Dude, where’s my truck?

Many months ago the fine folks at Dick Cepek Tires and Wheels asked me if I would be interested in putting my wrapped truck in the SEMA Show in Las Vegas this November. SEMA stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association and the SEMA Show is where thousands upon thousands of products for vehicles are displayed.

The idea of having my Bassmaster Elite Series tow vehicle in such a huge trade show sounded awesome, but the idea of driving my truck from Tennessee out to Las Vegas made me hesitate just a bit. Before I could express my reservations about the rather lengthy drive, they offered to ship my truck out to Vegas.

Do what? Ship my truck to Vegas?

They explained that a truck would come pick up my truck and haul it out to Vegas, I could fly out there for the show, fly back and they would return my truck.

Needless to say, I was floored. I had never been to SEMA, but I was aware of the magnitude of the show – and to have my truck shipped out there – absolutely!

So about a week before SEMA, a big 18-wheel car hauler shows up at my house to pick up my truck. The problem, however, was my truck was oversized and wouldn’t fit on the standard hauler. After that, I figured I better get in my truck and just start driving it to Vegas myself. Then the phone rang and I got the news that another truck was on its way to pick up my truck. Sure enough, the next day, another hauler better suited to hold my truck pulled up to the house. They put my truck on the trailer and it headed west.

Courtesy of David Walker

Several days later, I boarded a plane, flew into Las Vegas, walked into the massive SEMA Show and actually got completely lost. I have been to big trade shows like ICAST before, but nothing prepares you for the monstrousness of the SEMA Show – it is one of the biggest shows that comes to Vegas every year, second only to the International Consumer Electronics Show.

Essentially, SEMA is more than 1 million square feet of motorized vehicle madness. I walked the show for three full days and never even saw half of it. There are literally thousands upon thousands of booths.

And it’s not just roped off Lamborghinis and Ferraris – although there are plenty of those. If it can go on a car, truck or motorcycle, you will find it at SEMA.

The aftermarket and accessory side of the car and truck business is just mindboggling. There are manufacturers there for every single piece that goes on a vehicle and beyond – engine parts, upholstery, carpet, seats, the springs that go in the seats, the machines that make the springs that go in seats – I mean you can’t even imagine it all. Paint and body restoration products, fluids, additives, waxes, polishes, lifts, jacks, garages, flooring for garages – where does it end?

And the customized items that go on vehicles … my gosh. Honestly, some of it is not even practical. So much of it is really art – handcrafted running boards and roll bars with designs and patterns that are so intricate it must have taken hours to make just one. And if you want to know how they made, say, custom exhaust pipes, well I’m sure the company that makes the tool that makes customizing pipes possible was in there somewhere, too. It never ends. I’m pretty sure you could have found diamond encrusted valve stems in that place if you looked hard enough.

Courtesy of David Walker

Oh, and what about my truck? Dude, where’s my truck? Well, after some searching I found the Dick Cepek Tires and Wheels booth and there it was, pretty as ever. Not only had it been delivered, but the guys at Dick Cepek spiffed her up with some new wheels, tires and a detailing – my truck never looked so good.

A few days after returning home from the SEMA Show, my head was still rumbling with images of everything automotive. And as for my truck? Well, if you happen to see a Cabela’s/Geico Truck with brand new wheels and tires strapped to a hauler that is eastbound, let me know.

Misty Walker Describes Tournament Life

mistywalkerandgirlslgMisty Walker, wife of East Tennessee angler David Walker. Misty is this beautiful woman who smiles all the time and is very kind. I can see why David would pick her as his wife. David is equally as nice and smiles a lot as well; these two are a great pair and together have a wonderful family. It makes my heart smile to see such a close knit family with a dad who travels so much, yet is so close and always there for the girls. David brings Lilly and Olivia into the fishing mix and they help organize his tackle. The girls are well educated on fishing among other things in life.

BS: Misty, what role do you play in David’s fishing career?
MW: “This is a funny question; I think as a wife of a professional fisherman you wear a lot of different name badges. David has been fishing professionally since we married fourteen and a half years ago! So from day one, I had to figure it out so to speak. A week after our honeymoon we had to get to the FLW Championship in Shreveport, La. I’ll never forget the moment he launched his boat and I was left with a trailer on the back of the truck, kind of a “what the…” moment for me! I remember staying at the ramp and when no one was around, I practiced backing the trailer down the ramp. There were moments I could look out the passenger window and see the trailer next to the truck; I was so twisted. When the boat ramp would get full, I would find an empty parking lot to practice in. Things have changed a lot since then. What I would have done to have a back up camera. You know how many times I backed up to hook up the trailer and have to keep getting out to check how close I was!

