I caught up with Evinrude E-Team member and Bassmaster Classic qualifier David Walker to pick his brain about how he prepares for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River, Shreveport – Bossier City Louisiana. Setting up an interview with David was difficult as he stays very busy in the off season, the time between the last tournament and the pending Classic. David has been doing commercials, television shows, and meeting with sponsors. He even spent some time overseas in Japan and China taking factor tours to learn the processes behind building the baits he uses. While it may seem like a 4 month break from fishing, would leave you plenty of time, the commitments of a professional angler use this time up quickly.
I wanted to learn all the things a professional angler does prior to the biggest tournament of the year. I expected to find out that he had his nose in maps, magazines, and on-line digging up all the information and previous patterns he could on the tournament waters; however, that wasn’t the case. He was simply busy working the other aspects of a professional anglers career. However, now that it’s getting closer, there are some things that David is working to prepare and shared some great insight with me.
I started by asking David what he did to his boat and motor to make sure he didn’t have a failure on the water. I expected that there would be a laundry list of things you would want to accomplish, grease this, check that, measure this, or oil that. When I asked David how he prepares his boat for the Classic he simply stated, “That’s easy, with a new boat and motor for the coming season, I don’t have to worry about anything but loading my equipment. That’s one of the many great things about and Evinrude motor; they don’t require a break in period, and this saves me a lot of time.” David continued, “Between getting the advertising wrap on the boat, power poles and electronics installed, there isn’t much time to punch holes in a lake to break in a motor. With and Evinrude you don’t have to worry about it, turn the key and go.”
That went quickly, so I asked David what he does to prepare his tackle. This was definitely a little more in depth, and at the same time not much more than you, or I, do before our tournaments. David said, “First, I take care of all the broken rod eyelets, squeaking loose or broken reels. You know the ones that you forget about until the next time you pick it up and try to use it. Now is the time I fix or get them fixed.” David talked about how this is when he gets all his tackle organized. Throughout the season, there is not much time to sit and reorganize tackle, so it all gets a serious purge and inspection through the holidays and before the classic.
I found it comforting to hear David talk about buying baits just to get back to the boat and find out he already had multiple bags of them. So, don’t feel bad when you find that stash of baits and realize you didn’t need to buy more, you’re not alone in keeping the tackle companies in business. David said that during the tournament season there just isn’t time to go through and keep track of your tackle, with one to two tournaments a month and all the prefishing, travel, and sponsor commitments between the events, time is of an essence and tackle management is one of the many things that suffers. “I use the off season as best I can to organize my tackle in the boat and the bins I carry. Refresh my memory of what I have, and gather the things I will need for the next season.”
For the Classic David said he will try to purge his tackle of things he knows he won’t use on the tournament waters. “I won’t need jigging spoons at this particular tournament, so I can take those out of the boat.” David went on to say, “This event has some specialties to it that can help you pare down your tackle, being a river and the fact that we’ll be fishing shallow back waters, there are many items we won’t need. By purging these things, I won’t use, I can better organize what I might or will use.” David said while these items are purged from the boat they are still with him in the storage bins of tackle that he carries to every tournament. Since this is the only time, for the year, that he will get to organize his tackle, it all is simply moved around between the boat and travel bins depending on needs for the given body of water.
Let’s get into the prefishing. The Bassmaster Classic has a large cut off time; however, most anglers do get to the tournament waters before it goes off limits. This off limits time starts in December and goes until just a couple days prior to the tournament. I asked David if he got on the Red River before the cut off time and if he did what his goals were since the tournament was still at least two months away. He replied, “Navigation and time lines, I want to find my way around the tournament waters and determine how long it takes to get from place to place.” David continued, “The Red River is different from most places because of all the back waters, oxbows. Timber and sand bars make it difficult to navigate these areas. Learning the easiest way through them will save valuable time during tournament hours.” He discussed how finding fish in November or December really isn’t going to help you out much when the tournament is in late February. David went on to say, “being a bass angler, it’s very hard to be on the water looking around for days and not make a few casts. I had to catch a couple bass, nothing special. Those bass aren’t something I’ll worry about during the classic; that was winter versus in the tournament we’re hoping for pre spawn.” After talking with David some, it turns out that a successful Bassmaster Classic early pre fish is finding your way around and not finding bass. The three days of practice are the time to find the bass, and now that he knows his way around the Red River it will be easier.
The Red River is unique in the way you fish it. Full of oxbows, huge shallow flats with only a couple feet of water on them, ever changing sand bars, rock jetties that go for miles, and most of this is covered in flooded timber that over the years has broken of at water level. Areas that appear free of obstruction can be difficult to get a boat through with a trolling motor much less with the outboard. I talked with David about the Red River and how it differs from fishing a lake. David mentioned, “Southern rivers are easier to dissect and catch bass, generally the bass will be shallow. This eliminates a lot of water. With lakes, you have to determine if bass are shallow or deep, then what kind of structure, and then using electronics look for hot spots on that structure. On southern rivers, you can visually scan the area to find ‘fishy’ looking water, and generally bass will be there. I can generally find shallow water bass much quicker.”
