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Williamson flourishes on the CITGO Bassmaster Tours

While the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series has been a haven for professional anglers looking to build successful fishing careers, it is not the only BASS circuit which provides anglers with opportunities to develop their careers.

Case in point: Jason Williamson, 25, of Aiken, S.C.

The first-year full-time pro has been on a tear on both the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Southern and Northern Tours finishing in second in two tournaments (at Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina and on the Mississippi River out of Iowa) and seventh at New York's Lake Champlain; he also has posted three other top-32 showings in Tour events in 2006.

And after finishing ninth in the Southern Tour standings, he is sixth among Northern Tour performers with just one event remaining this week on Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, Va. He sits just 25 points behind third-place angler John Charlesworth of Florida and will look to improve on his position at the Tour finale as the top three finishers earn a coveted invitation to the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic (Lay Lake; Birmingham, Ala.; Feb. 23-25).

"I don't have words to describe it, other than to say it's been a heck of a year," Williamson told the Augusta Chronicle. "It's been amazing. At the beginning of the year I had no idea the Classic would be in my sights. Most of these guys are older and have been doing it a lot longer than I have."

Williamson, who competed in his first tournament as a sophomore in high school, grew up fishing Clarks Hill Reservoir on the South Carolina-Georgia border, while also working in the family auto-repair business.

His goal is to capitalize on this year's success and qualify for the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series. Although he has a solid chance of qualifying either through the Bassmaster Northern Tour or the Southern Tour, Williamson also has entered the Wild Card tournament next month on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes, which is the last chance for Tour anglers to qualify and bottom-tier Elite Series pros to re-qualify for the prestigious Elite Series in 2007.

If his Tour performances are any indication, Williamson is ready for the big leagues.

Co-angler king

Tallying the points from each of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series events, the top co-angler was a Swindle — Tommy Swindle, whose son Gerald was the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

The Cleveland, Ala., angler began competing in BASS events on the pro side in 1972 but most recently in 2004 started to compete as a co-angler.

Tyler's move

Tired of traveling so much, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Tyler has left Scottsdale, Ariz., and relocated to the center of the country … well, almost.

Tyler's new home is in Vian, Okla., a small town near the Arkansas River and Lake Tenkiller. Actually, he has a spread — 290 acres, to be exact — where he plans to do plenty of deer hunting this fall.

"It was something I had to do to cut down on travel," Tyler said. "I'm going to dedicate myself to the Elite Series, which has tournaments mostly in the east and central part of the country. Plus, I like this part of the country."

Wrap rap

The 2006 Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats may be over, but that doesn't mean WBT pros have been idle. Many are working on adding to their stable of sponsors.

Prime example: Tanya Kreuzer recently signed a deal with Five Star Ford in Scottsdale, Ariz., that includes wrapping her vehicle and boat.

"They give me the truck to use as my personal vehicle for home and all tournaments, local and national," she said. "They paid for the wrap and in turn I work hard to promote them in any way I can by doing giveaways at local tournaments and talking on stage about the Five Star Ford angler discounts. It's all about selling trucks."

Did you know?

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ish Monroe moved into a new home in Hughson, Calif., last year, and now he is building a second home in Del Rio, Texas, near Lake Amistad.

His affinity for the Lone Star State is understandable, considering he won the Bassmaster Elite Series season-opener at Amistad in March — The Battle on the Border presented by Mercury Marine — and wrapped up 2006 by winning the BUSCH Shootout this month on Grapevine Lake — which is located minutes from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

If I hadn't become a BASS pro

Connie Jenkins, a competitor on the Women's Bassmaster Tour, would not have to use her vacation time as a postmaster in Knob Noster, Mo., to compete in tournaments.

They said it

"I remember twice in my career where my wife held my son and kissed me on the way out the door and said, 'You probably need to catch them this week." — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Marty Stone recalls the financial struggles early in his career.