When Jay Yelas won the 2002 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake, Patrick Walters was 8 years old. Today, the decorated veteran started Championship Sunday four spots behind a second-year Elite who’s on track to the biggest moment in his young career.
Competitive details will be told later, but it’s worth a mention that Yelas tipped his hat to the 26-year-old Walters, who’s leading the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest Benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with an incredible 3-day total of 82 pounds, 2 ounces.
Yelas has been diligently fishing a well-established fall pattern of throwing spinnerbaits and ChatterBaits upriver around isolated wood. Meanwhile, Walters has put on a standing timber clinic by using his electronics to meticulously pick apart specific structure and target fish in feeding positions.
“What I’m doing is fun, but I’m not going to catch Patrick,” Yelas said. “We’ve seen this as a trend, but this tournament, more than any, has (highlighted forward-facing sonar). That’s the new frontier of bass fishing.
“I’m fishing like we caught them in the 90s — run up the river and throw a spinnerbait around stumps. You’re not going to win anymore against these young anglers that know how to use this technology because they know how to run around and find the schools of bass.”
Comparing Walters’ tactics to idling through shallow coves in the springtime and looking for areas thick with spawners, Yelas said the forward-facing sonar has ushered in an exciting new era of bass fishing.
Evidence this, Walters is knocking on the door of the Century Club — in a fall event.
“It’s quite amazing, watching the sport evolve,” Yelas said. “Who would have ever thought that you could (potentially) catch 100 pounds on Lake Fork in November? To me, that says more about the quality of the fishery than catching 100 pounds in the spring when the fishing’s good.
“The fishing is terrible and he’s still (likely) going to win with over 100 pounds!”