Misty continued describing the administrative support, “I handle just about everything when it comes to David’s career. From his website, answering emails (he gets so many), putting his schedule together (if you ask David where he will be in 3 weeks, he will have to look at me) I keep his tournaments & appearances dates in order, stay in contact with his sponsors & send updates, place orders for him, take care of all his contract & obligations, make reservations…. I could go on & on but I have to say, David does a lot himself. Especially when it comes to social media, I know a lot of guys hire people to take care of that, but not David. He does it all himself. With that said, if you send David a message on Facebook, don’t look for a fast reply!”

BS: How does it feel being the wife of one of 56 anglers fishing in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic?
MW: “I’m proud of David, he works so hard each year to make the Classic and it never seems to get easier. With that said, if he didn’t make the Classic, I would still be just as proud of him. He puts all he has in to each tournament. We cannot look back and say, “If you would have put in a full practice day at this tournament you would have made it.” He never quits, he never comes in early, and he (David) never does anything half assed, so to speak.”

BS: When you are sitting in the arena and David’s song plays, you see his truck drive in, him sitting in his boat and he starts to step on stage, what goes through your mind?
MW: “I usually know what kind of weight David has before he steps on stage, thanks to things like BASSTrakk & the live blog on the Bassmaster website. It doesn’t matter if he has a huge bag or no bag at all, I’m always proud to see him step on stage. David is such a great speaker. Sometimes I wonder how he can walk up there and speak so well, knowing he is so disappointed in himself. He is not one of those guys who wear their emotions on their sleeve and gets on stage and talk negative, or the ones that just can’t speak well at all, I mean they talk but you’re like “just stop!”.”

BS: How well do you sleep the night before the start of the Classic? How well does David sleep?
MW: “Funny ~ I think Classic week, no one sleeps! I sleep with the help of Advil PM. David sleeps pretty well, only because he’s living on no sleep from the week’s activities and he is just that tired. But honestly, he may get 5 hours of sleep on tournament days. And he always has that one friend that wants to text him “Good Luck” around midnight that leaves us both laying there with our eyes wide open!”

BS: What do you rely on most to calm yourself and to be David’s rock during the Classic?
MW: “Our girls, Lilly (11) and Olivia (7). They keep me calm and keep me laughing. Classic week, I’m always stressed. My sisters, parents, and friends know not to call or text me during Classic week because I won’t answer. Lilly and Olivia know the tournament life and understand it. They know what it means to catch 3 fish vs. 5, 2nd place vs. 1st, making the cut vs. not making the cut, and fishing your spot vs. someone moving in on your spot. I think David and I both rely on our girls to be both of our rocks. They always listen, even when you don’t want them to. The advice they will chime in with either leaves us belly laughing or wondering why we didn’t think of that. Some of the best advice you will ever receive is from kids – they are so honest and don’t tell you what you want to hear, they just tell you like it is!”
David Walker with girls at the table

davidwalkertablelgBS: Tell readers about the David Walker you know.
MW: “You know those people you hear about that are one in a million, that’s David. There is not one thing I would change about him. He is the best husband and father I could have asked for. When David is gone the girls always draw up some plan they want him to build when he gets back. The ideas might be anything from a dollhouse for their American Girl Dolls equipped with four bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, classroom, and doctors office to remodeling their bunny hutches with a yard for each bunny to play in. Lilly is in the process of designing a Volleyball court now, I can only imagine how that will turn out! David is one of those guys you can’t read, when you see him thinking you can never guess what he is thinking about. When he is mad or upset you will never know it. He’s a teacher, he teaches the girls everything – how to drive a boat, all the safety rules when on the water, how to tie knots, bait hooks, take off fish, how to read tides, how to build things, shoot a bow and arrow, how to do a back flip on the trampoline, how to change the string on the weed eater…. Because I always mess it up, and Lilly’s favorite – how to start a fire without a match! When David is home, he is outside and the girls are always right beside him.

David didn’t come up in the fishing world with a “silver spoon” in his mouth so to speak. He was born in Detroit, MI and is a self-taught angler. He’s not the guy that said he wanted to be a professional bass fisherman and his parents bought him a boat and paid his entry fees. He worked in a factory and hated it. He put everything he had on the line to fish. It wasn’t something that he said, “if this doesn’t work out, I can fall back on my job.” It was something he had to do and I think that is why he has been so successful. One comment you hear a lot is “If I was given all that stuff for free, I could be a pro too.” I feel sorry for those people because they have no idea. Everything we have, he has worked so hard for. When David started fishing you didn’t go to sponsors and say I’m a pro fisherman, and they hand you a contract – you fished and won or were always consistent and they noticed and came to you. David is grateful for every one of his sponsors and has a close relationship with all of them. He’s not the guy who would go out there and make an ass out of himself, He would never disrespect his family, sponsors or himself like that.”

