On Friday night, after the second day of the FLW College Fishing National Championship on Lake Murray, USC sophomore Patrick Walters guessed it would take a 17-pound catch on the final day to overtake leaders Travis Rulle and Caleb Eppler of Liberty.
His prediction was correct.
Walters and junior Gettys Brannon garnered a five-fish catch of 17 pounds, 1 ounce to give them 53 pounds and 2 ounces over three day – enough to win the tournament.
The USC fishing club was awarded a Ranger Z117 boat and engine plus $5,000. It also earned the two collegians a spot in this year’s Forrest Wood Cup, the Super Bowl of bass fishing, Aug. 20-23 on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.
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The two were almost speechless after coming off the award stand.
“I was nervous and anxious all week and haven’t really slept much,” Walters said. “Standing in the lines over there, I was just ready to weigh-in. You know almost what everyone’s got and you know it’s going to be within ounces. It racks your nerves. I’m not going to be able to sleep for three days now. No emotion can really describe it.”
Liberty was second with 51 pounds, 13 ounces. The pair had the biggest fish of the day, but they landed four fish at 15 pounds, 7 ounces. Five are allowed.
“We knew they had four fish,” Walters said. “We looked in their bag earlier and obviously saw that big one. We talked to them at check-in, and they said they had four good ones, so we were worried they had four the same size as that big one. That really racks your nerves, but it turned out in our favor.”
The final day of the competition featured 10 teams vying for the championship. The weigh-in was conducted just outside of Carolina Stadium.
Walters and Brannon weighed in before the Liberty team.
“It was mind-racking,” Brannon said. “We knew it was going to be really, really close. They didn’t bring out that fifth fish and it was unreal. They’re great fishermen, great guys. It’s a memorable moment for sure.”
Walters and Brannon used the knowledge of fishing on their home lake to their advantage. Most of the teams tried three or four spots and came away with much smaller totals than what they achieved the first two days. The South Carolina combination estimated they fished 15-20 spots because they weren’t having much luck.
“We started fishing our honey holes, where we thought we were going to be able to get fish from,” Brannon said. “We kind of looked at each other about a quarter of the way through the day and said this is a big lake, and Lake Murray covers a lot of water, so we need to go chasing the wind. It paid off.”
Walters, who is from Summerville, and Brannon, who is from Gaffney, agreed they usually fish Lake Murray an average of twice per week for five to six months each year. That knowledge, along with some key adjustments, made them national champions.
“It was the toughest day of fishing so far,” Brannon said.