By JOE MOSBY

LOG CABIN CORRESPONDENT

Keith Williams' first-place finish in the recent FLW Tour event on Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Kentucky and Tennessee was highly satisfying in more than one way, he said.

The $125,000 he pocketed was a strong factor, naturally. It brought up quickly a professional bassing career that had languished a bit in recent years. It also was a major boost in confidence in himself, he said at his west Conway home.

"The money I won is all mine. Financially, it will keep me in the green. I'm investing it."

Like many, perhaps most, bass pros today, sponsors help Williams with the costs of competing in tournaments that often mean extensive travel in addition to steep entry fees. Williams, who is 33, has been a bass tournament professional for eight years and brought in some nice prize checks in his first three years on the FLW Tour. Then a number of events came and went without him having a payday.

"I've had so many ups and downs - mostly downs," said Williams, who has won more than $439,000 in FLW Outdoors events. "I've had some bad years. My first three years were really good, but after that I had a bad dry spell without any good finishes. I had considered not doing it any more. I had considered quitting and Land O'Lakes kept me in it."

Land O'Lakes, the butter and cheese company, is his major sponsor.

On Kentucky Lake, Williams put together a fishing game plan that paid off. He focused on a grassy area with shell spots and rocky spots in a road bed that he said runs through Kentucky Lake for five or six miles. Williams said he alternated between a 10 1/2-inch plum-colored Zoom Ole Monster worm, a 3/4-ounce Strike King football-head jig and a Zoom Brush Hog fished on 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. His Texas-rigged worm rig consisted of a 5/16-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight and a 5/0 hook.

"Seventy percent of my fish came on the initial fall after I'd make a long cast," Williams said. "They were really boat shy."

Williams said his first fish of the day, a 9-pound, 1-ounce largemouth, was the fish that nailed the victory.

The underwater road bed he found was 8 to 10 feet deep with a drop on each side to 20 feet. When the fish took his big plum-colored plastic worm, he didn't feel it until he lifted the rod tip. Then when he set the hook hark, the fish didn't move. That told him the fish was a dandy.

"I brought the fish to without about six feet of the boat. That left me enough room to pull the rod back if I had to while I reached down for the net." In the earlier rounds, Williams and the other pros had a co-angler in the back of the boat to help with the net. On the final day, though, the co-angler was replaced with a video cameraman man - no help with the net.

"That was the biggest bass I have ever caught in a tournament," Williams said. "It barely fit into the net. When I got it into the live well, I was nervous, excited, shaking. I had to sit down and calm myself and re-tie (the lure). I tossed out a buoy (to mark the spot), and I caught other good fish there. The next one I caught after the 9-pounder was one that weighed over 5 pounds."

Williams said his hot spot was in the New Johnsonville area in Tennessee and was about 75 miles from the Kentucky Dam Marina launch site.

Williams won by 2 pounds, 6 ounces over David Young of nearby Mayfield, Ky. Williams had 42 pounds to Young's 39 pounds, 10 ounces. Larry Nixon of Bee Branch finished in third place with 33 pounds, 11 ounces. Now Williams is well up in the standings but not a cinch to make the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup, which will be held July 30-Aug. 2 at Pittsburgh, Pa., where the winner could collect as much as $1 million - the sport's biggest award.

Williams is a Conway High School graduate. He fished a lot during his high school days from a flatbottom boat on Cadron Creek. "I always wanted to be a tournament fisherman," he said, and it was a natural goal since his dad, Jerry Williams, has been in bass tournament work since the early 1970s.

Keith Williams has competed in regional tournaments like Mr. Bass of Arkansas and Bass Fishing League, He won a bass boat outfit not long ago in a regional event.

"With this FLW win, my career should get better," he said.

(Log Cabin outdoor writer Joe Mosby can be contacted by e-mail at jhmosby@cyberback.com)