Walters Wins Bassmaster Open on Red River – Bossier City, La. — While many anglers leave the launch site and drive as far as time and gasoline allow to reach areas where other fishermen aren’t “pressuring” schools of fish.
Instead, Patrick Walters of Ladson, S.C., did just the opposite. The recent graduate of the University of South Carolina stayed close to the takeoff area in Pool 5 of the Red River and patiently put together the winning catch of bass in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on the Red River today.
Walters intentionally fished near the launch site for two reasons. By avoiding long runs and lost time in navigating locks into Pool 4 or Pool 3 on the Red meant the maximum amount of fishing time, which was important under the extremely tough conditions that confronted the Opens anglers. The other reason was his confidence that bass were more plentiful around the launch area than anywhere else in the fishery.
The strategy paid off. Walters won the tournament with a three-day weight of 30 pounds, 15 ounces. Drew Cook of Midway, Fla., was second with 28-10. He was followed by Marvin Ettredge of Shreveport, La., with 26-1. Kenta Kimura of Osaka, Japan, who led the first two days of the tournament, was fourth with 25-4. And Toby Hartsell of Afton, Okla., was fifth with 25 pounds.
“Optimizing time was my goal of the week,” explained Walters. “Staying in one area allowed me to fish a full eight hours, instead of wasting time gambling, looking for new water.”
Confidence in his area was another factor. Just two weeks prior, Walters competed in the FLW College Championship on these same waters. That gave him insight on the tough fishing conditions ahead, and it showed him the potential of his chosen fishing area.
“All of the fish were released inside Pool 5 and did not have time to disperse back into the river,” he explained.
The area within the launch site is best described as a small lake connected to the main river channel. Walters and many other anglers, including other top finishers, spent considerable time in the area.
During practice Walters eliminated unproductive water to confirm his strategy. Scouting trips into Pool 4 and north to Shreveport were unproductive.
Walters started the tournament on Thursday in 23rd place with a limit weighing 8-9. He was undeterred, realizing the first day his area would receive heavy pressure from other anglers. The pressure lessened the next day as the newness wore off the area. Fewer anglers meant more water for those choosing to stay in the vicinity.
On Friday he moved into second place with an overall total of 20-4. Kimura shared that area with Walters, who sealed the win on Saturday with a limit weighing 10-11.
Lure choices were made to also maximize the potential of catching fish in the used water. He used soft plastics for a methodical presentation when the bite was slow, and occasionally switched to crankbaits when he wanted to cover broad areas of water.
A Rapala DT 6 Series and a square bill crankbait were the choices. Walters also used a 5-inch Yamamoto Thin Senko with 3/0 Gamakatsu EWG Hook. He rigged it weightless or with a 1/8-ounce weight.
“On the first day it took a very slow approach, dragging the weightless Senko around wood,” he said. “The next day I switched to the crankbaits to cover more water.”
The reaction bite with the crankbait was necessary as bass were fewer and harder to catch. For the final day he rotated between the crankbaits to expand his coverage area.
Cook dialed into largemouth in a backwater area that resembled the familiar conditions of lakes in his home state of Florida. Inside a backwater, he found mixed vegetation, including lily pads, used by the bass as concealment for ambushing baitfish. Key to the area was a deep channel, providing cooler and clearer water than the surrounding area.
On Saturday the surface erupted with bass feeding upon shad, prompting him to make a key color change to his swim jig.
“They were feeding on shad and all it took was matching the bait color to the forage,” he said.
The bait of choice was a 3/8-ounce Nichols Saber Swim Jig. For a trailer he added a Big Bite Baits Dean Rojas Fighting Frog.
Walters’ winnings included cash and a Skeeter ZX200 with Yamaha VF200LA and custom trailer. A Minn Kota Fortrex, Lowrance Elite Ti 7 and other factory accessories were included. He also advances to the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship, Oct. 18-20, at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.
Noel Allen Jr. of Brandon, Miss., won the co-angler division with a total weight of 15-6. Allen fished with pros Keith Poche, Drew Cook and Matt Loetscher.
“It took a lot of baits to win, but I expected that to be the case due to the tough fishing,” he said. “Adapting to how my pros fished was a must.”
He used a bladed jig, crankbait, topwater frog and spinnerbait to win the co-angler trophy.
Allen also won a Triton 179 TrX powered by a Mercury 115 ELPT, a trailer and standard factory accessories.
Bruce Whitmire of Channelview, Texas, earned the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award of $750 in the pro division by catching a largemouth weighing 5-11 on Friday. On Thursday, John Roberson of Shreveport, La., caught a largemouth weighing 4-12 to win the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award worth $250 in the co-angler division.
Keith Poche earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $500 on the pro side for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible and uses client-approved product on his boat.
The final Central Open is Sept. 6-8 at Pell City, Ala., on Logan Martin Lake. The 2018 Opens season features four events apiece in the Central and Eastern Divisions.
The eight winners from each tournament will compete in the championship. Joining them will be the Top 10 anglers in the point standings from each division. The 28 anglers will vie for berths in the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series and GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, Red River Waterway Commission and the Horseshoe Casino hosted the event.