In his rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Evinrude E-TEAM member David Walker wins the season finale Wheeler event. Not only a win but this also double qualified him for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. Winning an event garners an automatic classic berth and he performed well enough throughout the season, as well, to earn enough points to qualify. I guess because I am familiar with David’s name around the bass fishing world I did not realize 2011 is considered his rookie season in the Elites.
First I congratulated David on his win and Classic berth and then asked him if it had sunk in yet and how did it feel. “Relief, Proud, Drive to do it again.” He continued, “It was so much fun I can not wait to get out there and do it again.” It was obvious I was talking to an extremely excited fisherman and rightfully so.
David has been close several times, most recently was Toledo Bend where he fell short of the win by 13 ounces after losing a 3-4 pound class fish along side the boat. Here at Wheeler, he again lost a couple key fish. Just like with Toledo Bend, he kept casting, staying confident and continued to put fish in the boat. When the likes of Kevin VanDam are on your heels, you can not slow down. “That last day I figured I needed 17-18 pounds to win, I had 14 (or so I thought); I needed a couple good fish. Loosing fish is part of the game when fishing a crankbait. You just have to keep going.”
“When I weighed in and bumped KVD out of the hot seat… I knew I had a chance! I might actually take this one!” said and elated Walker.
“I’ve had ups and downs all season, it has been strange for me, I’m a pretty stable angler but this year I’ve had highs and lows. Arkansas river was brutal, but to come off that and then win, to do it with my family here, on Father’s Day, it was just the perfect ending to the season.”
UB: Other than keep casting, what advice would you give to anglers that are still looking for that first win?
Walker: Well, that is it, keep going. Just when you’re ready to give up, your closer than you think.
Water Temperature: 85 degrees.
Water Clarity: Fairly stained with about a foot visibility.
Water Level: About a half a foot below summer pool.
Weather: Prefish was pretty calm and hot along with the first day of competition. The remainder of competition was not only hot but got terribly windy making it difficult to stay on the ledges.
If you have followed David much in the past, it is obvious he is a versatile angler and always seems to mix it up quite a bit when fishing. This event was no different with a triple threat arsenal. A 10 inch Ribbon tail Z-Man Elaztech worm in plum, a Koppers Live Target Crawfish crank bait in blue pearl and a 5 inch Lake Fork Flutter Spoon in Magic Shad.
UB: We do not hear much about “worms” winning events anymore. Was there a secret to your presentation? Scent, dye, and what size weight and line were you using?
David: No, there was no secret, no scents no tail dipping. That 10 inch Elaztech Ribbon tail does all the work. I would just cast it out there along that ridge and drag it back to the boat. I had a 1/2 ounce weight and fished it on 14 lb. Fluorocarbon Sunline FC Sniper.
UB: Let’s talk about the crank bait. Were there stumps or rocks on this ridge, anything that you were keying on that was triggering the strikes?
David: Really the only trigger was getting the bait to bass on the bottom. You had to hit the bottom at 20 ft and bring your bait back bumping the bottom. If you were not hitting the bottom, creating that erratic action, you would not get strikes. The ridge was clean; there were no stumps or boulders on it. The real key was to make as long of a cast as possible, in order to get the bait deep enough for longer periods. I was using 10 lb Sunline FC Sniper, and kept the wind at my back. I would cast the bait up into the air and let the wind carry the bait just to get extra distance.
UB: With such long casts and baits with treble hooks, would loosing fish be a problem?
David: It can be. With the right equipment, good baits with quality hooks, the rest is up to you. I have found that it is about the amount of pressure you put on a fish. Too much pressure and that bass will come to the top, and that is when trouble starts. Keep enough pressure on a bass to keep him coming at you, but not so much that you force him to the surface.
UB: I’ve spoon fished before, but I’m not familiar with the Flutter Spoons. How is that presentation performed?
David: it is quite simple. You cast it out there and let it hit the bottom. Lift your rod up bringing the spoon off the bottom and then on a taut line let it fall back to the bottom, wind up the slack and do it again. Just like with so many baits, the majority of bites are going to come while it’s falling. Watch and keep a feel on your line for a tick and then set the hook. These spoons have an extraordinarily crazy action when they are falling; they are all over the water column sliding back and forth. This makes them a great bait, but you get a lot of strikes and it’s hard to for the fish to get it in their mouth. Because it’s dancing all over the place, it’s a real hard target for a bass to hit. Just keep working it, they’ll come back.
I asked David what other baits he tried while prefishing and why he settled into this combination. He said that while there were shallow fish to be caught on a variety of baits from top water to jigs, he felt that he needed to ‘swing for the fences’ in this event to have a shot at the classic and to do that he needed to be out of the ridges and find a school of large fish. “It’s no secret, a solid summer time pattern is fishing ridges.” He went on to say, “The secret is finding the right ones. There were bass really keying on the shad, so I stuck with baits that mimicked the shad and covered as many ridges as possible during prefish. I spent my last two days of prefishing 13-14 hours each covering ridges.”
