Alabama’s Bill Weidler took home $100,500 after winning the YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair, which ended Sunday.
Weidler’s four-day total was 86 pounds, 7 ounces and for him it was an unexpected victory in the tournament hosted by the Detroit Sports Commission, Macomb County, Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and Lake St. Clair Metropark.
“I just stumbled across a great area in Anchor Bay, and that was my primary spot,” Weidler says. “I went through it one day in practice; it was cold and I’m an old man, so I decided to pull over instead of freezing running down the lake.
“I drifted through an area and caught a limit of 26 pounds in about two hours. I had two 6-pounders, and I was like, ‘I might have found something here.’ That’s where I camped out all week.”
Focusing on a 1,000-yard area of Anchor Bay, Weidler found his bass on the hard edges of grass lines in 14 to 15 feet.
After two hours of fruitless effort, Day 4 saw Weidler catch three of his best fish between 9-10 a.m. He caught fish throughout the day, but two big afternoon bites — a 4-4 and his second of two 5-plus-pounders — pushed him across the finish line.
“I had a (bad) start to the season, and I knew I had to get some work done,” says the third-year Elite Series pro said of his first career victory. “I was on my knees this morning praying that I could catch them.”
Weidler placed 17th on Day 1 with 20-8. Catching the same weight the next day put him in 13th. Day 3 saw him weigh 22-10 and earn his Championship Sunday berth in eighth place, and Sunday’s limit of 22-13 sealed the deal.
“On Days 1 and 2, I should have had about 22 or 23 both of those days and just didn’t execute,” Weidler said. “I’m lucky I didn’t miss the cut.”
Weidler admitted he did not enter the St. Clair event with great optimism, as smallmouth bass have never been his specialty.
“I’m a largemouth guy. I’ve really struggled on smallmouth lakes,” Weidler says. “I grew up fishing the Coosa River (in Alabama) and my boat really hasn’t come out of much more than 10 feet of water. I love a flipping stick and heavy line, so it was hard making the transition.”