Walters leads, Wendlandt wins AOY

QUITMAN, Texas — Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., was worried all day that he was falling behind, but his massive Day 3 limit of 29 pounds, 6 ounces extended his lead at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department with a tournament total of 82-2.

“I feel like I started dragging after about 12 o’clock or 1:30; I start catching squeakers, everybody starts leaving and I’m thinking, ‘Somebody has 40 pounds,’” Walters said. “That’s the feeling here at Lake Fork; that you can never catch enough fish because (big ones) live here and you have to catch as much and as fast as you possibly can.

“Honestly, I thought the tournament was slipping away from me. I’m not kidding; that feeling was in the back of my mind. I was fishing as hard as I could until I had to leave around 2:53.”

After placing second on Day 1 with 25-14, Walters took over the Day 2 lead by adding 26-14. Today’s limit — the event’s biggest catch — sends him into Championship Sunday with a 25-pound lead over Ed Loughran of Richmond, Va.

Walters started his day with a 9-pound, 1-ounce fish at 7 a.m. A trio of fish in the 5-pound range and one just under 5 completed his bag.

“Words cannot describe how this week has been,” Walters said. “You can’t explain it. When it’s your time, it’s your time. I had a decent practice, but the biggest I caught was 3 1/2 pounds.

“When I went back to my main area (on competition days), they just kept getting bigger. God has truly blessed me this week.”

Committed to a pattern he identified in practice, Walters is targeting standing timber. That, alone, is nothing revolutionary, but he’s fishing specific scenarios in which fish position in certain depths for feeding.

“When they get in that right depth, they’re catchable,” Walters said.

Using a trio of jerkbaits from Rapala, Duo Realis and Megabass, Walters varied his offerings to show the fish different looks. Each bait had a different action, but he also varied his colors.

“I’m starting out with an opaque color — a shad looking one — and as the sun gets up, I’m going to a shinier color,” Walters said. “When they stop hitting that, I switch back over. Staying in tune with the fish is probably the biggest thing.” 

Walters noted that he struggled with short strikes — noncommittal bites. He remedied this by removing his bait’s center treble and replacing the stock size 6 trebles on the front and rear with larger size 4 hooks.

Massive Lake Fork weights are expected in spring events, as spawning movements bring the giants into the more accessible shallows. Fall fish are usually more scattered, so fourth-quarter events offer less concentrated opportunities.

Nevertheless, with one day of competition remaining, Walters is flirting with the Century Club — 100 pounds in a 4-day event. Statistically, he’s on track to easily reach that mark, but he said he is going to spend Day 4 specifically targeting Lake Fork giants.

“I’ve been moving around and leaving the big fish spots and trying to find where they’re biting, but I’m going to stay on them as hard as I can tomorrow,” Walters said. “We’re definitely going out there with maximum pressure tomorrow.

“That is the goal; Century Club Belt and an Elite Series win — those two side by side. We’re not letting up tomorrow. If it bites, we’re gonna set the hook on it.”

Loughran remains in second place with 57-2. On Day 1, he placed fifth with 21-13 and moved into second yesterday with 19-12. Loughran added 15-9 today.

“I caught a limit fishing docks and about noon, I went to an area with timber on a creek channel edge that (fellow Elite) Derek Hudnall suggested I go to,” Loughran said. “I caught a 3 1/2-pounder and that gave me 10 1/2 pounds.

“I said to my cameraman, ‘This just looks like the kind of place where I should catch a big one.’ A couple of casts later, I caught a 7-pounder.”

Loughran caught his fish on a 3/8-ounce ChatterBait with a Missile Baits Shockwave trailer and a drop shot with a Missile Baits Fuse and Quiver worm.

Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas is in third with 57-1. Consistently fishing big ridges with a chartreuse/blue Strike King 6XD, Combs placed 39th on Day 1 with 11-7, and followed with limits of 23-14 and 21-12.

“I did the same thing (each day); I fished the same spots and spent the same amount of time on them,” Combs said. “I don’t know what went wrong the first day. In practice, I wasn’t getting many bites, but they were quality.

“Somehow I timed it wrong the first day. Since then, it’s still been tough. I caught 11 today, 11 yesterday and 10 the first day.”

Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., is in the lead for Toyota Tundra Big Bass honors with his 9-9.