How did Patrick Walters catch a record-setting 105 lbs of smallmouths at a place he didn’t do so well at til last year? He said, “I feel like got lucky the first day and it just worked out.” Sorta! Here’s the deets.
Going in and practice
> “We had a short practice, only 2 days [because this one was right after Champlain]. I mainly just ran around a bunch of water looking at areas I wanted to fish, just to kinda put a finger on ’em.
> “Ontario is so big – I wanted to fish the lake, that was my goal. You’d hit a spot, then you’d run 5 miles – I think went 138 miles the first day of practice just looking around. I found 1 spot in that section that I ended up catching lot of fish on.
> “When you looked at the weather, we had bad wind on the 1st day of the tournament. Big-water tournaments like that, multi-day tournaments, it’s like a game of chess…you gotta plan for all 4 days.
> “…fishing stuff in the lake, closer to the mouth of the river. I thought that was the stuff you could get to easily in that wind, and I didn’t really like it. So I went and fished the river a little bit the next day of practice and caught a 5-lber and thought, Okay there’s good ones in the river – I’ll just fish here day 1 and try to catch 20 lbs.
> “…20 lbs will put me in contention, and I’ll go to the lake day 2 and catch 24 and try to move up…day 3 try to catch a bigger bag….”
> “The 1st day I just made the right decisions at the right time. At 10:00 I had 17 lbs and was struggling. I was like, I’m just gonna keep moving…. I pulled up on 1 shoal…fished there for an hour, the wind was getting really bad. I just panned behind the boat and there was 1 old blob chasing me. I just dropped down on her and caught her, a 6-01. That was all the momentum I needed.
> “I ran back in the river, check another hole and caught another good fish. …2 shoals I hadn’t fished in 2 years. I pulled up one 1 and caught 4 12-inchers…1 more drop and I catch a 5-01. I had 30 minutes to go and something told me to run to the next spot. I caught a 3-lber, it doesn’t help, drop back down there and catch one right at 5 lbs. I had 24 lbs that 1st day and was tickled pink….
> “The weights were way better than I expected. So day 2 it was better weather…run to the lake. I pulled up on it and it was pretty lights out. I had 27 lbs by 10:30…spot was a lot better than I expected it to be.
> “I went practicing the rest of the day…just breathe a little bit, practice was so short.
> “Day 3 started a little bit slower but it was still pretty dang good. I had 28 and was done by 11:00. I pre-fished some more areas and found some good stuff. Every time I’d go somewhere, I’d pan over them and there’s be 5-6 of them but 1 giant. And every time I threw in there he bit. It was just one of those days.
> “Day 4 we had little bit of a northeast wind, and an east wind they do not like at that place whatsoever. It shut them down, moved the fish around, the bite was tough. I lost 2 big ones that day.
> “[The first 3 days] you’d throw in there and you’d catch them before it got to the bottom. And [day 4] you’d be sitting there deadsticking it, working the bait and then they would eat it, and some of them would even spit it back out.
> “I just kept moving around, and I had right at 22 lbs at 1:00. I had 2 3-lbers in the livewell.
> “I pulled up on [his running bud Justin] Hamner at Amherst [Island], and I was like, ‘You got ’em?’ And he was like, ‘I’ve got 25.’ I was like, Dang it that means they probably bit today. At 10:00 I had 2 camera boats on me and 8 spectators, and every single one of them left. I’m like, Oh God, somebody’s catching them.
> “It’s already 1:10 now…going back to some of my old stuff, toward Canada, on the way back. I was running to a point but was thinking to myself, Not that point, it’s not going to happen – so I went to another one I hadn’t checked in a year. I was running my boat full speed, the first time I’d done that all week.
> “I get there and have 45 minutes to go. I set the boat down and catch a 3-lber that doesn’t cull. I troll down the point a little further, and down there I see 2. I catch one and it’s a 4-10…over a 1-lb cull. That was big.
> “As soon as I caught that one, I look over and [Kyoya] Fujita set the boat down like 300 yards from me on the point. And then here’s Chris Johnston…and then Cory Johnston…it was just crazy.
> “…I catch another big 4-lber – I culled out both 3-lbers…with like 25 minutes to go. Then Chris hooks one was that was a [5+]. I thought, He’s got 27 lbs. I knew I was l right at 23.5 or so – I didn’t think I had it won.
> “I left there to get back to weigh-in. I stopped early…pulled up close to the boat landing, trying to catch one. Chris rides in early…I was like, Oh my gosh he’s got ’em. …my camera guy looks at me and was like, ‘It’s gonna be close.'”
Day 1 he spent the whole day right at the river mouth:
> “…mainly like 25′ and less…mainly just large points and shoals that had groups of fish. I had 1-2 main spots, but 15-20 spots [overall]. If you’d find an active group of smallmouths [you would] catch ’em. If you weren’t catching them, either they weren’t there or they just weren’t going to ever bite.
> “…lake spots were all points and shoals as well…obvious stuff…some had a little bit grass, some didn’t.
> “Schools of bait I think it did play in the river. The 1st day I caught ’em on schools of bait. In the lake it didn’t matter because they were eating gobies.”
> “I was throwing a dropshot with a variety of different baits. No bait in particular was better than another really.” [B.A.S.S. said he fished a Megabass Hazedong Shad and a Berkley MaxScent Flatnose Minnow.]
> “Color did matter a little bit. When it was sunny I fished more black and green pumpkin, and when it was cloudy more natural shad and white colors.”
> Dropshot gear – #2 VMC RedLine Finesse Neko Hook, 3/8-oz VMC Tungsten Teardrop Dropshot Weight, 6-lb Sufix 832 Braid to 8-lb Sufix Advance Fluoro, Daiwa Tatula MQ Spin Reel (4000), 7′ MLF Daiwa Tatula Cody Meyer Dropshot Rod.
> “Having a smooth drag on your reel is critical. …set the hook on big fish, their mouths are so tough up there…then back the drag down and let the fish play…for 2-4 minutes sometimes….
> “All the fish in practice I caught on a Ned rig. For some reason they were chewing a Ned rig and wouldn’t touch a dropshot. In the tournament they wouldn’t touch a Ned rig. It was like it was falling too slow. Even when it’d go to the bottom they wouldn’t eat it.”
All his weigh fish but 1 were caught seeing ’em on Garmin LiveScope:
> “The Scope is the deal for smallmouth, everybody knows that. I’d pan to them, see groups and try to pick out the biggest one in the group.
> “360 paired with it made it that much better. I was using Humminbird 360…when I’d get to rock transitions, looking for grass and boulders….”
Couple things he’s learned
> “I caught one the 4th day not seeing it – blind-casting. I’ve learned that…if fishing get tough, you still have to cast around.
> “2 years ago [day 1]…I had a great practice and thought I would catch 20 lbs easy. I threw back my first 3 2-lbers and at 11:00 I was sitting on zero. It was straight panic mode. I ended up weighing 3 fish that day for 11-13 lbs…and missed the cut by 2-3 lbs. So since then, I’m not doing that. I’m gonna box them just in case.”
> “RedFin sunglasses are the real deal… Zeiss lenses.” [He likes the Amelia and Outer Banks models with amber green lenses.]
> “Falcon bass boats and Yamaha outboards. When you fish 2 [back to back] tournaments on big lakes – I fished 14 days because I made both cuts – it wears you out. Being able to have a smooth-riding boat [and] confidence in your equipment…makes the difference.”