DANDRIDGE—Campbell County native Dewayne Wilson found himself among the elites of bass fishing, when the local fisherman finished 11th place during the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open #1 on Douglas Lake last week.
Wilson weighed in a total of 42.11 pounds of fish throughout the three-day tournament.
“It was great. I’ve fished tournaments a lot of years, you know, but that’s only my second, I guess you’d say, national level event that I’ve ever fished,” Wilson said. “I’ve watched those guys on TV, and it was pretty cool — that last day, especially — being there at the cut. It was just 12, and most of those guys were touring pros, you know. It was really cool.”
However, earlier in the week, everyone was looking at Wilson.
The Campbell Countian finished atop the leader board on May 29, roping in a total of 21.12 pounds during the first day.
His catch on that day ranked as the second-largest bag, only falling to Knoxville native Ott DeFoe’s 24.1-pound bag on the final day of the tournament.
“That was probably about the third biggest bag of fish that I’ve ever caught,” Wilson said of the 21.12-pound bag. “I would guess it might have been the biggest that I’ve caught by myself. In some team tournaments, I’ve had a couple bags bigger than that, but I guess as far as being by myself, that was probably the biggest one that I’ve ever caught.”
Wilson knows Douglas Lake, and he found the fish quickly on the first day.
He said it only took a short while to reach his limit of five fish.
“It went real good that first day,” he said. “Those pro guys, if they see you catching fish, they’ll just cover you up. That first day, I got on my stuff and had it to myself for a couple of hours. I caught all those fish in probably the first two hours of the day.”
However, that didn’t last long as other fishermen caught onto Wilson’s money hole.
Soon, he wasn’t alone.
“Those guys would see you catch them, and they’re different that we are up around home,” he said with a laugh. “They’ll just swarm in on you. They don’t leave. It was a real good experience, though, just seeing how those guys operate.”
Wilson said during his first time in the Bass Pro Shops Open last season, he finished within the money standings with a 34th place finish.
This year’s 11th-place finish has been his best yet.
DeFoe took first place in the tournament with 62.5 pounds; David Mullins, second, 52.11; Derrick Snavely, third, 50.9; Luke Clausen, fourth, 48.13; Brent Ehrier, fifth, 48.12; Alan Neal, sixth, 48.0; David Walker, seventh, 47.8; Ricky Shepherd, eighth, 47.4; Jacob Wheeler, ninth, 47.3; and Todd Schmitz, 10th, 42.13.
Both Wilson and DeFoe fish for Bass Pro Shops, and he said it was interesting to see the fisherman he’s grown into.
“It was awesome [after finishing first on Thursday],” Wilson said. “Those guys were coming and congratulating me, and I know some of those guys — of course, Ott. That was something that was real interesting, too, Ott turning into what he has. I fished against him when he was just a 12-year-old kid in the B.A.I.T. tournaments here around Knoxville. That’s just really cool to grow up fishing against him and see what he’s turned into now.”
Wilson said it was also an honor to get to fish the same day as his son.
The week before, he stood at Bass Pro Shops to cheer on Craig Wilson, who won the Bass Pro Shops High School Classic on Douglas Lake, along with his partner, Trevor St. John.
On Saturday, both father and son were fishing big tournaments, as Wilson fished the state high school tournament on Chickamauga Lake.
However, the elder Wilson had no idea how his son was doing in the big tournament.
“It’s against the rules to talk on the phone,” he said. “I was just completely in the dark. I didn’t have any idea of how they did until everything was over there at Bass Pro Shops. I didn’t have any idea. I thought about it all day long, off and on, but I couldn’t communicate. I thought about it off and on all day.”
Wilson said he plans to make this a regular thing, although he’s not 100 percent sure of how it will go.
He plans to fish in the next Northern Open, which will take place on Lake Champlain in New York.