I asked David, since it’s the classic, do you ‘swing for the fences’ or look for five bass each day. David was quick to say, “Just like with any tournament; that will depend on the conditions. If there are lots of catch-able bass, then you’ll look for the bigger ones. If the weather and water conditions have made it tough, then you look for the five bites each day. You can’t get hung up on this now; it’s something we can’t determine until we get there and start our prefishing.”
It’s the Bassmaster Classic, the event that every tournament anglers dreams of getting to fish. David and I discussed what the Bassmaster Classic meant to him, “Career, winning the Bassmaster Classic can send your professional bass fishing career into overdrive. I fish because I love to fish, however, my wife and two children depend on me cashing checks, winning the classic can advance your career and make life on a professional angler much easier, a much smoother future.”
A little bit of history on David Walker, the Elite Series Rookie. Yes I said Rookie, David has fished in 6 Classic, all consecutively. He’s placed third in two of them. So, how can you fish six classics and still be an Elite Series Rookie? In the early 90’s, David fished the Bassmaster Top 150’s and FLW. In the mid 90’s, David made a decision to pick one circuit so that he could dedicate completely and that was FLW as it aligned with his sponsors, Ranger and Evinrude. In September of 2010 David posted on his blog that he was setting a goal to qualify for and fish the 2011 season Classic. This made his 2011 season on the Elite Series his Rookie year. I asked David what drove him to this goal, “Working the big show; it was very hard to be at the previous Classics working for my sponsors and not fishing.” The excitement and thrill of the biggest bass fishing competition on earth got the best of him, so he set his mind to fishing the next Classic, and he did it. He also said that since he was so close to winning it twice, that it really ate at him as well, and he wants to win. That’s his new goal, win the Classic.
I dug at David some to find out how he deals with the pressure of an event as big as the Bassmaster Classic. Between sponsor commitments, media, and spectators, it must be very difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. David said, “You must have a mental toughness about you; it’s not something you learn, it’s something you have. It allows you to block out most of the distractions and to accept things as they happen and adjust accordingly.” Still digging, I wanted to find out how David makes his mental toughness work, “I just keep reminding myself of my goals, block out the things I can, stay determined, just put my head down and do it!” David said that most of his sponsors understand the need to stay focus on fishing and let him do his thing during competition days, and that helps.
What about those on the water things, like spectators that accidentally drift over your water, get in the way, or slow you down when traveling to a new spot. David replied, “Those things happen. You have to recover quickly; it’s a long time to the next Classic. Don’t let them get you down.”
Before you can win the Bassmaster Classic, you have to get there. That road is long and filled with qualifying events that you must perform in. I talked with David some about what he tells anglers that want to fish the Bassmaster Classic. David claims, “Set goals and be determined. You have to want it bad enough and then go achieve it.” I’ve spoke with David several times now, and something that has come up often is, ‘Believe and Achieve’, according to David it’s possible if you Believe and Achieve. Look at his story, a factory worker that grew up catching whatever would bite, and now he’s in his 7th Bassmaster Classic.
David Walker hails from North of Detroit, Michigan. While he did to a lot of fishing when he was younger, he never specifically targeted bass; they were just something that was caught along with all the other species. While growing up, his family fished, but when it comes to bass fishing, David is a self taught angler. Once he started competitively bass fishing, David moved to Tennessee to be more centrally located for fishing the professional tours. David quit his job in “The Factory” as he affectionately calls it in the fall of 1998 to bass fish professionally. In his first full year, 1999, he was the Angler of the Year, and many of you may remember his picture on the Wheaties box. I asked David when he knew he wanted to fish and win the Classic, “I used to watch Larry Nixon, Rick Clunn, Denny Brauer and they were all recognizable names; that told me that winning the classic means a career as a bass angler. Since the beginning, it’s been something I wanted to do.”
Something many anglers today beat themselves up with is, when is the right time to make the move, to quit a day job and commit to the life of a professional angler. So, I asked David what told him, that he could make a living fishing professionally for bass. David chuckled, “15 years of factory work”. Then continued and said he had been waiting for a big win in the events he was fishing, something that would give him a jump start, in funds and sponsors, to make it easier. “That big win didn’t happen; I got the courage and support from my family and tried it.”
I’d like to thank David for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to talk with us and wish him the best on the Red River. Hopefully I’ll get to do another interview with David and we’ll discuss how he put it all together for the win!
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