Walters expands lead in Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Murray

Patrick Walters admitted he missed his goal by a few ounces, but you wouldn’t know it from the Day 2 standings.

After turning in an opening-round limit of 25 pounds, 8 ounces — the tournament’s heaviest bag — the pro from Eutawville, S.C., added 19-13. Tallying 45-5, Walters leads rookie J.T. Thompkins by 4-15, as the Top 50 anglers head into Semifinal Sunday of the Minn Kota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray. (severe weather postponed the event’s scheduled start by one day).

“I knew it was going to be a slower day,” Walters said of the day’s calm, sunny conditions, which contrasted Friday’s cloudy, windy makeup. “The goal was to just survive and get 20 pounds, but I was just a few ounces shy of that.

“The sunny skies don’t bother me, but it means the bite is probably going to end quicker. At 9:30, it shut off for me and I felt like it did for the whole lake.”

At the day’s beginning, Walters knew he was facing a do-or-die scenario. With no time to dally, he went to work on the blueback herring spawn.

“The biggest thing is you have to catch them quick,” Walters said. “The (lack of) wind is what made it tough,” he said. “But I figured it was going to be tough on everybody, so if I could just grind 20 today, I would survive and probably step ahead a little bit.”

Walters caught most of his morning fish on a combination of topwater lures and soft-plastic jerkbaits.

Once the morning bite died, Walters stayed with the fish that had been targeting the herring spawn. Without the congregating stimulus of distracted forage, the bass dispersed, but remained in the general area.

Walters adjusted by tracking down targets with his forward-facing sonar. Saturday’s heavy pleasure boat traffic created a challenge by stirring the lake, but Walters stayed focused on convincing less active fish to bite.

“I did the same thing all day,” Walters said. “I’m putting a square peg in a round hole.”

This strategy yielded a few bites, while a Carolina-rigged Zoom Brush Hog produced a solid keeper later in the day.

Walters said he’s optimistic about the third round’s potential. He’s not expecting an easier day, but a high level of comfort and confidence fuels his enthusiasm.

“This is how I like catching ’em; this is what makes me happy,” Walters said. “When it’s your time, it’s your time. Hopefully, we can maintain this the rest of the tournament.

“All you can ask for is a chance to be in contention and that’s what we did. We’re going into Semifinal Sunday. Let’s see if we can make it to Championship Monday.”

Thompkins, who makes his home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is in second place with 40-6. After posting a Day 1 limit of 21-1, he added 19-5 and gained five spots.

Thompkins said his day started slowly, but he believes a lot of that was due to a timing challenge.

“I got in a rotation behind five or six guys and I had 12 pounds at midday,” Thompkins said. “I started putting it together later in the day and getting my technique figured out.”

A key element of Thompkins’ success involved targeting areas that were a little less obvious. He also found that varying his soft jerkbait presentations made a big difference.

“I was fishing places that you’re not going to find just by going down the bank,” he said. “I was fishing points, humps, rock ridges — something where it had a steep drop-off.”

Jay Przekurat of Plover, Wis., is in third place with 39-7. Turning in a consistent performance, the 2022 Rookie of the Year caught 19-11 on Day 1 and backed that up with 19-12 Saturday.

Przekurat found the day’s sunny conditions challenging, but adapting to a scenario he also saw during practice enabled him to capitalize on key bites.

“I caught one fish, a 5 1/2-pounder, about 30 minutes into the day,” he said. “I didn’t really catch that fish doing herring stuff. It was on a herring point, but I wasn’t fishing herring lures. I fished a slow, finesse style.

“I knew there were big fish around. I was just trying to finesse them to get them to bite. I only caught seven or eight fish today and they were all doing something different.”

Przekurat said his day ended up becoming a hodgepodge of point hopping, fishing fry guarders and targeting bed fish.

Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., won the $1,000 award for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day with a 6-3.

Joseph Webster of Hamilton, Ala., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the tournament honors with his 6-6.

Rookie Trey McKinney of Carbondale, Ill., leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 478 points. Jordan Lee of Cullman, Ala., is in second with 472, followed by Chris Johnston of Otonabee, Canada, with 429, Cory Johnston of Otonabee, Canada, with 428, and Justin Hamner of Northport, Ala., with 402.

McKinney also leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings.

Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. ET at Dreher Island State Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3 p.m., with only the Top 10 advancing to Championship Monday with a chance at the 100,000 first-place prize.

On Semifinal Sunday, watch live coverage on FS1from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and on from 12:30-3 p.m. On Championship Monday watch live coverage on from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is being hosted by Capital City Lake Murray Country.