There’s nothing like competition to hone your skills, especially if you’re trying to make a living as a professional bass fisherman. You often find bass pros fishing multiple circuits in an effort to get better.
Summerville’s Patrick Walters said the Bassmaster Elite series remains his priority, but he’s also signed up to fish in the National Professional Fishing League this year to continue his development.
And he got off to a good start on his NPFL debut by posting a second-place finish April 23 at the circuit’s second stop, Lake Hartwell, earning $20,000 in salary.
“It’s the second year for them, but it’s my first year fishing their tournaments. They have six tournaments every year, but I couldn’t fish the first one because of the Bassmaster Classic (also fished on the lake Hartwell, where Walters finished 12th), but I’ll fish the others,” Walters said.
This will mean trips to Watts Barr in Tennessee, Saginaw Bay in Michigan, Sandusky Bay in Ohio and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida. He also has five other Bassmaster Elite stops which include a May 19-22 trip to Lake Fork in Texas where Walters won and finished second in the last two tournaments there, both times winning Century belts to weigh in at over 100 books.
Walters said the NPFL’s smallmouth water stops, something not found when pro tours visit South Carolina, were appealing, but so was the Lake Hartwell Tournament.
“Who doesn’t love going to a tournament like this in your home country? It’s a big lake and you want to fish as much as you can when you’re trying to do it for a living,” he said. he declares. “My heart is in BASS, but I can fish a little more. Once you become a pro, you can’t fish in any of the local tournaments, all the local stuff you grew up fishing. They have a (rule against the fishing pros). When you get used to tournament fishing, you always want to be prepared for something.”
Walters, 27, said the NPFL is very similar to the Bassmaster Elite series with a limited field of around 125 anglers, three days of training followed by three days of non-cutting competition. And there are no more conflicts with Elite events the rest of the year.
After opening the Hartwell NPFL tournament with a 14-pound, 8-ounce bag, Walters took the lead on day two with the tournament-heaviest five-fish limit, 19-6. But Drew Six of Clinton, Ohio, passed him on the final day, also grabbing 19 pounds from Walter’s 13-pound bag, to take home the winner’s check for $50,000.
“I thought the bite was going to be even better on Saturday (the last day of the event) but there were four more local tournaments on the lake,” Walters said. And that included a 150 boat tournament.
“The lake was completely packed. We had to share the water, and everyone was fishing the same things, so the fish were shared. I didn’t catch a good big mouth on day 3 and the day before I had four bigmouth and a spotted bass Lake Hartwell’s spotted bass still bites, even in tough conditions, but it’s bigmouth that you have to catch to win.
Walters said he hopes to turn his year around with the Elite event in Lake Fork, Texas. He made $125,000 there in 2020 when he caught a five-day limit that weighed in at 104-12. And Walters finished second in 2021, earning $35,000, with a 102-5 hold. This year he is currently 13th in the Angler of the Year race with a best finish of seventh in February on Florida’s St. John’s River.
“I haven’t fished as cleanly as I would like. I haven’t really had the ball where you enter an area and that’s second nature. I haven’t hit that groove yet. I lost a few fish every tournament which would have helped me,” said Walters, whose career BASS event earnings are $696,888.
Although Lake Fork is a favorite, he said things would be different for several reasons. This year the tournament is at the end of May, compared to November in 2020 and April in 2021. He also said the lake is about six feet down.
“So it’s another curveball, but it’s still Lake Fork,” he said. “A lot of big fish live there. I’m excited to go there. It’s really nice to go to a place like this where you have that kind of history.”
Big Ed Sheepshead Tournament
Benjamin Crosby won the Charleston Inshore Anglers 29th Annual Big Ed Sheepshead Tournament with a catch that weighed in at 6.64 pounds. The tournament attracted 113 anglers.
After Crosby in the standings, Lloyd Green, 6.36; Ryan Williams, 5.92; Curtis Crosby, 5.46; Stephen Segars Jr., 5.4; Hampton Denny, 5.32; Kevin Mischke, 5.08; Thomas Randells, 4.86; David Shuler, 4.54; and Brendan Kowalewski, 4.52.
Jacob Baldwin won the dogfish category with a catch of 2.1 pounds.
Conway wins state championship
The Conway Tigers won the secondary division of the SC Department of Natural Resources State Bass Championship with a total of 15.55 pounds. Conway’s Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams had three bass that weighed in at 7.79 pounds while Mason Hardee and Will McGuirt had three fish that weighed in at 7.76 pounds. The tournament was fished April 23 at John C. Land Boat Landing on Lake Marion.
American yacht club
America’s Boating Club Charleston will be holding boating safety courses May 14, June 4 and June 18 at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. Classes start at 9 a.m. and end around 4 p.m. Successful participants are awarded the SC Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. Cost is $25 for adults and youth 12-18 are free. Call 843-312-2876 or email email@example.com.