Opens profile: Patrick Walters ahead of schedule

Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., is in his first year of a three-year quest to become a Bassmaster Elite Series pro. Given his success competing in the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Central and Eastern Bassmaster Opens, he appears to be well ahead of schedule.

Walters is currently ninth in the Central Opens’ AOY standings after four tournaments, and he won the third of those events on the Red River. He is 29th in the Eastern Opens’ AOY standings after the first three tournaments in that division.

Walters fished the Northern Opens in 2017 while in his final year at the University of South Carolina where he majored in business and marketing. Although it was his first time competing in the Bassmaster Opens, he tied for sixth place in the AOY standings, missing the Elite cut by two points.

“That was probably a good thing,” Walters said of just falling short of Elite qualification. “I wasn’t ready. The Elite Series is the goal. I want to fish with the big boys.”

Walters claimed he was pond fishing for bream soon after he learned to walk. His father, Todd, was an avid inshore and offshore saltwater angler. Walters regularly fished with his father for speckled trout, flounder, redfish, wahoo and kingfish. They also competed in kingfish tournaments together.

Walter’s enthusiasm for saltwater fishing took a hit when he was in seventh grade. That’s when his duck hunting buddy, Bradford Beavers, turned 18 and invited Walters to be his partner at a Fishers of Men Legacy Bass Tournament on Lake Murray. These events require that one team partner be over 18 and that the other be under 18.

The excitement of the takeoff in the morning, competing with other anglers and the challenge of figuring out the bass impacted Walters to his core.

“I was hooked,” Walters said. “When I got home I told my dad we had to get into bass fishing. Since then it’s been strictly about bass.”

Beavers taught Walters many bass fishing fundamentals, including how to fish Texas rigged and wacky rigged worms. They did well as a team, qualifying for two national championships at Lake Guntersville, where they finished in the top 30 each time.

After his bass fishing initiation with Beavers, Walters’ father became his regular fishing partner, which he is to this day. His father finished seventh as a co-angler at the 2018 Red River Open, which Walters won.

“We fished our first tournaments out of an 18-foot saltwater flats boat,” Walters said. “We were the oddballs.”

The Walters took a beating at those early events, which were on lakes Murray, Wateree and Santee Cooper. By the third year of fishing together the father-and-son team had made significant headway, winning the AOY points race in the Fishers of Men Legacy series tournaments. They also began fishing other tournaments where they were challenged to find and catch bass on various types of waters.

When Walters was a high school sophomore, his father bought a pre-owned Ranger 520 bass boat. Walters used the boat to fish his first BFL tournament that year. It marked his leap from being a team partner to that of being a pro angler in pro/co-angler tournaments.

While attending the University of South Carolina, Walters competed on the collegiate bass team all four years.

“Without college fishing, I may not have graduated,” Walters said. “It gave me a reason to stay there.”

While fishing college tournaments, Walters teamed up with a number of partners. He qualified for the FLW College National Championship three times and won it in 2015. He also qualified for the Bassmaster College Championship all four years and won a Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional on Winyah Bay in March of 2017.

Competing on the college team greatly expanded Walters’ bass fishing horizons and knowledge. He has fished many lakes throughout the Southeastern U.S., plus Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York. He prefers to power fish in shallow water with buzzbaits, a Zoom Horny Toad and to flip and swim a jig. However, he will do whatever it takes to catch bass, given the conditions. His confidence bait is the plastic worm.

“A worm will catch bass regardless of where you’re fishing,” Walters said. “You just have to figure out where to throw it.”

Walters’ sponsors include Phantom Outdoors Tournament Grade Fishing Apparel, Falcon Bass Boats, Fitzgerald Rods, Rapala, VMC, Relion Lithium Batteries, Power Pole, Lowrance, Zorro Baits and Tupperway Auto Care Tires.