BS: In one word describe David Walker?
MW: “Determined”

BS: Do you travel to all tournaments with David?
MW: “Now, unfortunately no, not all of them. Lilly is in 6th grade and Olivia is in 1st grade. We are blessed that the girls go to a great school and have wonderful teachers. They let the girls miss about three weeks each year so we can go with him. Then if spring break falls on a tournament we can go and there’s always summer too! When we go, I drive David’s Toyota and pull his boat and he pulls our fifth wheel. We have been camping at tournaments for about nine years now, it is so much better then a hotel!”

BS: Tell me how you keep things running smooth at home when David is on the road so much with fishing?
MW: “Unfortunately we don’t have any family members that live close by that can help out when David is on the road, so everything falls on me. I am a very scheduled person and our girls come first. I will work on David’s stuff and keeping the house in order when they are at school. I do a lot of work on the computer once they go to bed; it’s common for me to reply to emails at midnight. To the ones that get notifications on their phone, I’m so sorry. I always keep myself busy; it makes the time go by faster. It’s not just the inside I have to take care of, but the outside too. We live on the river and have a pretty big yard; it usually takes me two days to mow it. I did hire the girls art teacher to weed eat the fence line and riverbank for me – that’s the worst job ever. Lilly plays club volleyball, which is 45 minutes from our house so that has added a lot to our schedule, but I wouldn’t change it. I’m so proud of her and her dedication. When David is home, he does not miss a practice or game. When she takes a water break she always goes to her dad. He gives her advice on things she needs to work on and what she is doing really well at. He also gives her the best pep talks before her games!”

BS: What was it like going to the grocery store and seeing David’s face on a box of Wheaties?
MW: “Oh my gosh, it was crazy. We were dating at the time, I lived in south west Florida and David lived in Kentucky. My sisters and I would go to every store and buy all the boxes. Lilly is now at the age that she realizes not everyone’s Dad was on the Wheaties box or will be on the Wheaties box, so she thinks it’s pretty cool…I do too!”
David Walker and girls with good luck signes

davidwalkerandgirlslgBS: Most anglers have rituals they do before a tournament; do you have any rituals that you do before David blasts off?
MW: “Since Lilly was little she always loved arts and crafts. She started out putting stickers on David’s sinker box for good luck then started scribbling on paper and we would tape it up under his storage compartment on his boat. It’s something she has continued to this day with help from Olivia. The girls now put a lot of work into their “Go Daddy” signs, adding glitter and jewels. David is not a big fan of the glitter because it goes everywhere, but he would never say anything!”
David Walker

davidwalkerweighbaglgBS: How has fishing the Elite series changed your life?
MW: “David started out fishing FLW & Bass Top 150, if there was a tournament he was going to fish it. When David had to make a choice to fish FLW or the Elites, it was very difficult. Because of some of his sponsors at the time, he had to go with FLW. That was the hardest decision he has ever made, I wish I could tell everyone what happened behind the scenes when it all went down, but I can’t. I will tell you it just sucked. David continued to do well fishing FLW but his heart wasn’t in it. He missed BASS, missed the Classic, and missed the people. When he told me he wanted to fish the Elites, I was not surprised. His sponsors were on board and supported his decision but he had to re-qualify through the opens, and he did. Talk about a stressful three tournaments…geez! Fishing the Elites, David knows he is fishing against the best guys and that’s what drives him. I know we would not have some of the sponsors and relationships we have today if he didn’t fish the Elites.”

BS: Most of the time the wife is the glue that holds things together when travel is such a big part of a family’s life, how do you do it?
MW: “I would say David and I both are the glue that holds us together. He knows the girls and my schedule and we know his. We don’t ever ask each other “what are you doing” because we already know. We are a pretty good team and always have been. Don’t get me wrong it gets stressful. It seems if anything is going to break, it happens when he is gone. I have become pretty good at fixing things or at least rigging it until David gets home and can fix it. The times he is gone two to three weeks at a time start to get hard on us; especially hard on the girls. I can tell Lilly is missing him when she starts listening to Metallica or Pearl Jam. As for Olivia, she will start flipping through the calendar and counting down the days. The girls understand their dad’s job and know when he does get home, he’s going to spend all his attention on them but it’s still hard on them sometimes. This spring David won’t be home for any of Lilly’s games. The girls will get in the car from parent pick up on tournament days and first thing they ask is if daddy has weighed in yet. At Lilly’s volleyball practices I will take my iPad, Olivia and I will watch from the sidelines while Lilly keeps an eye on me to give her the thumbs up if he did well or thumbs down if he didn’t do so hot.”