UB: I have followed you for a while and I have always known you as a flipping person. You have video’s out there teaching techniques, clips all over the place of you hauling fish over matted vegetation. Where does your ledge fishing background originate?
David: Actually I’ve been fishing ledges for a long time. I love doing it, to me there is nothing better than finding a ledge with a school of large fish on it. Once you find it, it’s fast action. Then there are crankbaits. I love crankbaits, and ledges and crank baits just go together. I spent a lot of my first tournaments fishing Kentucky Barkley Lakes, and these are some serious ledge fishing lakes. If you didn’t learn how to fish ledges, then you weren’t catching fish. So I guess you could say it’s honestly how I got started. I truly enjoy ledge fishing. It’s a lot of work, but the pay off can be great.
UB: Day one, first cast, you chunk a worm? We’ve all been told to go with reaction baits and get that limit first and then go get your kicker. So why the worm?
David: I knew I was going to catch a limit; that wasn’t going to be an issue. I needed a hefty limit, and my best shot at that was that worm first thing. It paid off, first cast first morning 4-11. Great start to any tournament.
UB: What do you feel the bass were doing?
David: This was just a basic summer pattern. The ridge was at the mouth of a major tributary; the fish had set up there for the summer feeding on shad that moved up and down along it.
UB: Can you try and describe the structure for us?
David: It was a point at the mouth of a major tributary that reached out into the lake, as it did it crossed over a creek creating a saddle. So it slowly sloped off into 16 feet then dropped to 27 feet and then back up on the other side to a hump of 20 feet. This had the main creek of 30 feet running along side of it. The hot spot of the ridge (the hump) was about 75 yards wide and about 150 yards long.
UB: Was this area a widely known spot? And if so did that bother you?
David: Oh yes to both. It was a particularly common spot, “Community Hole” and certainly you think about that when you chose something like this to fish. However, community holes are popular for a reason, they hold fish. I made some adjustments to my boat to gain some speed. It was a 25 mile run, so just a little bit on hole shot and top end went a long way by the time we got there.
Check out the E-Team blog and David’s latest video entry on Evinrude E-Team to see what he does to increase performance.
UB: You said you prefished quite a few ridges, did you have several other back up plans?
David: I had a lot of water, but not much that was producing quality fish. I actually only had 2 spots, and that’s where I caught my tournament fish.
UB: Day two, why did you leave your spot? How long did you give it before you moved?
David: I had been there about an hour. I think I had two small bites, the wind was seriously making it difficult to detect bites. I had another spot that was going to be easier to fish with the wind so I jumped to it and within 15 minutes I had a three and four pounder in the boat. So I had quick confidence and stuck it out and got a solid limit.
UB: Had it not worked out how long would you have waited to go back to your first hole?
David: About an hour, that’s a reasonable time line to see if they’ll start to feed.
UB: The last day, you said that the fish seemed to have replenished themselves. Like they were a new school of fish, because they were all the same size and solid three pounders. Where do you think the bass were prior to showing up on your ridge?
David: Sent from heaven! Honestly, I think they were just moving up and down the ridge. Since we (skeet and I) had been plucking fish from this spot for 3 days, it was starting to get thin. So, with space and still an abundance of food, a new school took up residence.
UB: You mentioned that you felt like Skeet being DQ’s helped your fish, why is that?
David: We were exceptionally close to each other, basically on the same fish, a cast apart. On day one, we both caught good fish there. Day two he didn’t start catching them there until after I left and it settled down. So having it to myself on the last day did not hurt. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have caught enough to win should we have shared it, but not having to share helped.
UB: We have a discussion from time to time on the Ultimate Bass Forums about what is the best or fastest way to cull fish. How do you cull fish?
David: Visually is the fastest way is to check, however, when they start getting close I use a balance beam. Some anglers like to use a scale, but that’s not for me. You have to trust a scale, and I’ve seen way to many times where they will read differently. Battery strength, wind, there are too many variables with a scale. Sure you know about what the fish weighs but I’ll know for sure which is bigger. I do use culling tags on my smallest two fish. This makes catching the smallest bass in the livewell quicker. Now, if they are all four pounders they are pretty easy to catch and you don’t actually need tags. However, if you’re dealing with a limit of 14 inch spotted bass it might be advantageous to use cull tags on all of them or you can have one heck of a rodeo going on in your livewell when it comes time to cull one.
I asked David if there is anything I could do for him since he has helped us out a couple times now with these interviews and sharing his experiences and knowledge. Shoot he’s coming to my home water to fish the Classic, the least I could do was buy him dinner! He simply asked that I mention that he would truly love to have everyone’s vote in the “All Stars”. If, you appreciate David Walker as much as I do, please swing by the Bassmaster website and vote for Mr. Walker and let’s put him back on the water to give KVD a run for his money just one more time this season!
I would like to thank David for taking time out of his evening to speak with us. Good Luck at the Classic, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you there!
Get the Net it’s a Hawg