January 12, 2021
You’ve heard about a fish out of water? How about a fly fisher out of his element? Ryan Williams used only a fly rod to compete in the Wild West Bass Trail (WWBT) Lake Shasta Team Tournament on January 2, 2021, alongside his partner Logan McDaniel who used conventional casting tackle. Their team won the tournament with a total prize of $8,390 including money for the biggest fish.
It’s the first time a fly rod has been used to win a major bass tournament—the pair competed against 178 other boats.
“What a complete honor. I am still in shock this really happened,” Williams wrote on his Instagram account @_ryancwilliams. “This victory is one for all fly anglers! Fish those flies with confidence people!”
His efforts with the fly rod accounted for about 50% of their total team catch that day. They record five fish with a combined weight of 13.87 pounds. the biggest was 4.55 pounds.
In cold, winter water, bass are less aggressive and require a subtle presentation. Williams says that’s when fly fishing shines. He used a 10-foot 6-weight Temple Fork BVK rod, RIO Salmo/Steelhead line, and a Float ’N Fly rig, which is a Jaydacator float, fixed-length leader, and a small jig-type fly tied with feathers or with bucktail like a SPRO Phat Fly.
Williams is a fly-fishing guide (flyfishcnv.com) for trout, steelhead, and bass in the Sacramento Region. He also won the most recent Costa Bass-N-Fly Tournament on the Sacramento River Delta with partner Brian Pultz. The Bass-N-Fly is a fly-only tournament, so everyone is on a level playing field.
There have been many of us who have competed in conventional bass tournaments with fly rods, said John G. Sherman, Simms sales rep and founder of the Costa Bass-N-Fly tournament. “While there has been moderate success, and some small club tournament wins, Ryan and his partner’s win at Lake Shasta is the major win we have all dreamed about. I’ve already seen the social chatter from gear guys looking to grab a fly rod, with many signing up for fly casting lessons! This has the potential to be a major catalyst for the growth of fly fishing for bass!” Sherman was on the cover of the Aug-Sep issue of Fly Fisherman holding a largemouth bass, and wrote the story “Chasing Ten: A lifelong quest to surpass the 10-pound benchmark.”
Here are some photos of flies used for the bass tournament win: