Walters scores wire-to-wire victory in Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Murray

PROSPERITY, S.C. — Despite the gloomy weather, Monday brought bright prospects for Patrick Walters, who leveraged the opportunity to inflict a straight-up South Carolina smackdown en route to notching a wire-to-wire victory in the Minn Kota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray.

“What an amazing week; I don’t even know where to start,” said Walters, who notched his fifth major victory with B.A.S.S. “Today, I would have been happy with 17 pounds. Every single spot we went to today, we caught ’em.”

Following Thursday’s storms, which postponed the event’s scheduled start to Friday, a mostly cloudy Day 1 saw Walters catch 25 pounds, 8 ounces and establish a lead of 3-3. Adding a second-round limit of 19-13 kept Walters on top and expanded his margin to 4-15. With 21-14 on Day 3, Walters carried a margin of 8-4 into the final round.

Saving the best for last, he rocked Championship Monday with 26-12 — the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the Tournament worth a $2,000 bonus — and tallied an incredible four-day total of 93-15. Besting Missouri pro Cody Huff by 12-11, Walters won his third blue trophy and the $102,000 top prize. He also has two career wins in the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by SEVIIN.

“I did not think I was going to catch 25 or 26 pounds this week,” Walters said. “To do that on the final day — that’s how you do it. That’s how you get it done.”

Notably, Walters, who also won Elite titles at Lake Fork (2020) and the St. Lawrence River (2023) set the Bassmaster Elite record for the largest winning margin of 29-10 during his Lake Fork win. This was the third Elite event in a row won by a double-digit margin and the sixth in Elite Series history.

Walters, who weighed the biggest bag on Days 1, 3 and 4, said the final round’s complexion — overcast, sporadic light rain — kept the bite rolling all day. The first day saw similar conditions, while days 2 and 3 were clear and bright.

Like many of his competitors, Walters focused on bass that were targeting blueback herring near the surface. This time of year, herring spawn in the early morning hours and disperse once the rising sun intensifies. Dimmer skies prolong the surface bite.

“The clouds definitely helped,” Walters said. “I thought they absolutely chewed today. I probably caught four 20-pound bags today. I caught a bunch of 3-pounders.

“You kinda felt like you’re doing something wrong because you’re catching so many fish. It was one of those days.”

All week, Walters targeted the surface feeders with a Zoom Super Fluke on a 1/0 VMC Neko hook, a Rapala Precision XTreme Jowler 127 and a Clutch Darter glidebait. After the topside action subsided, he’d go deep with a Zoom Brush Hog Carolina-rigged on a 4/0 VMC EWG hook.

“I would throw the Carolina rig when the fish weren’t schooling, when they were just not active at all,” Walters said. “You could see them moving around, that’s when I would slow down and drag the ball and chain. That was when I was waiting on them to school.

“The Carolina rig didn’t produce any today, but it produced a big one the first three days,” Walters said. “Day 2, I caught my biggest one on it and Day 3, I caught one of my bigger ones on it.”

Walters opened Monday on a point not far from takeoff. After sacking up 20 pounds by about 8:30 a.m., he relocated to another point near the Dreher Shoals Dam, where he added several big culls.

“I was like, ‘I’ve got the tournament won, unless something crazy happens and someone catches 29 pounds,’” Walters said. “I was like, ‘I have 20 pounds, let’s go have fun and close the door.’

“I went down there and closed the door. I caught a 6-7 and two 5s. It was unbelievable.”

Hailing from Ava, Mo., Huff also turned in his best effort in the final round. That limit of 25-3, added to this previous weights of 22-1, 13-13 and 20-3 totaled 81-4.

“It went from the lowest lows to the highest highs,” Huff said of his day’s unfolding. “First thing this morning, I had them blowing my baits out of the water and missing them. But boy, did my day turn around.”

Huff anchored his big final-round effort with a 7-6. He caught his fish on wakebaits, a flat-side crankbait and a jighead minnow rig.

Rookie JT Thompkins of Myrtle Beach, S.C., finished third with 77-13. His daily weights were 21-1, 19-5, 18-9 and 18-14.

Thompkins also targeted the herring eaters and caught his fish on topwaters, Yamamoto D-Shads and Yamamoto Senkos rigged with tail spinners. Essential to his success was that ability to make long, precise casts to breaking fish.

“With herring fish, you have a lot of schoolers and a lot of pressure and you need a good quality rod and reel to make a long cast,” Thompkins said. “I was using a 7-7 FX Extreme Custom Rods medium-heavy with a SEVIIN reel. That rod has a good parabolic bend and I was able to easily hook up with a high percentage of these fish.”

Huff won the $1,000 award for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day with a 7-6. That fish also earned Huff the $2,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the tournament award.

Huff took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, while sixth-place finisher Trey McKinney of Carbondale, Ill., earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Walters earned an additional $4,000 while McKinney claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

McKinney leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 478 points. Jordan Lee of Cullman, Ala., is in second with 448, followed by Chris Johnston of Otonabee, Canada, with 423, Cory Johnston of Cavan, Canada, with 415, and Huff with 413.

McKinney also leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings, followed by Thompkins with 378 points, Kyle Patrick of Cooperstown, N.Y., with 365, Alabama pro Wesley Gore with 363 and Tennessee pro John Garrett with 360.

The event was hosted by Capital City Lake Murray Country.

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