice.”
After he qualified in 1973, he risked his job to go.
“In 1973, I had three weeks of vacation with the job I had at the time,” he said. “I used all my vacation time to fish the qualifying tournaments, then took a fourth week – I called in sick – to fish the Classic. I almost got fired.”
Now 62 and retired from a career as a boat manufacturer’s representative, Williams would not have to chose between a job and the Classic.