Chance Encounter Leads Weidler To Bassmaster Elite Series Win At St. Clair

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. — A random moment during practice led Bill Weidler to a most unexpected victory, as the Helena, Ala., angler amassed a four-day total of 86 pounds, 7 ounces to win the YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair.

Bill Weidler, of Helena, Ala., has won the 2020 YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair with a four-day total of 86 pounds, 7 ounces.  Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.

Weidler earned $100,500 and nearly doubled his career earnings with B.A.S.S. to $204,350.

“I just stumbled across a great area in Anchor Bay, and that was my primary spot,” Weidler said. “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 grasslines in 14 to 15 feet. Watching his Humminbird 360 for clusters of baitfish helped focus his search.

After two hours of fruitless effort, Day 4 saw Weidler catch three of his best fish between 9 and 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.

“This is incredible,” the third-year Elite Series pro said of his first career victory. “I fought and fought; I had a (bad) start to the season, and I knew I had to get some work done. I was on my knees this morning praying that I could catch them.”

Weidler caught all of his fish on a drop shot with a Strike King Baby Z-Too in the gray glimmer color. He used a 3/8-ounce weight and a No. 1 Owner drop-shot hook.

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. Nevertheless, he held his own against formidable Northern pros like Canada’s Cory Johnston, who placed second, along with sixth-place Chris Johnston, who won the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River in July with all smallmouth.

“I’m a largemouth guy; I’ve really struggled on smallmouth lakes,” Weidler said. “I grew up fishing the Coosa River 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.

“But what I can say is that I thank the Lord for what He did for me this week because I feel He guided me where I needed to go and have the finish I had.”

Hailing from Cavan, Ontario, Cory Johnston spent his tournament in the main lake near the Canadian border and tallied 85-15. He turned in daily weights of 21-11, 21-5, 23-1 and 19-14.

Relying heavily on his Garmin LiveScope for target location, Johnston caught his bass on a drop shot with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm and a Strike King Baby Z-Too, both in green pumpkin.

“I found a sunken barrel out there the first day of the tournament, and there were five bass on it,” Johnston said. “I’d throw out and pick them all off; I’d go there the next morning and pick them both off. Today, there was none there; I caught them all.”

Following his seventh- and ninth-place finishes in the past two Elite events (St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain), Johnston has notched three consecutive Top 10s.

“That was my goal; I didn’t want to miss a Top 10 when we were up North,” Johnston said. “This is kinda my wheelhouse. I love dropping on them.”

John Cox of DeBary, Fla., led the tournament for three days but finished third with 85-12. Cox started Day 1 on Lake St. Clair, then moved to the St. Clair River where he spent the remainder of the event.

Catching all of his fish on a drop shot with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, Cox caught the event’s heaviest bag — 24-12 — on Day 1, then followed with 20-10, 20-12 and 19-10.

“Today, the bites were pretty random,” Cox said. “I caught two good ones on a seawall around midriver, then I went all the way to Lake Huron. I didn’t catch anything there, so I came back downriver and caught another good one, a 4-pounder.”

Cox hooked that last fish by a navigation marker. The smallmouth became temporarily entangled in the structure’s subsurface supports, but patience prevailed.

“When he bit, he swam right where I thought he was going to swim — right through those pilings,” Cox said. “So, I went up and took my line around it and it was a miracle I got that fish out.”

Ed Loughran III of Richmond, Va., won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with a 6-5 smallmouth he caught on Day 2, earning an additional $1,000

Cox took home $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and Oregon’s Cody Hollen earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

With four events remaining on the Elite Series schedule, Texas pro Clark Wendlandt took the lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with 423 points. Rookie Taku Ito of Japan is in second place with 416 points and also leads the race for Rookie of the Year.

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Abu Garcia, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Yamaha

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Carhartt, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Mossy Oak Fishing, Rapala

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Huk

2020 Bassmaster Elite At Lake St. Clair Local Hosts: Detroit Sports Commission, Macomb County, Huron-Clinton Metroparks (HCMA), Lake St. Clair Metropark

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (, television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2 and The Pursuit Channel), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bassmaster Team Championship, new Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.

2020 Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair 8/20-8/23
Lake St. Clair, Macomb County  MI.
(PROFESSIONAL) Standings Day 4
   Angler                   Hometown              No./lbs-oz  Pts   Total $$$

1.  Bill Weidler           Helena, AL              20  86-07  100 $100,500.00
Day 1: 5   20-08     Day 2: 5   20-08     Day 3: 5   22-10     Day 4: 5   22-13
2.  Cory Johnston          Cavan CANADA            20  85-15   99  $25,000.00
Day 1: 5   21-11     Day 2: 5   21-05     Day 3: 5   23-01     Day 4: 5   19-14
3.  John Cox               Debary, FL              20  85-12   98  $21,500.00
Day 1: 5   24-12     Day 2: 5   20-10     Day 3: 5   20-12     Day 4: 5   19-10
4.  Clark Wendlandt        Leander, TX             20  85-09   97  $15,000.00
Day 1: 5   20-00     Day 2: 5   24-05     Day 3: 5   20-13     Day 4: 5   20-07
5.  Jake Whitaker          Fairview, NC            20  85-02   96  $15,000.00
Day 1: 5   18-07     Day 2: 5   21-10     Day 3: 5   22-06     Day 4: 5   22-11
6.  Chris Johnston         Peterborough Ontario CA 20  84-13   95  $15,000.00
Day 1: 5   21-11     Day 2: 5   21-03     Day 3: 5   21-02     Day 4: 5   20-13
7.  Shane LeHew            Catawba, NC             20  84-11   94  $15,000.00
Day 1: 5   21-13     Day 2: 5   21-12     Day 3: 5   21-00     Day 4: 5   20-02
8.  Cody Hollen            Beaverton, OR           20  84-03   93  $15,000.00
Day 1: 5   19-12     Day 2: 5   22-15     Day 3: 5   23-06     Day 4: 5   18-02
9.  Jay Yelas              Lincoln City, OR        20  83-04   92  $15,000.00
Day 1: 5   21-01     Day 2: 5   22-14     Day 3: 5   20-01     Day 4: 5   19-04
10. Taku Ito               Chiba JAPAN             20  79-12   91  $15,000.00
Day 1: 5   21-11     Day 2: 5   20-11     Day 3: 5   19-03     Day 4: 5   18-03

1   Chris Groh               Spring Grove, IL    06-00      $1,000.00
2   Ed Loughran III          Richmond, VA        06-05      $1,000.00
3   John Cox                 Debary, FL          05-10      $1,000.00
4   John Cox                 Debary, FL          05-05        $500.00
4   Bill Weidler             Helena, AL          05-05        $500.00

Ed Loughran III          Richmond, VA        06-05      $1,000.00
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
1        80       413      1457-09
2        77       411      1472-04
3        37       195       745-03
4        10        50       201-15
204      1069      3876-15

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