BS: If you could change anything about life as an angler’s wife would you change anything, if so what would it be?
MW: “I wouldn’t change a thing, I am so thankful for David and our girls ~ I thank God everyday.”

Betsy Steele

Slow-Pop A Rattlebait For Sluggish Grass Fish

Walker_David_1402_Classic_practice_574_LTARGET

An unconventional rattlebait technique that David Walker discovered during practice for the Bassmaster Classic produced a 24-pound bag on day 1.
Photo: LiveTarget

David Walker was one of the most confident anglers in the field during the days leading up to last week’s Bassmaster Classic. He’d discovered a tactic in practice that was enticing big fish to bite – and bite hard!
Those fish came from a specific depth range (5 to 8 feet) around the greenest grass the lake had to offer, and they seemed to be receptive only to a particular rattlebait presented in a very precise manner. They wanted it moving very slow with the nose heading straight for the bottom on each fall – almost as if the bait were a football jig or Texas-rigged plastic.

He refined the program on the final practice day and it was a resounding success on day 1, when he weighed a 24-13 sack that put him in 3rd place. It didn’t work at all the next day, when he brought just four fish for less than 9 1/2 pounds to the scale, and he initially thought that his tightly honed presentation had been off.

By the following day – the last of the event – he’d concluded that it wasn’t the technique that had failed him on day 2; he’d simply been fishing for fish that had moved. With the water temperature and level continuing to rise, they’d turned their backs on him and headed for the shoreline. That idea gained credence on day 3, when he finally went shallow himself and had no trouble catching keeper after keeper from “the dirt” en route to a sack that was nearly twice as heavy as the one he’d weighed the previous day.

Process of Elimination

Walker went into the official practice session, which got under way 6 days prior to the Classic, thinking that the event was likely to be won on rattlebaits. Flat-sided, non-billed crankbaits are the Guntersville staple during the pre-spawn, and the primary method of fishing them is allowing them to become entangled in the ubiquitous grass and then ripping them out, anticipating that a strike will come shortly after the bait has regained its freedom.

The water was still frigid on that first practice day – in the upper 30s in some places and low 40s in others – and some of the pockets had an icy glaze on the surface.

“I started fishing and I wasn’t getting any bites,” he said. “I kept changing areas and changing areas, trying to find grass that looked good. The good grass isn’t everywhere – some of the stuff is stringy or has algae growing on it or has something else wrong with it.

“The little sections of the greenest grass I could find didn’t come from the bank all the way out. They started in about 3 feet (of water) and came out to about 5 feet.”

But even around that ultra-green vegetation, he had difficulty getting the fish to cooperate. He tried a variety of rattlebaits – some made by LiveTarget (his hardbait sponsor) and some by other manufacturers – and kept working them slower and slower until he’d settled into the hop-drop mode that’s common with non-reaction baits.

“I knew it was important to hit the grass and then break it free,” he said. “But fishing a lipless crankbait in that depth at normal speed, it was hard to get it hung up. I had to find a way to make it hang up.”

Nose-Dives Necessary

Walker had aided in the design of the LiveTarget Crappie. One of its key features is that when it’s allowed to fall freely, it doesn’t slowly wiggle and flutter toward the bottom in a mostly horizontal position, but instead adopts a vertical posture and drops nose-first. The descent, however, is relatively slow

The lift-and-fall technique with that 5/8-ounce, 2 3/4-inch bait was deadly under those circumstances, which consisted of a lot of big fish just emerging from an abnormally cold winter and beginning their transition to the pre-spawn phase. The prominent rattle undoubtedly helped fish zero in on it in the off-colored water.

LiveTarget

The LiveTarget Crappie rattlebait, shown here in the white crappie color that Walker used, falls with a nose-down trajectory.
Photo: LiveTarget

“I became totally convinced pretty quick,” he said. “I was catching a lot of 4-pounders along with some 6s and one that was probably 8-something, and the bait was totally out of sight inside their mouths. When they’re taking it that well, you know you’re onto something.
“I felt that as the water warmed, it was going to be easier to get more bites.”

He made it appear extremely easy on day 1. His severe drop-off in the standings on day 2 was caused by a failure to adjust to conditions that had changed due to the somewhat delayed effects of the powerful storm that blew through the night prior to the start of the event.

“I thought that warm rain coming in would be even more helpful and I was right in that assumption, but what I never anticipated was the water level rising like it did. Those fish had left and swam all the way to the warm water right against the bank.

“It was a lesson learned, but that’s always easier in hindsight. Looking back at the timeline of how it all worked, it makes more sense to me now. I spent a lot of time (on day 2) trying to figure out what the heck it was that I was doing wrong and trying to make fish bite, when in reality I was trying to catch fish that just weren’t there anymore.”

