While Patrick Walters will be taking the second half of his first pro season one day at time, five key pieces of tackle helped him take and hold leads in both the Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year and Angler of the Year races – VMC® hooks, VMC® tungsten weights, a Rapala® X-Rap® Prop bait, a Terminator® Popping Frog and a Rapala® DT®-6 crankbait.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” says Walters, 24, a Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie and second-year Rapala pro. “I’m not looking three days ahead, I’m not looking two tournaments ahead, I’m focused on today – what can I do today to catch ‘em? Just one day at a time. “We’re just riding some momentum, just goin’ fishin’.”
In the first five Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments of the season, Walters has finished in the top 10 twice – 7th in April on Winyah Bay in his native South Carolina, and 4th in February on the St. Johns River in his first-ever Elite tournament. His other finishes so far in the 75-angler Elite field were 11th place on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, 22nd on Georgia’s Lake Lanier and 29th on Lake Fork in Texas.
While several different VMC hooks have ensured that Walters landed the fish he’s caught so far this season, a Weedless Neko™ Hook has been his go-to hook. “Every tournament I’ve caught one or more with the Neko Hook,” he says.
VMC® Weedless Neko™ Hook
A Neko Hook was most key for Walters at Winyah Bay and Hartwell. In both tournaments, he wacky-rigged one with a 6-inch soft-plastic stick worm. Walter’s spools up with Sufix® 832 Advanced Superline® with a Sufix Fluorocarbon leader and has found that to be the absolute best combination for all neko/wacky rigging. On Hartwell, additional fish came on a 3/0 VMC Worm Hook dressed with a soft-plastic centipede. At Winyah Bay, additional fish came on a Terminator Popping Frog and on a Texas Rig comprising a 4/0 VMC HD Worm Hook dressed with a soft-plastic stick worm and pinned to the bottom with a VMC Tungsten Worm Weight.
Terminator® Popping Fro
A Rapala X-Rap Prop tied on to the new Sufix® Advance® Monofilament created a dominating performance. As well as two pairings of VMC hooks and tungsten weights accounted for Walters’ 91-pound, 14-oz total weight on the St. Johns River. He caught several fish on a 4/0 VMC Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook rigged with a 5-inch finesse worm and weighted with a 3/8th oz. VMC Tungsten Worm Weight. Additional key bass came on a 5/0 VMC Wide Gap Hook dressed with 7-inch worm and weighted with a 3/16th oz. VMC Tungsten Worm Weight. The tough kept secret of a new Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon launching this summer is exclusively on Walter’s reels when he is flipping, pitching, or cranking.
Rapala® X-Rap® Prop
VMC® Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook
VMC® Wide Gap Hook
On Lake Lanier, Walters gave his wacky rigs a rest, catching all his fish on Rapala DT-6 crankbaits in the Demon and Red Crawdad color patterns. On Lake Fork, a shallow-running Rapala Shadow Rap® jerkbait yielded some key fish.
Rapala® Shadow Rap®
In the second half of the season, the Elite Series will hold tournaments on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, New York’s St. Lawrence River and Cayuga Lake, Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson Lake and Michigan’s Lake St. Clair.
“I’m looking forward to the second half of the season,” Walters says. “It’s getting more to the off-shore time, where you’ve got to fish a little bit deeper, which I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to heading up north and getting to the different fisheries.”
In New York and Michigan, Walters says, VMC Neko Hooks and tungsten drop shot weights are “going to come into play, big time.
Neko Weight Wacky Rigging Tips
More often than not, Walters will fish a wacky rig weightless, but sometimes he will embed a nail-style VMC Neko Weight in one end. He notes that depth is not the main factor that determines whether he will weight a wacky rig or not.
“It often depends more on how aggressive the fish are, not the depth,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll a use a Neko Weight in two foot of water, because I can fish it so much faster – because it gets to the bottom faster, and your hook-ups are there. But on Hartwell, I was throwing it with no weight in 20 feet of water, because the bass were suspending under docks. With a weight in, it would fall too fast, to where it was under the fish.”
When bass are biting aggressively near bottom structure and/or cover, Walters will use a heavier Neko Weight in a wacky rig. Because a heavier weight puts the rig into the strike zone faster, he can fish it faster and cover more water.
“I don’t work it much,” he says. “I don’t let it go all the way to the bottom. I mean, ain’t nobody got time for that! I’ll throw it out there and let it sink for 5 or 6 seconds, shake it a couple of times, and then I’m reeling it in back in and making another cast. It’s very target-orientated.”