MANY, La. — David Walker may not be a stranger to B.A.S.S. competition, but until Friday, he had been fishing like a true rookie during his inaugural season on the Elite Series.
After making the switch from the FLW Tour after last year, Walker hoped to reestablish the success he built his career upon in the late 90s. After finishes of 78th, 29th and 66th to start the season, he found himself on the wrong end of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and in need of a comeback.
"I came out here as a rookie and it was one miserable day after another," Walker said. "When you get in one of those ruts the only way to get out is to fish your way out of them. I really needed to make a top-12 cut just for my confidence level. It's aggravating to keep finishing out of the money and to keep catching little fish, especially when you get to the weigh-in and there are all these big bags."
Walker changed that with an exclamation mark on Day Two of the Trokar Battle on the Bayou, bringing 24 pounds to the scales, the biggest limit of the tournament so far, moving him into fourth place overall.
His change of fortune blew in on the winds. After two days of practice with calm weather and a moderate wind on Day One, Friday saw things change in a big way with wind gusts over 30 mph, whipping the lake into a frenzy and also activating a bigger bite in Walker's area.
"The wind was the biggest factor for me today," Walker said. "It was so windy, I had to stick with one area rather than move around. The first day of practice was windy and I caught them pretty well. Yesterday it finally started to pick back up and then today the wind was blowing pretty good."
No truly big largemouth fell victim to Walker's bait, a Z-Man Chatterbait, but he had the right quality all around. Walker felt the Chatterbait was an important factor in his success that day, especially because of its versatility this time of year.
"I don't know if they are pre-spawn, spawning or post-spawn," Walker said. "I just don't think all the fish are doing the same thing and that bait I'm using is great at catching them in all stages. Now I'm in there, I got my chance. You gotta be there to have a chance and I'm looking forward to getting out again tomorrow."
With two days in the books, Walker has a solid 5-pound cushion between himself and 12th place, the final cut position after Saturday. In a field stacked with competitors, he'll still need to perform each day, something Walker was looking forward to when he joined the Elite Series.
"When I first joined a B.A.S.S. club, I lived in Kentucky," Walker said. "There were a few clubs around and I was thinking about joining the Tri-County Bass Club. When I told my cousin, he said, 'You don't want to do that. They are all a bunch of pros.' He suggested another club where I would have a lot easier time winning.
"The Tri-County Bass Club was exactly where I wanted to be. Those were the best I could fish against and the best I could learn from. If someone tells you a club or circuit is full of pros, that's where you want to be."
The bumps Walker has endured in the transition back to B.A.S.S. have made it a learning experience, one that looks to be finally turning around.
"It's great to be back and have so many guys still here that I fished with when I started," Walker said. "If you fish against the best, you are going to take a few beatings, but you will get back up knowing a lot more."