When will it Play Again?

Walker will be on the lookout for further opportunities to run the slow lift-and-drop program with the LiveTarget Crappie.

“I think it needs to be a situation where you’re fishing a little bit deeper than real shallow – like 3 to 8 feet – on an outside grass line,” he said. “The fish need to be in a mode where they want the presentation slow.

“It’ll probably work at various times throughout the year, but those conditions we had at Guntersville after everything had been so cold for so long, it was just what they wanted. Bass fishing is always a puzzle and to this day I don’t understand why they don’t take a meal anytime it’s offered, but they don’t. There’s always these little intricacies that you have to figure out.

“You can usually catch some doing just about anything,” he continued. “But to really catch them well, you have to come up with something they really want at that particular time.”

Notable

> Walker had some Live Target Crappies custom-painted red specifically for the Classic, as that’s the predominant color at Guntersville, but he said the white crappie hue was more productive. “I tried a red one on day 1 and caught a few fish, but they seemed to want something lighter. I caught everything I weighed on that white one.”

> He said the Crappy is a little wider than a lot of rattlebaits, which gives it some lift in the water. “Even though it’s bigger than some, it’s easier to make run shallow. You can reel it slowly and not have it constantly on the bottom.”

The Classic

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The Classic

It was a three-hour drive from my house to Lake Guntersville. Here are a few of the things I was thinking about along the way…

From very moment the location is announced, I start thinking about – The Classic.

From the first cast of the season, I think about – The Classic.

Ask anyone who has ever fished a bass tournament of any kind and they will tell you the biggest tournament in the world is – The Classic.

The undisputed pinnacle of professional bass fishing is – The Classic.

It’s the fishing industry’s biggest event – The Classic.

The amount of fishing media is unmatched at – The Classic.

Nothing can make you a household name in fishing faster than – The Classic.

One week of fishing can change your life at – The Classic.

No one remembers who finished second at – The Classic.

The hardest thing to accept as professional angler is having to work – The Classic.

What I missed most the years I did not fish BASS – The Classic.

My wrapped truck, my wrapped boat, my sponsors all support me because of – The Classic.

All season long it’s the reason I get out of bed way before dawn – The Classic.

Whether it’s freezing, snowing or pouring down rain — The Classic.

The will be my ninth time fishing – The Classic.

I’ve finished third twice – The Classic.

I’ve lead it a couple of times – The Classic.

I’ve tasted victory in – The Classic.

I – The Classic.

WANT – The Classic.

TO WIN – The Classic.

Fishing in the Woods


Yes, you guessed it’s late fall and so my collection of random thoughts I call a blog will center on hunting this time. Don’t worry, I’m not here to brag about some 16-point monster buck I killed or go on about a new rifle that is supposed to be the greatest ever.
Honestly, I don’t even consider myself all that great of a hunter. In fact, for 10-year period of my life, I didn’t hunt at all. But when hunting is in your blood, the urge to get in the woods in the fall never goes away.
As a kid, I grew up in Michigan where the hunting tradition is very strong. As summer turned to fall each year in September, we put away the rods and got out the guns. Indeed there were two distinct seasons: fishing season and hunting season. Early hunting opened with small game like rabbit season, then bird hunting opened and then, of course, deer season came in.
When life got busy with a family and a fishing career around 2000, hunting took a backseat and the guns were put away. But a few years ago I ventured into the woods again and realized just how much I missed hunting.
I should clarify that technically it was not so much the actual killing that I missed, but rather walking in the woods or sitting in a stand and watching wild animals in their environment – it’s what makes the outdoors such a fascinating place. Mostly, though, I am always floored by the extreme similarities between wild game activity/movement and bass activity/movement. Some of the things I observe when hunting serve as powerful reminders when fishing.
For instance, walk into the woods and it’s amazing how aware animals are of your presence. Sit still and quiet for while and eventually a bird will chirp, a squirrel make his way down a tree, chipmunks will scurry across the ground and deer will begin to show up. It’s as if nature has a very effective chain of safety in place – first the birds give the all clear, then the squirrels ground check the parameters, then the deer feel it’s safe to move again. I’m convinced the underwater world works the same exact way; as a result, I am reminded of just how critical stealth is in fishing as well.
Another element of hunting and fishing that is so parallel is how deer and bass move and migrate along topographical features and contours. The same kinds of “S” bends or channel swings bass use in creeks are the exact same places deer use to cross creeks. Just as deer use ridges for orientation and movement, bass use submerged ledges along river channels the same way. It’s a big reminder to always be aware of even the subtlest contour changes when bass fishing.
Locating major food sources is comparable as well. Finding a mother lode of acorns or a grove of crabapple trees means finding the deer, just like finding shad or a big bream leads to bass. Reminder: Always consider the presence of forage when searching for bass.
Big temperature changes along frontal cycles get both game and fish moving, too. Just as a big cold front will move bass, a sudden drop in temperatures will push deer up.
Again, I don’t claim to be the best hunter in the world, but after getting back in the woods the last few years, I do believe that becoming a better hunter can only make you a better fisherman because deer and bass behavior are so similar.

