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Tourney anglers catch a couple of whopper bass in Lake Hamilton

BY Jim Harris

ON 05-29-2024

Two anglers with bass

HOT SPRINGS — Brady Fite was headed back to the midnight weigh-in for Lake Hamilton’s Friday Night Bass Club event May 17 with what would turn out to be a winning stringer of 5-bass totaling just over 17 pounds for he and his father. Among those fish was a 9.02-pounder, which from any lake, but especially from Lake Hamilton, would figure to be the tourney’s big bass catch.

Only on this night, Fite’s friend Ricky Williams had a surprise waiting to pull from his bag: an 11-pound largemouth bass.

Two fish over 9 pounds, with one measuring 11 pounds, is something special in one night on Lake Hamilton.

“Yeah, it was pretty hefty,” Williams said of his catch as he drove May 24 from his hometown of Benton back to Lake Hamilton for the next tourney on the lake. “ I think last year, the big bass for the club was 10.7 pounds, maybe. There are usually one or two big ones caught each tournament. Once they move out to the brush piles (after the spawn), regularly somebody will weigh in a 7- to 9-pounder. But while it’s a pretty regular occurrence, it’s not all the time.”

Williams says this big girl was post-spawn — her tail was just starting to heal and the back end was a little skinny. “I’d guess (the bass would weigh) 12-plus had she been at peak weight full of eggs.”

Williams was fishing with a friend from Benton, Ty Marshall, and while they had a whopper of a big bass, it was just one of two fish they managed to catch while fishing near the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery. Marshall hooked a 2.83-pounder just five minutes before Williams brought in his 11-pounder, and even with just the two fish for their stringer, they finished in second place overall in the tourney out of 35 boats.

“That will probably never happen again in my life,” Williams said. “We caught a bunch of dinks early in the night, fish that were about 10-12 inches long, and were tossing them back. (Marshall) had never fished in a tournament before, he was green to the whole deal and was wondering why I was throwing them back. I told him, ‘If we’re keeping 12-inch fish, we’re going to be way back in the pack.’

“I was the only boat that weighed in that didn’t weigh five fish. Everybody else kept their dinks,” Williams said.

Williams was using a Texas rig with a Zoom Speed Craw in Green Pumpkin Magic color.

Williams said he grew up fishing mostly crappie from region lakes such as Nimrod and Winona, but in recent years has begun focusing on bass.

“I’ve only been fishing this tournament series the last two years and I’ve only really been bass fishing for four or five years. I’m just getting in this game,” the 30-year-old Williams said. He credits Wes Roberts of Benton for getting him into bass fishing and the Lake Hamilton tournaments, as well as the Trader Bill’s fishing tournaments in the area.

“Lake Hamilton is not a lake where I fish a whole lot,” he said. “The only reason I fished it is because of these Friday night tournaments. It’s a great group of guys to fish with and I’ve just tried to make it a point to fish them regularly.”

A few weeks earlier, Williams and Roberts had finished in third place despite a night of threatening weather. Flash-forward to May 24, and Williams and a new fishing partner and family friend, John Butler of Lonoke, would be facing similar conditions.

“Wes is my normal partner but he’s had some other stuff going, so I’ve been picking up stragglers to make sure I have a net man. Ty’s been my best friend for 20 years,” Williams said.

He’s also buddies with Fite, who brought in the 9.02-pounder, but Fite teams up regularly with his father in the Lake Hamilton events. “He and I have never fished together,” Williams said. “We share some mutual friends and we’ve hunted together a little bit. He and his dad are serious about fishing that tournament together.”

The double-digit fish “didn’t even fight that hard,” he said. “I was really surprised. I set the hook and thought, ‘This is probably a 5- or 6-pounder’ and told Ty, ‘You’d better get the net!’ Once he put the net in and got her in there and I saw that big mouth, I felt like I was fixin’ to pass out. ‘That’s a 10- to 12-pounder any way of the week,’ I thought. I got weak in the knees, shaking and I couldn’t handle myself.”

Before bringing in that monster bass, though, Williams said he had struggled to break beyond the 2.5-3-pound weight this season But, “I’ve caught more numbers this year than any year since I’ve been bass fishing,” he said.

Word of his big bass has spread fast. “I’ve got people coming out of the woodwork wanting to fish now. I tell them, ‘If you think I can repeat that, you’ve got a lot more faith in my fishing than I’ve got.’”



Brady Fite (left) brought in his best bass of the day, a 9.02 beast, but was 2 pounds short of the behemoth Ricky Williams produced at weigh-in.


Ricky Williams’ 11-pounder was one of only two fish he and his partner weighed in on May 17 at Lake Hamilton, but it was enough to take second place in the 35-boat derby.

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