David Walker spent the past two years working his way back for his seventh Classic appearance. (James Overstreet photo)
Like the rest of the Bassmaster Classic field, David Walker endured a cold, wet second practice day Saturday on the Red River. But compared to the rest of the field, the miserable conditions might have been just a little more tolerable for the Tennessee pro.
Walker is making his seventh Classic appearance, but it’s his first since 2006.
“The Classic is unlike anything else,” Walker said. “For me to be back here in the midst of that – it drives you to go out in the cold rain to practice.”
Walker said a driving rain woke him at 4 a.m. Saturday, but he waited until 8:30 a.m. to launch his boat for the second of four practice days. He described the day as “about eight hours of directional downpour.” With cold, muddy and swift water, the Red River wasn’t giving up many fish.
“Let’s just say I didn’t win the Classic today, that’s for sure,” Walker said.
But the conditions didn’t dampen his desire. After fishing in six of seven Classics from 2000 to 2006 – he missed only the 2003 championship – Walker left the Bassmaster circuit after the 2006 season. He made it back to the Elite Series by qualifying through the Bassmaster Opens in 2010 and then earned this year’s Classic berth with a victory in the Dixie Duel on Wheeler Lake last June.
To say he’s happy to be back and hungry for more success would be an epic understatement.
“I’ve got to do well in this,” he said. “There’s too much riding on this. I’ve got to give it my all. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Classic, and it took me two years worth of work to get back here, and all of that comes down to what I can get done this week.”
Walker has had his share of Classic near misses, finishing third in both 2001 (Louisiana Delta) and 2002 (Lay Lake, Ala.).
“I’ve been close enough to taste it,” Walker said. “I still think about the fish I lost on the Delta in ’01. I remember that fish like it was last weekend.”
Walker has attended Classics to fulfill sponsor obligations since his last appearance in 2006, and it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“It’s a miserable experience,” he said. “It’s like taking an alcoholic to a bar to watch people drink.”
Six years removed from his last experience as a Classic competitor – and with much more personal responsibilities than when he made his first Classic in 2000 – Walker is aiming to make this year’s championship more memorable than miserable.
“It’s a crucial tournament,” he said. “Things are a lot different now than they used to be. I have a wife, kids, and a mortgage. When it was just me, it was just a matter of making enough money to fish the next year. Now there are people depending on me.”
Don’t mistake Walker’s tone. It’s not desperation; it’s determination. And that could make him a force to be reckoned with on the Red River.