Saltwater Bass

As a professional angler, one of the most common questions I’m asked is if I fish for fun during the off-season. And the answer is, yes, absolutely! Except it’s not always for freshwater bass.

When I’m looking to fish purely for fun, I head to the Louisiana marsh or Florida coastlines and fish for redfish because they are an absolute blast to catch.

The best part about redfishing is I can take my same exact rods, reels, line and tackle I use for bass and catch redfish on them – no new tackle or extra rigging is required. You can literally walk out to your bass boat, grab a rod with ½-ounce spinnerbait, a ½-ounce flipping jig, a lipless crankbait, a big topwater walker and maybe a fluke-type bait like a Z-Man Jerk Shadz and you’re in the redfish business. Florida’s water is a little clearer, so if I’m headed that way I might have to spend a half a minute rigging a spinning outfit with a ¼-ounce lead head jig – but it’s no big deal.

The other great thing is most slot-sized redfish live inshore in water that is about waist deep or less. So there is no traveling offshore 50 miles, fighting big waves or getting seasick. I’ve done the offshore thing, and personally, I would rather watch a 30-inch redfish wake up behind my topwater and smash it in a foot of water than troll for dolphin in 200 feet of water.

At first a redfish may just look like a big lug of a fish, lumbering along in no real hurry to do anything. But when a lure gets their attention and they decide to eat, I can assure you, the fury of their strike will rival any fish out there. And once they wreck your lure with those powerful crushers, then they proceed to strip drag off a reel like no bass is capable of. Because most redfish live in such shallow water, when they run, they have nowhere to go but away from you. Fighting a 35-inch bull red in shallow water can easily be a 7 or 8 minute battle that requires walking around the entire boat three or four times.

I recently traveled to Louisiana and filmed a redfish show with fellow Z-Man pro-staffer and Flats Class host Captain CA Richardson. And just to prove how similar bass and redfish are, I tied on a Z-Man Chatterbait and the redfish couldn’t stand it. When my first redfish of the trip crushed a Chatterbait and began peeling drag out through the swamp, I was instantly reminded of just how much I love fishing for these ferocious beasts. In fact, I used to fish the FLW Redfish Series with my father-in-law and those events were my fondest memories of my FLW days. We visited places like Venice, Cocodrie, Lafitte, Charlotte Harbor and Mosquito Lagoon. It was such fun fishing that if we didn’t make the cut, we would go back out and fish until dark just to keep getting our lines stretched.

Believe me, if you like shallow-water bass fishing, you will love inshore redfishing. The skill set required to catch reds is so similar to bass fishing – reds are literally saltwater bass. The tackle, the water depth, the casting angles, the lure actions for bass are all transferable to reds.

Come to think of it, I’m will be fishing an IFA ProAm Redfish event in just a weeks at Punta Gorda, Fla., and I can hardly wait.

Fishing in the off-season? You bet! For saltwater bass, of course.

 

 

Mimicking the Forage not the Market

These days it seems as if many big lure companies are obsessed with mass production and low price points. It’s understandable in the economy that we’re in right now. When these big companies hire fishing pro staff, the anglers’ job is to promote lures that already exist in the product line: Company makes lure. Pro angler pushes lure.

Over the last four years I have been involved with Live Target Lures, a lure company that is far more interested in perfecting lures than pushing lures.

It has been a privilege and a breathe of fresh air to work for a lure company that is keenly interested in my input on lure design and function. Grant Koppers, the Founder of Live Target Lures, is obsessed with fishing lures and he is never satisfied with his product until they are absolutely perfect.

And Grant knows about perfection – he cut his fishing teeth targeting trout and salmon in Canada where “matching the hatch” is a critical part of getting a fish to bite. He has been a fulltime fishing guide on Ontario and Erie for more than 10 years where he has watched clearing water from zebra mussels make gamefish more pickier than ever before. In his world, if an artificial lure is not an exact duplicate of the real thing right down to the exact size, profile, action and color, it’s not going to get bites. In short, Grant has taken that same obsession for matching the hatch to the bass fishing world with Live Target Lures.

What’s more, the lines of communication between Grant and his pro staff (which also include Stephen Browning and Dave Mercer) are wide open. He wants our input on every aspect of lure production.

