“I never realized I was going to catch what I did,” admits Walters. “When B.A.S.S.® rescheduled the tournament I just decided I was going to fish a jerkbait in the standing timber and be happy to catch 15 to 17 pounds each day. During the fall months, fishing can be difficult because bass often scatter and suspend, but where I fished it seemed as if every tree and stump had fish on it.
“What is still confusing to me is that none of the other competitors ever really fished that pattern. I was fishing alone without any other boats around me the entire time, and I felt like I was lost.”
Walters may look back on this, his second season in the Elite Series, as his Year of the Jerkbait. He caught his first bass of the 2020 season in February on Florida’s St. Johns River with a deep running jerkbait, and from that moment on he never launched his boat without having one or two of them tied on and ready to cast. He caught bass on the lure wherever he went, and with each fish, his confidence in jerkbaits continued to grow.
“At Lake Fork, the weather, the water, and everything just seemed to align perfectly,” the Yamaha Pro continues. “During the first hour of practice the first morning, I pulled into an area and caught a three-pounder, a two-pounder, and then lost a six-pounder, all on jerkbaits. I tried other lures, but couldn’t catch a fish on anything else. That told me I had the right lure, so I spent the remainder of the practice time really getting dialed in on how the bass wanted it presented.”
On the first morning of competition, Walters started in a well-known area on Fork and by 11 a.m. he had 17 pounds, the original goal he’d set for himself, in the livewell. He moved across the lake to a different area and culled all those fish, ending with 25-14 for the day.
“I kept thinking something had to be wrong,” says Walters. “I never had any other boats around me, and everybody else seemed to be struggling. I worried that the bass I had found would leave or just stop biting. That happens so often. Then, on the second morning I went to a particular tree where I had found two bass suspended during practice, but now there were 10 on it. I caught 20 pounds in the first 25 minutes.”
When Walters brought in 29-6 the third day, giving him a three-day total of 82-2, the Yamaha Pro finally allowed himself to think not only that he could win the event but also break the century mark in weight. He needed less than 18 pounds to achieve it. By now, he truly had his pattern fine-tuned, and he kept six jerkbaits on the boat deck as he moved through the standing timber. Although he fished water depths ranging from 10 to more than 40 feet, the bass he caught were all suspended in 10 feet or less. That final day he brought in 22-10, pushing him over the 100-pound mark with weight to spare.
“I remember as a youngster watching television programs where an angler would catch a hundred pounds or more during a tournament, and I have always wanted to say I did it at least once in my career,” Walters notes. “Truthfully, I wanted that as much as I wanted my first Elite win.”
He had four different places that were really good, but throughout the tournament he never visited the same place twice in one day. He even had some areas he found in practice that he never fished during the tournament. His pattern was that strong.
“I truly do not know why so many bass were suspended in the timber that week,” concludes the Yamaha Pro. “There is hardly any submergent vegetation in Fork now, and the lake was 18 to 24 inches low, so maybe that pushed the fish into the timber. I have heard of that happening on other lakes, especially after vegetation disappears.
“That’s part of the reason you have to concentrate on fishing against the fish, not the other contenders. When I’m in a tournament, I never think about the other competitors, only about wanting to catch another bass.”
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