This has been a memorable fishing season for 24-year-old Patrick Walters of Summerville as he continues to make strides toward his goal of qualifying for a spot on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail.
In the final 2018 Bassmaster Open Eastern Division tournament last week on Tennessee's Douglas Lake, Walters finished three pounds behind defending champion Ott DeFoe and earned a second-place check of $15,113. In June he won the Central Open No. 3 tournament fished on Louisiana's Red River, taking home a bass boat and cash valued at $50,110.
And next month he is one of 28 pro anglers who will compete in the Bassmaster Open Championship on Table Rock Lake in Missouri with the top five finishers from the Eastern and Central divisions graduating to the Elite Series. There's also an opportunity to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.
But making this year even more special is that Patrick's father, Todd Walters, has been there every step of the journey and also will be competing in the Bassmaster Open Championship, having qualified as a co-angler. The dream come true would be for them to be paired together in the tournament.
"He is having fun but I don't know if he can have as much fun as me. Every day is a great day in paradise when you're fishing. We enjoy spending time together. We get to do it together," Patrick said.
Patrick triple-qualified for the Bassmaster Open Championship, finishing ninth in the Central Division points, 11th in the Eastern Division points and by winning the Central Division event on the Red River. Todd qualified by finishing seventh in the co-angler standings in the Central Division. His best finish was seventh on the Red River where Patrick won.
"It's been a whirlwind. It seems like we've been in a different state every month," Todd said, adding that the best part of this year has been spending quality time with his son. Todd said he always wanted to be able to share outdoor experiences with his father but was unable to do so because his father died at an early age.
"I made up my mind that whatever Patrick wanted to do, that's what I was going to be a part of." Todd said. "If we were going to do something, we were going to do it the right way. We weren't going to cut corners. It doesn't matter if we are hunting, we're fishing or on vacation, we just enjoy being around each other."
A saltwater angler, Todd made the switch to bass fishing after Patrick competed with a friend in a bass tournament and decided that's what he wanted to do. They sold their saltwater boat and bought a bass boat that Patrick hauled with him to school at Holly Hill Academy so he could head to the Santee Cooper lakes when the final bell rang.
Patrick first earned celebrity status as a University of South Carolina sophomore when he and teammate Gettys Brannon of Columbia won the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship. At USC, Patrick majored in business management and marketing with an eye on becoming a professional bass fisherman. His website is patrickwaltersfishing.com and you can follow him on Facebook at Patrick Walters Fishing or on Instagram @pmwalters.
"I don't want to steal Patrick's thunder. It's not about me. I was doing it to tag along and be able to practice with him," said Todd, who several years ago qualified for the FLW Championship that was held on Table Rock Lake.
Patrick said he left Douglas Lake last week with mixed feelings after leading going into the final day and finishing second.
"I had a great tournament, had a blast. I went there to have fun and win some money." he said. "It was a great tournament, all in all. It's hard to be upset about it, but when you only need 9 pounds (to win), man ...You work so hard to get there and it's just closing the deal."
Patrick said he is tough on himself and over the past year would give himself a grade of about 75 on a 100-point scale.
"It was a good year. I had a great couple of tournaments, but I didn't have a flawless season. I still made a bunch of mistakes. Things went well, but they could have gone a whole lot better. I never really had a tournament where everything went perfect," he said.
"Red River (where he won) was a good tournament. I caught a lot of fish. But I lost a couple of fish. There were opportunities to be made in every tournament. I missed some opportunities. I made some bad calls. There was room for a lot of improvement, in my opinion."
The things he has learned this season are "patience, confidence and to have fun and enjoy yourself."
"Things are going to happen. You can't be in a rush and pass the opportunities. You have to be patient, make the right calls and have fun. It's fishing, and it's going to be my livelihood and my job. It's about making money and paying the bills, but you have to enjoy it."