In fact, just over a year ago he invited me to China and Japan to observe, firsthand, where and how Live Target Lures are made. I made the trip overseas with him, we toured the manufacturing facilities and along the way he asked for my input on anything they might could do better in the production process. Needless to say, I was floored at Grant’s sheer dedication to making the absolute best products possible. He is the kind of guy that I could call at midnight with a product idea and he would answer his phone with all ears. That’s a rarity in the lure business these days.

At Live Target, Grant does not believe in naming a lure after a forage species just because of a color scheme or paint job. For instance, he does not take the same 6- to 8-foot diver body, paint it like a bluegill, then like a perch, then like a crappie. Instead he is insistent that if a lure is going to be called a “bluegill,” the whole body of the lure should be anatomically correct, so to speak. If it is going to be called a “crappie,” it should be thinner and rounder. If it is going to be called a “perch,” the body of the lure will be longer and thicker. Live Target’s names for their lures are not based simply on a paint job but in mimicking that forage species exactly in size, shape, action and color.

Live Target’s saltwater line is the same way. Their “mullet” is not the same body shape/function as their “pinfish.” The mullet is a floating, topwater walker and the pinfish is a sinking lipless rattler.

At ICAST this year Live Target won the best of show in the hard lure category for their Bait Ball – a single hard lure that looks like a small school of baitfish. This is now the fourth year in a row that they have taken an award at ICAST.

With the Bait Ball concept, Live Target will no longer be relegated to making exact duplicates of singular forage species. Since a Bait Ball involves multiple forage items, the size and shapes of the ball of bait are now limitless. And we are now working together to produce some Bait Ball renditions that will continue to lead the lure market with innovation instead of falling in line with lures priced to sell.

To see Live Target Lures obsession to “match the hatch” to perfection check out www.livetargetlures.com

Bass Fishing Fantasy Land

As professional bass anglers, we don’t usually brag too much about our accommodations at bass tournaments. Our homes away from home are often of the econo-stay, “we’ll leave the light on for you” variety.

 

But at the last Elite Series event on the Alabama River, I stayed at a place that was so incredible, I just had to take a moment to brag about it.

 

Call me lucky, but I just happened to land an invite to stay at Ray Scott’s pond in Pintlala, Alabama – as in Scott’s “Presidential Lake,” the 55-acre bass fishing fantasy land that hosts the “Eagles of Angling” tournament where both former Bush Presidents have fished.

 

Back in the early 1990’s (when I was still fishing club tournaments) I can remember reading about the Eagles of Angling tournaments in Bassmaster Magazine and watching them on the Bassmasters TV show. Ray Scott would invite the President of the United States to fish with the top bass pros of the time – Rick Clunn, Gary Klein, Larry Nixon and Denny Brauer – on his super pond that was custom built for bass fishing.

 

That was a magical era for the sport of professional bass fishing. Back then the growth of the sport was on an epic incline. There seemed to be no limits to how far this sport could go. At times pro fishing was even touted to be the next NASCAR. After all, when you see the President of the United States fishing with your angling heroes on Ray Scott’s pond on national television, “the next NASCAR” sure seemed possible.

 

Now, some 25 years later, we all know professional bass fishing did not become the next NASCAR. Over the last two decades, the sport has sort of waxed and waned like a rising and falling tide. It’s not exactly front-page news like the other big sports, but when I see 8,000 fans attend an Elite Series weigh-in, I know it still has a strong heartbeat.

 

But back to my accommodations – when I had the opportunity to stay at a guesthouse on Scott’s legendary lake, recently, I jumped on it. I wanted to see if the legend and lore of  “Presidential Lake” was everything I thought it would be and I was not disappointed.

 

The afternoon I arrived, I took a rod out of my boat, walked down the bank and on my very first cast, caught a bass. After catching a few from the bank, a guy who works on the property came down and told me I was welcome to use one of the small electric fishing boats kept on hand for guests.

 

So I grabbed a few more rods, hopped in a “Twin Troller” and headed out onto the pond. I had the whole lake to myself – catching bass after bass. As afternoon fell towards evening I came upon on sign on a stump that read, “Clunn’s Hole” and I suddenly remembered when Rick Clunn caught a 13-pound, 15-ounce bass – the lake record – in one of the Eagles of Angling tournaments. In that moment, I was taken aback to what it must have been like in those Eagles of Angling events 25 years ago. I could imagine the place buzzing with Secret Service agents. I could see the President casting intently in eager anticipation of the next bite. I could hear the voices of Clunn and Klein, steep with optimism for this sport. For me, it was a kind of special trip back in time to a golden era of our sport.

