LEESBURG, Fla. — For Patrick Walters, at least, the year 2020 was one of his best. If today is any indication, the good fortune is carrying over to 2021.
Walters’ limit weighing 24 pounds leads the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open at Harris Chain. When interviewed, he spoke with high confidence that tomorrow could be a repeat of today. Or actually, tomorrow could continue a repeat of the 2020 season.
Bassmaster Elite Series pros judge their success on how they perform in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Some choose to fish the Opens, although nobody really grades them on how well they perform in the recruiting league for the Elite Series.
They should take notice. The Opens occur during the Elite Series season, and oftentimes in back-to-back succession. That’s a true test of physical stamina and mental endurance when you work those grinders into the nine-event Elite schedule.
Walters made a run at the 2020 Elite Series AOY title, eventually finishing third overall. He did the same in the Eastern Opens, momentarily leading the division points race. He did that based on the strength of winning the Open at Lake Hartwell, South Carolina in October. The next month, he ran away with the title at the Toyota Texas Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
And after the first two 2021 Elite events, Walters is third in AOY points after a strong fourth-place finish at the season opener on the St. Johns River.
Walters scored his first Opens win in 2018, also sending him to the Elite Series in 2019, when he scored a 16th place AOY finish in his rookie season. The winning ways carry back to his college bass fishing days at the University of South Carolina.
This all begs the question: What is it about this ongoing hot streak?
For Walters, it’s a combination of acquired confidence, positive attitude, channeling distractions and recognition of his competition. Above all else, he prefers to define the sport fishin’ in its simplest terms.
“It’s just fishin’ and if you aren’t having fun then you aren’t capable of staying mentally confident about your capabilities,” he said. “Having fun breeds confidence and that’s what it takes to win.”
Confidence is an often-overused term in the mental side of tournament angling. Walters chooses to gain it on knowing he is capable of catching fish on any given day. For him, confidence breeds the recognition of his competition.
“I’m competing against the fish, and no one in the tournament field, regardless of its size,” he said. “I go out there every day to max out on what I can catch.”
He resets the daily goal along the way. Today, that was to catch 15 pounds. The goal became 20 pounds and then 25 pounds, which he was one pound away from achieving.
“I set the goal every day that I am capable of catching fish, not knowing when or how, but the opportunity is there, and all it takes is for me to execute along the way,” he said.
Walters speaks with the lofty confidence of a seasoned, veteran pro, which he is not. However, he also recognizes the reality of the distractions that can upend his mind during a competition. Those mental blocks are off the water. Things like expenses, travel plans, mechanical issues.
“It’s reality, not a negative, that can be dealt with when the time comes,” he said. “And that time is not during the heat of the battle.”
Walters is one of those gifted people who just go with the flow, never putting a goal in reach on hold to deal with a problem. He also recognizes some of those issues are hinderances to his career.
“Fishing at this level requires a laser focus on each and every cast,” he said. “There is no room for distractions, and especially when you get on a roll.”
Does he ever have a day completely dialed in?
“Never, because there are controlled and uncontrollable variables that appear from nowhere, and you must have the situational awareness to see them coming,” he said.
Early on, Walters recognized the benefit of spending as much time fishing as the day allowed.
“That’s why I fish the Opens, to stay busy and focused,” he said. “The competition is at the same, me against the fish.”
There is plenty of time to stay busy with the nonstop season in play for the 2021 Elite and Opens. Count on Walters to be there. And possibly be winning along the way, as the hot streak continues.