walters

Patrick Walters of Summerville will compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2019. Photo provided/James Overstreet/Bassmaster

This fish tale has a happy ending and also marks a new challenge for a young angler from Summerville.

Patrick Walters, 24, has been dreaming since his high school days of making it to the pinnacle of professional bass fishing — the Bassmaster Elite Series.

That dream became reality recently when Walters learned he will be one of only 75 anglers competing on the 2019 Elite Series, the invitation-only level in the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.

Walters, who competed last year on the Bassmaster Open level where he won the Central Open No. 3 tournament fished on Louisiana's Red River, felt he had a good chance of advancing to the Elite Series.

"One of my buddies who fished the Opens with me called and said 'check your email.' Then he hung up," Walters said. "It was the middle of the week. I was checking my phone and updating and updating and nothing was in there.

"Ten minutes go by and I call back. There was nothing in my email. He said he got the invite. He told me to wait a little bit. I was hitting refresh every five seconds and it finally came in. The next five days I kept checking my email to make sure it was in my inbox and I wasn't dreaming."

Walters will be competing next year against the likes of four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn, David Fritts and Jay Yelas. Also competing in the Elite Series is are pros from Australia, Japan and Canada.

There are eight regular Elite Series events that will pay $100,000 to the winner with every angler earning at least $2,500. There also are three $1 million, no-entry fee events that he hopes to qualify for. The entry fee for the eight Elite Series events totals $43,000, but with the guaranteed payouts the total out-of-pocket expense is only $19,500 next year.

"I've been making phone calls and sending emails out trying to finalize sponsorships and I've been trying to get a new boat built. I thought there would be more of an off-season but there are more phone calls and emails than I expected," said Walters, who will continue fishing from a Yamaha-powered Falcon bass boat.

Walters was dreaming of a professional bass fishing career as a college student at South Carolina, where he majored in business management and marketing while participating on the school's bass fishing team. During his sophomore season he and Gettys Brannon of Columbia won the FLW College Fishing National Championship. Walters' website is patrickwaltersfishing.com and you can follow him on Facebook at Patrick Walters Fishing or on Instagram @pmwalters.

"You have to sell yourself a good bit, because especially in the fishing industry there are a lot of people in it so the money is so spread around," Walters said. "You have to find the non-endemic sponsors that are companies not in fishing and sell BASS itself and the fishing organization, how much air time you will receive and how many miles you travel.

"A wrapped boat is a traveling billboard. I drove over 15,000 miles from home and back on the interstates last year. That's just what I calculated if I left my house and went to a tournament and came home. But I drove a lot more than that. Multiple times I would go to a body of water two or three times."

Walters estimated that he will drive in excess of 25,000 miles this coming year traveling to and from tournaments.

In addition to the eight Elite Series tournaments that is scheduled Feb. 7-10 on the St. John's River out of Palatka, Fla., Walters also plans to continue fishing the Bassmaster Open Series which starts in January on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida.

"I'm not going to look at this any different than if I was fishing a local club tournament, a Carolina Bass Challenge or Fishers of Men tournament," Walters said. "It's still fishing, just on a much different level. I'm not competing against anybody else except those fish. It's every day go out and catch my five fish."