I caught up with Elite bass angler David Walker on his drive from the recent Chesapeake Bay Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. We discussed many things. However, our conversation centered on David Walker’s 2015 Elite Season thus far and his game plan for the next few tournaments.
B.A.S.S. changed things up this season, and there were several tidal bodies of water on this year’s schedule. When anglers fish freshwater lakes mostly, systems with rising and lowering tides can put a kink in even the best angler’s plans. The first Bassmaster event of the season on the Sabine River in Orange, Texas wasn’t the best start for David. I asked him what he would do over or what he would change. David explained, “That tournament was all about location, where you chose to fish, not so much about presentation.” Walker described a small creek he found, which turned out to be the winning location. “I left the Sabine with zero AOY (Angler of the Year) points and a total weight of 1.11 pounds sitting in 107th place.” David continued, “I think I should have gone back there [referring to the creek], I really do”. At the other end of the spectrum, Kentucky Lake was totally about presentation, according to Walker. “I fished way too fast, I would make a few casts, and when I didn’t get a bite, I moved on. I should have slowed down, and I feel the results would have been much different. I left Kentucky Lake sitting in 95th with 20.15 pounds, but I did get AOY points out of that event.”
David Walker reflected, “This season was a very unusual season for me, the only consistent thing about this season – it was consistently inconsistent.” Through his career, David Walker has had some good years and some bad years. However, he said speaking of this season, “It has been hard, because finding middle ground was few and far between. There were some really bombed out days, some really good days, and then there were the one fish days; those hurt”. David laminated, “My way of fishing has not changed, my focus is still the same, and my eye is on the prize.” [Referring to – qualifying for the Classic, Angler of The Year points, and cashing checks]. When talking with David you get the feeling the only consistency in his season has been his personal drive, his family, fans, and sponsors.
David Walker proved his mental strength was very strong last week during the Chesapeake Bay Tournament, day one he only had one fish. However, on day two Walker was the comeback kid, bringing enough to the scales to make the top 50 cut and ensuring his spot to fish the next day. David finished the event in 25th place with 30.8 pounds, which moved him up in AOY points to 20th place. Many anglers can lose an event before they even back the boat into the water; mental strength is a large part of tournament fishing. It isn’t just about catching fish; you have to be mentally prepared and always keep yourself at the top of your game. David Walker tells me, “You [have] got to be tough to fish the Elites. This life isn’t for everyone. A lot of the time you feel like you are sticking your fingers into a meat grinder. Sometimes you have to tell yourself, day one was bad, but today is a new day. It’s not easy [speaking about a bad day]. However, I calm down and get right back out there, and most of the time I catch bass. It is much like bull riding. You get thrown off the bull, but you get right back up, ride again, and pour your heart and soul into the next ride.”
Tidal fishing has been more prevalent this year with four tidal bodies of water on the Elite tour: the Sabine River, the California Delta, the St. Lawrence River, and the Chesapeake Bay. Rumor has it there are a number of tidal bodies of water on the docket for next season as well. David expressed, “Tidal water doesn’t help me, I don’t know tides”. I think it is safe to say the tidal waters the anglers fished this season have proved to be a real challenge to most. It has also proved rewarding to a select few; Justin Lucas won the California Delta, and Aaron Martens won the Chesapeake Bay.
David Walker’s 2015 Elite Season Sponsors
Switching gears, David and I discussed sponsors in the sport of bass fishing. The one misconception about Elite bass anglers is they get paid to just fish; there is much more involved. If you want to have longevity in this sport, you must build relationships with your sponsors and be willing to show loyalty to those brands providing sponsorship. David and I talked about his sponsor relationships. “Since day one Ranger, Evinrude, Lowrance and G. Loomis have supported me.” David went on to say, “The only thing that is mine [in the equation] is the ability to catch fish. My sponsors are a huge part; it is a balance that works like a well-oiled machine”. In an industry with a lot of turnarounds, David pours himself into his fishing and his sponsor relationships. It’s not just the product and financial support sponsors offer. David expressed, “Sponsors and the people who work there send texts and let me know they are behind me, and wish me luck on tournament days. This means the world to me”. David wanted to make sure there was a big ‘thank you’ to everyone involved in making David Walker the angler he is today. David’s other sponsors include; Cabelas, Geicko, Sunline, Live Target, Power Pole, Zman Lures, Rigid Industries, Oakley, Reins, Lucas Marine Products and True Tungsten.
David’s support system is made up of his friends, fans, sponsors, and three beautiful ladies back home in Tennessee; Misty, Olivia, and Lilly (his wife and daughters). David’s wife and daughters are very proud of him. Misty Walker describes tournament life . Misty keeps an eye on BassTrakk on tournament days. When Misty picks up the girls from school, they immediately want to know how dad is doing. David said, “Misty and the girls give the ultimate sacrifice, but they get it. They get what I do and that I do it for them, as well as the love of the sport. I couldn’t do what I do without my girls and sponsors.”
David was on his way home for the night when we spoke and was leaving early the next morning for Venice, Louisiana to go redfish fishing with some of the Cabela’s family. I asked David how is redfish fishing different from bass fishing? David replied, “Redfish fishing is just for fun, and there is no pressure or stress. I absolutely love going Redfish fishing and am really looking forward to the break.”
After fishing in Louisiana, David will head to Cincinnati, Ohio for the grand opening of the new Cabela’s store. Then, it’s off to Michigan’s Lake St. Clair to fish the final Elite Series tournament of the season. David grew up in Detroit, so Lake St. Clair is familiar ground for him. He has fished Lake St. Clair since he was a kid, not nearly as often over the last fifteen to twenty years, but at least once a year.
David has history on Lake St. Clair saying, “I love the lake, it is a great smallmouth lake.” He has his game plan and will be able to go in and fish his best with less pressure since he is currently sitting 20th in AOY points for the year. Going to Lake St. Clair may prove to be good for David Walker; it could be like a trip back home with all the comforts of familiar surroundings.
David is also starting to focus on this year’s classic being held on Grand Lake, Oklahoma. Up to this point, it has been about making the points and qualifying for the classic. David explains, “Now it is time to think about fishing to win the classic.” According to David, “Grand Lake is a wonderful fishery, and I really like the layout of the lake. The only other time I fished it was the Bassmaster Classic in 2013.” In that event, David finished 38th with 19.9 pounds. I would like to personally wish David Walker great luck fishing his next events, and I can’t wait to see how he does on Grand Lake in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic.