The “local stick” reputation is a double-edged sword, as your tall tower of knowledge and experience is easily toppled by factors beyond your control.
Just ask Jacob Walker, the pro from Alabaster, Ala. with a dangerous blend of fishing talent and youthful confidence, subtly masked behind a Cool Hand Luke vibe. Walker led Day 1 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open at Lay Lake with the event’s second-largest limit — 17 pounds, 4 ounces.
Yesterday, Florida’s Keith Carson eclipsed that mark with a limit of 18-10. While Walker added 13-0 and slipped to third, Carson paired his big catch with his second-place, Day-1 bag of 16-10 and ascended into the lead with 35-4 — in his first visit to Walker’s home lake.
In fairness, that’s no shot at Walker or any of the many accomplished anglers that spend much of their year on this Coosa River gem. Anyone who’s ever spooled a reel knows that some days you’re dealt a better hand than others.
Some days, it all comes together; some days, it’s a grind. Some days you can fish your stuff; some days you can’t. Some days, you’re the bull of the pasture and some days another angler just catches them better.
But… acceptance of a fact is no admission of defeat. Talking to Walker last night, he graciously acknowledged Carson’s consistency. However, if you think this local stick is fishing for second place, think again.
For one thing, a top-12 field means significantly less tournament traffic than the first two days of full-field competition. That’s what hurt Walker the most yesterday — more boats in the shallow water areas he was prospecting.
“I think a lot of the guys who fished downriver yesterday decided to come up the river today,” Walker said. “It wasn’t necessarily people catching them; it was just (the congestion).
“But (for Day 3) I feel better about not having as many people in my areas.”
Also, today’s weather will likely work in Walker’s favor. Day 2 brought cloudy, rainy conditions; the dim stuff that had his targeted largemouth roaming and scattered.
Championship Saturday brings typical post-front complexion: clear skies, no wind and lots of bright sunshine. That deal tucks largemouth into a predictable spot like grass and wood where they’re more easily targeted.
“The sun’s going to be out all day and those big ol’ largemouth will bite,” Walker said. “The guy who’s leading obviously has something figured out on catching the big largemouth.”
Current has played a key role for several anglers this week and Walker said today’s projected power generation schedule will benefit the spotted bass bite.
“They (Alabama Power Company) will be pulling water until 12 o’clock and that’s an hour later than they’ve been pulling it,” Walker said. “That’ll keep those spots biting and, hopefully, I can lean on those too.
“I definitely have a good plan. After the spots stop biting, the next thing for me is going to the grass and flipping or swimming a jig. Getting that sun out, today’s going to be the best day for that.”
Walker’s experience, no doubt, cautions him to make no assumptions. Post-front days can be excruciatingly lean and you still gotta get ‘em to bite.
That being said, Walker’s not intimidated by the 5-pound deficit he carried into the final round. He has a full day to fish uncrowded waters in conditions that favor his game plan.
“With that lead, (Carson) might run away with it, but I’m not gonna give up on it,” Walker said.
Someone will catch ‘em better than the rest today. It might be Walker; it might be someone else.
That’s competitive fishing.