Of the 28 anglers who will compete in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship at Table Rock, Mo., only South Carolinian Patrick Walters qualified for the event in both the Central and Eastern Open divisions. He also won the 2018 Central Open at the Red River, which makes him a triple qualifier.
Walters’ trifecta is even more remarkable when you consider that this 24-year-old angler has fished only 11 Bassmaster Open events. And, that he missed qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series by a scant two points during the 2017 Northern Opens while in his final year at the University of South Carolina.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing and a master’s degree in bass fishing. He competed on the university’s collegiate bass team all four years and did well. Those events vastly expanded his fishing knowledge by taking him to lakes throughout the South, and to Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York.
Shallow-water power fishing is his preference, but he feels confident “doing whatever it takes to catch them, given the conditions.”
Walters will surely need to be versatile should he earn an invitation to compete on the Elite Series, which is his ultimate goal. But, is he truly ready to step up to the Elite level? His adjustments on the diverse bass waters of the 2018 Bassmaster Opens bodes well for him.
Feb. 1-3 – Eastern Open, Kissimmee Chain, 62nd place – 19 pounds, 5 ounces
He drove to Florida with the intention of fishing with a swim jig, a Zoom Speed Worm, a Chatterbait and a flipping bait.
“I planned on staying in Toho, but I looked at the other lakes, too,” Walters’ said. “I tried to find shell beds offshore and hydrilla.”
During the competition days, Walters fished shallow grass in spawning areas. The Speed Worm, Chatterbait and a Zoom Super Fluke were his most productive lures.
March 1-3 – Central Open, Ross Barnett, 28th place – 21 pounds, 2 ounces
“I had the best practice of the entir season there,” he said. “I had 48 bites one day. I fished mainly sawgrass and submerged grass in 2 feet and less.”
His most productive lures were a buzzbait, a swimming jig, a Chatterbait and a Zoom Z Craw. He flipped the Z Craw to gator grass and isolated wood.
April 19-21 – Central Open, Arkansas River, 63rd place – 17 pounds, 12 ounces
“That was one of my biggest regret tournaments,” Walters said. “I caught 12 pounds the first day fishing a shallow backwater with a swimming jig and a spinnerbait. The second day I decided to make a long run and only caught two bass. I should have stayed with my fish.”
May 10-12 – Eastern Open, Lake Norman, ninth place – 29 pounds, 11 ounces
“I found a lot of fish in practice,” he said. “The largemouth were really shallow on the docks, under the walkways and the first two pilings. I caught 15 pounds the first day skipping a wacky worm.”
Although he said he caught 50 bass on all three days of the tournament, the largemouth vanished after the first day. On each of the following days, he caught 7-pound limits of spotted bass from docks. A Rapala Shadow Rap Deep jerkbait produced many of these fish.
June 14-16 – Central Open, Red River, first place – 30 pounds, 15 ounces
“I fished a 200-boat college national championship there two weeks prior to that tournament,” he said. “We put in at the same basin as the Open [Bossier Parish], but it was off limits. That’s where the bass were released.”
Much of Bossier Parish basin was not off limits during the Central Open. Because the fishing was so tough, he opted to fish in the basin and within 5 miles of it to optimize his time. He caught his bass with a Senko, a Rapala DT6 crankbait and a square bill.
Aug. 2-4 – Eastern Open, Lake Champlain, 99th place – 27 pounds, 13 ounces
This is another tournament in which Walters learned a hard lesson. He made the long run to Ticonderoga on every practice and tournament day. In practice, “I could catch as many bass as I wanted fishing the outside grass edge with a worm and a topwater.”
Unfortunately, the water came up during the tournament and the bass moved to the inside grass edge. The anglers who moved up with the bass and fished frogs did well. Those who continued to fish the outside grass line missed the bite. Walters was one of the later.
Sept. 6-8 – Central Open, Logan Martin, 29th place – 20 pounds, 13 ounces
“I enjoyed Logan Martin,” he said. “It’s a fun lake. I like setting the hook.”
Walters fished docks on the main lake and in pockets on the lower end of Logan Martin. His primary bait was a jig, but he also caught fish on a Rapala Shadow Rap and a wacky worm. The wacky worm produced a 4-pound kicker on the first day of the tournament.
Sept. 13-15 – Eastern Open, Douglas Lake, second place, 41 pounds, 4 ounces
He fished Douglas Lake the previous year, because it was the final event for the 2017 Northern Opens. Ott DeFoe ran away with that event. He fished from an aluminum boat that allowed him to run far upriver over shallow shoals that could not be navigated in regular bass boat.
“After Ott beat our brains out, I knew I would be bringing an aluminum boat to that tournament,” he said.
He caught his fish by casting a Chatterbait and a Whopper Plopper over shallow shoals and by flipping a jig to bank cover.
Because Walters did not have to fish deep offshore to do well in the 2018 Open tournaments, it remains to be seen how he would fare in the Elites if he had to do so. Perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to find out.
Meantime, going into the Opens Championship, Walters’ goal is, “Win the boat and qualify for the Classic.”