Walls and Shrader leverage fast start for Bassmaster Junior Series win at Sam Rayburn Reservoir
JASPER, Texas —

The big bite they thought they needed never happened, but a diligent effort led Drake Walls and Hunter Shrader to victory in the Bassmaster Junior Series event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

The eighth-graders from Mid-Florida Youth Anglers Jr. caught a five-bass limit of 12 pounds, 6 ounces and edged Cole Watkins and Luke Delaney of the Jr. Southwest Bassmasters-Denham Springs by 1-1.

Walls and Shrader qualified for the Bassmaster Junior Series Championship scheduled for Lake Chickamauga, July 26-27. The duo also competed in the 2023 championship at Lake Hartwell.

“This means the world to us,” said Shrader. “To make it to Nationals twice is amazing.”

Committing their day to the Buck Bay area, Walls and Shrader fished cypress trees in 4 to 5 feet of water, with some of their targets standing in 8 feet. Walls said the deeper trees produced bigger fish, with the shallower ones yielding more numbers.

“We chose to fish cypress trees because there were a lot of bugs on the trees from the water being down,” Walls said. “When the water came up, those bugs fell into the water, so there were a lot of bream around the trees and that attracted the bass.

“The water rose about 6 feet before the tournament (week); then during practice, it rose another 3 feet.”

Also impacting the fishing, a major storm system left in its wake the dreaded bluebird skies. As Walls explained, the bright conditions pushed the bass deep into cover.

“You had to get way back in the thick of the trees,” he said. “Also, I think the fish were spawning on the bases of the trees.”

The winners caught some early fish on a white Spro Bronzeye Popping Frog, but they did most of their work with Texas-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senkos in the smoke root beer color.

“We used Senkos because you had to get it on the very backs of the trees and we could get this bait way back there,” Walls said. “We put flipping sticks with 65-pound braid in our hands and when we’d hook a fish, we’d rush in there to get them.”

Walls said he and Shrader had their limit by 7:22 a.m. and culled twice. An early rally might have boosted their confidence, but Walls said they never made any assumptions.

“We really did not think we had it won,” Walls said. “We knew we had to grind and get a big bite, but that never happened. It was tough on everybody.”

Watkins and Delaney finished second with 11-5, and Carson Beal and Tripp Bearden of Abilene Wylie Junior Bass took third with 10-9.

The Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce and Jasper County hosted the event.