Dallas James Quillman won $100,500 in an Arkansas big bass tournament last weekend. Quillman, of Plano, Texas, is a veteran angler and a native of Greenwood, Ark. He's fished in tournaments before, but his biggest previous tournament prize was $160.
Quillman believes that divine intervention shaped his victory over 2,300 other anglers in the Arkansas Ford Dealers Big Bass Bonanza.
With anglers vying for the biggest bass on a stretch of the Arkansas River from Fort Smith to Dumas, the tournament is billed as the nation's largest amateur bass fishing competition.
When Quillman, 41, heard about the Arkansas event, he was compelled to enter, even though he could scarcely afford the $80 per day entry fee and the travel expenses.
For the tournament, the river was divided into five pools with weigh stations at each pool. Cash prizes of $500 were awarded to the biggest hourly fish from each pool. The five pools were split into two Superpools. The biggest bass from each of the two Superpools earned $25,000. The biggest overall bass for the tournament paid $75,000.
Quillman was fishing in Superpool B, the lower end of the river. He caught the jackpot bass on Friday, about 15 minutes before the first day's final weigh-in.
When the bass bit and Quillman set the hook, he knew it was a good fish. He fought the bass carefully and said a heartfelt prayer when he landed it.
"I thought it might be big enough to win an hourly prize of $500," he said.
Quillman had $500 won, but he would need a bigger miracle to win the Superpool prize, much less the overall money.
"I went back to that same spot Saturday morning," Quillman said. "Fish were busting the surface for an hour, and I never got a bite. I caught one fish all morning, and it weighed about a pound."
Luckily for Quillman, his competitors had similar luck. At the awards ceremony, Quillman was presented three checks totaling $100,500.