 

Later that night as I was finishing up my tackle and putting everything away, I noticed an odd green glow emerging on the lake. I went down to investigate the mysterious glow and found its source: two lights fastened to the bottom of the lake and pointed up, lighting up some 10 feet of the entire water column. As I got closer, I noticed swarms of shad swimming through the lights and an occasional big, dark shadow darting trough the beams, taking swipes at the shad schools. Like a kid on Christmas, I ran back up to my boat, grabbed a rod with a crankbait and returned to the bank to fire a cast across the lights. As my crankbait wobbled into the beam, one of those dark shadows shot out – I held on for the strike – a split second later a 6-pound bass loaded up on my rod. What an incredible experience! To watch backlit bass come from up under the bait and annihilate it gave me a new perspective I’d never seen before.

 

And with each cast out to the lights, I could see big, dark silhouettes streak across the beam after my lure. Each time, I clenched the rod in anticipation of that jarring strike – it’s the very moment I live for as a pro fisherman. Then it dawned on me: No, professional bass fishing did not become the next NASCAR, but it has not exactly disappeared into obscurity, either. It’s still here, surviving, mostly because we as fishermen all love the anticipation of that vicious strike.

Good Fishing,

David

New Season

Hello everyone,

 Well for me the 2011 season is about to get underway and I couldn’t be more excited.  I will be traveling this week for the first BASS Elite tournament at the Harris Chain of lakes in central Florida.  This is the first time I have competed in the Elite series, I qualified for them last year by finishing fifth in the points in the Northern division of the BASS opens.  I fished the BASS top 150 trail from 2000 till 2006 but since then the format for BASS has changed, and because of this I will be considered a Rookie.

It seems strange that I will be starting over after having been fishing as a full time Pro for 12 years now, but change is good.  The main reason I am excited about the change for me, is the BassMaster Classic.  I have competed in 6 BassMaster Classics, and had my chance to win in New Orleans in 2001.  That was the year Kevin VanDam won his first, I remember it too well.  I was  the last man to weigh in and came up ounces short of having a Classic victory. 

Being that close can either make you or break you and I am determined to be back on that stage again and finish what I started.  The BassMaster Classic is often compared to the super bowl of tournaments, and it really is  If you like to fish for Bass you owe it to yourself to go to one and experience first hand how exciting it really is being there.  I remember my first one, it was 1997 when Dion Hibdon won in Birmingham Alabama.  I was a club tournament fisherman who went down there from Kentucky to help out  a boat dealer friend of mine.  I was running my first Ranger boat at the time and to see all of those BASS Master Classic editions going around that arena and the crowds that were there cheering on their favorites, I was totally hooked.  It took me three years, but I was running my very own BassMaster Classic Ranger at the 2000 Classic in Chicago.  I have been with Ranger and Evinrude for 15 years now and I have ran the latest models, starting with my first boat a 481vs with a 150 Evinrude fast strike till now. 

 Next week I will be pulling my Ranger Z520 with the Evinrude E-Tec 250 down to the first Bassmaster event trying to qualify for the next Classic being considered a Rookie, again. This season is a change for me but chasing the dream is still there and I hope that never changes.

Good Fishing,

David Walker

  

Let’s Talk Break In.

Hello everybody,  Well the new year is finally here and I am ready to get this one started. Last week the first Bassmaster Southern Open was held in Florida at Lake Toho, I was there and I don’t know if you heard or not but the day before the first day of practice my boat along with 7 others including Dave Smith were broken into and a large amount of fishing equipment was stolen. This was the first time that I had lost anything to thieves out of my boat. I had my truck broken into a number of years ago, but the only things that were taken were some cds and a radar detector. The people that did this robbery at the hotel were not just a grab and run group they were either bass fishermen or had stolen so much that they new what brands of equipment to steal. Out of the 8 boats that were hit each one was robbed of only certain things. Video cameras around the hotel recorded the time that they were there and what kind of vehicle they were driving, (white ford excursion). They stole G Loomis rods as well as Shimano reels along with a couple of Signature series Power Poles. With the kind of response that I received on facebook about what people wanted to do to the thevies I get the feeling that these guys are headed for a really bad ending. There has been alot of rumors lately saying that the guys had been caught but as of right now I haven’t seen any of my rods and reels. 

With that being said, I want to thank everybody for the offers of help that many people sent me.  It is great to know that the majority of the fishermen out there really are great people and don’t let a few bad apples ruin the whole bunch.
I am getting my rods back together now and I will be ready to go by the next tournament at Okeechobee next week.  This week I went to Ranger and picked up my new Z520, I will be posting photos as soon as the new wrap is completed. Thanks everybody and I look forward to seeing all the fans at the New Orleans Bassmaster Classic, come by and say hello. Thanks again, good luck and good fishing!
David Walker