A one-two punch of Rapala® and VMC® tackle helped Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Patrick Walters launch his pro career in impressive fashion last week in Florida. Included in his fourth-place total weight of 91 pounds, 14 ounces, was a one-day limit of five bass weighing a whopping 32 pounds, 15 ounces.
"It was a magical day," Walters said on the Bassmaster weigh-in stage after the third of four competition days on the St. Johns River. "The Lord blessed me today and it could not have been a better day."
Walters, 24, a former University of South Carolina college fishing champion and Bassmaster Opens stand-out, is the newest member of Rapala's Pro Team. The splash he made last week in his first-ever Bassmaster Elite Series tournament did not surprise Rapala Field Promotions Manager Dan Quinn.
"I'm very thorough when selecting anglers I'd like to represent the Rapala brands, many factors are considered and honestly it's often a roll of the dice to see how things develop" Quinn said. " However, signing Patrick was more like betting on the house, he's got it all - incredibly talented on the water, a top notch human being and much wiser and knowledgeable than his age. After a season of working with Patrick, he didn't give me an option, it was a no brainer to bring him on our national team. He understands how this whole thing works, on and off the water and I couldn't be more proud to see him display the Rapala®, VMC® and Sufix® logos front and center."
In his impressive pro debut, Walters found active fish with a Rapala X-Rap® Prop topwater bait and then brought them into his boat on VMC hooks dressed with soft-plastic worms and stick baits weighted with VMC tungsten. "I caught 'em flippin'," he said onstage after weighing his 32-pound, 15-ounce mega-bag. "I'm not [sight fishing], I'm blind-flippin.'"
Targeting mostly reed-heads, isolated reeds and other emergent vegetation, Walters' first productive flippin' set-up comprised a 3/8 oz. VMC tungsten weight, a 4/0 Heavy Duty Flippin Hook and a soft-plastic worm. As conditions changed, he continued to catch fish by switching to a set-up that comprised a 3/16 oz. VMC tungsten weight, a 4/0 VMC Heavy Duty Wide Gap and a soft-plastic stick bait or worm. All the fish he weighed came into his boat on prototype 20-pound Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon line.
Although sight-fishing wasn't his main program, Walters did on Day 2 catch some fish off spawning beds - including a 6-pounder - by triggering reaction bites with a VMC Tokyo Rig, a new product in which he is quickly gaining increasing confidence.
"I'm tellin' ya, that thing is blowin' me away," Walters said in a pre-tournament interview. "I'm very surprised by what all you can do with it. It's very, very versatile."
Imagine a drop-shot rig on steroids - with a big hook and indestructible metal leader - and you've got the picture of a Tokyo Rig. It features a VMC Heavy Duty Wide Gap Hook, barrel-swivel, welded O-ring and a rigid wire dropper arm to which anglers can attach a weight or two of their choice.
"One of the biggest players this season is going to be that Tokyo Rig," Walters said. "That thing is the real deal. It was designed for punching, but I think that's going to be only 20 percent of what it's used for. It's got a million uses."
On the St. Johns River, Walters dressed his Tokyo Rig's dropper arm with two 1/8 oz. VMC Tungsten Worm weights situated back to back, with a glass bead separating them. He dressed his hook with a soft-plastic stick bait and dragged it onto spawning beds, making a commotion by shaking the rig to make his weights clack against the bead.
A Terminator® Walking Frog accounted for some of Walters' fish as well.
"Every day the bite changed," Walters said onstage after weighing in a limit of 21 pounds, 9 ounces on Championship Sunday.
'A dream come true' to represent Rapala, VMC and Sufix
In addition to Rapala, Walters represents VMC terminal tackle and Sufix line as well. Each is a Rapala Respected Brand.
"It's really a dream come true to be chosen for Team Rapala," Walters said. "Growing up, as a kid, I was always throwing Rapala jerkbaits and DT-4s. I mean, when you think of hardbaits, you think of Rapala. And to have that opportunity to grow with Rapala and be part of that family, it means the world to me."
Tackle in the Rapala family of brands that Walters will rely on to catch fish this season - in both Elite Series and Bassmaster Eastern Open tournaments - include DT-series crankbaits, Storm Wiggle Warts, VMC Tokyo Rigs and VMC Neko Hooks.
Today, Walters is on the water on Georgia's Lake Lanier, finding fish in the second day of the official practice period for the second Bassmaster Elite Series event of the year. The tournament will be contested Feb. 14-17. In a pre-season interview, Walters said "Lanier is the big one I'm looking forward to," and predicted that Rapala DT-6s, DT-10s and Wiggle Warts will be key baits.
"Coldwater cranking, even if you're sponsored by somebody else, you're throwing a DT-6 and a Wiggle Wart," Walters said. "It's just what you throw. They are, by far, hands down, the best cold-water crankbaits. Warm water as well."