Fishing / POSTED 04-Jun-2024

Walters Credits College Fishing For His Professional Success

Few, if any, Bassmaster® Elite anglers will ever describe a tournament win as “a week of nostalgia,” but that’s exactly how Patrick Walters talks about his Elite Series victory at Lake Murray earlier this season.  After all, the Yamaha Pro fished the lake almost weekly during his college days on the University of South Carolina’s® bass fishing team.

“The university is in Columbia, not far from the lake, and I kept my boat at a friend’s house on Lake Murray,” remembers Patrick, now in his fifth season as an Elite pro. “I scheduled my courses so I never had classes on Friday and that gave me three full days to fish, usually with my father.  That’s what I did almost every weekend.

“During the Elite win this spring at Murray, I fished a lot of places I’d fished a dozen years ago.  I’d pull up to a spot I remembered, and I’d catch fish there all over again.”


During the four-day Elite tournament, Walters brought in daily catches of 25-8, 19-13, 21-14, and 26-12, for a winning total of 93 pounds, 15 ounces.

When Walters entered USC in 2013 enroute to a degree in Business Management and Marketing, he already knew he wanted to fish professionally as a career.  The number of colleges with bass fishing teams was increasing rapidly at that time – more than 600 colleges and universities are involved today -- and with established organizations like B.A.S.S.®, the FLW®,  and the Association of Collegiate Anglers® heavily involved, there was no shortage of competitive tournaments to enter.  Yamaha has long been involved as a sponsor of college fishing.

“At the University of South Carolina, our club practiced at Lake Murray because it was so close,” continues the Yamaha Pro, “and a number of us fished the FLW collegiate events. In 2015, my partner and I won the FLW® College National Championship, which was held on Lake Murray.

“That qualified me to fish in the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup®, one of the largest professional bass tournaments in the country.  I probably learned more from that tournament, on Lake Ouachita, than any event I’ve ever fished, but not about fishing techniques.  


“I thought I knew a lot about bass fishing, but instead, I learned how much I didn’t know.  I was as green as a blade of grass and I finished pretty far back, somewhere in the 30’s, but it made me even more determined to succeed in professional fishing.”

In 2017 as a senior, Walters fished the Northern Division of the Bassmaster Opens, competing at Lake Oneida, the James River, and Douglas Lake.  The final day at Douglas he weighed in only four bass, after losing a fifth fish several times, and it cost him dearly.  He missed qualifying for the 2018 Elite season by two points.

“In retrospect it was one of the best things that could have happened, because had I qualified for the Elites, I would have dropped out of school and not graduated,” explains Walters.  “Instead, I returned to class and finished my final semester.  After I graduated, I turned professional immediately.”  


In 2018, Walters fished all the Open Divisions, won a Central Open on the Red River and had a runnerup finish at Douglas.  That easily qualified him for the 2019 Elites, where he has since won three more times.  In his first Elite victory, at Lake Fork in 2020, he finished with 104 pounds, 12 ounces, winning by a record margin of 29 pounds, 10 ounces.

“Bass fishing gave me a reason to stay in college,” reflects the Yamaha Pro, “because it really prepared me for a pro career.  I became accustomed to the travel and lifestyle, as well as the style of professional tournament fishing.  At a tournament, I’d see a new lure or a new technique, and I’d come back to practice it on Lake Murray with the other club members.

“It really was an invaluable experience.”

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