SPRING CITY, Tenn. – He may live about 90 miles away from Watts Bar Lake, but David Walker made himself right at home on this impoundment of the Tennessee River, winning Group B’s Qualifying Round of the General Tire Stage Five Presented by Covercraft.
Much like Kevin VanDam who won Group A on Monday, Walker began his second day of competition in fifth place on SCORETRACKER® with 22 pounds, 1 ounce, needing to make up some ground. After a two-hour-and-15-minute lightning delay, the Sevierville, Tennessee, native caught 11 bass for 23-10 on Wednesday to jump into the top spot and automatically qualify for the Championship Round on Thursday.
It hasn’t been the best start to the season for Walker, and he’d be the first to tell you. He sits 72nd in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year race out of 80 pros. He hasn’t made a Knockout Round in 2022, and (technically) he still won’t fish in one as he is directly on to the Championship Round where he will join VanDam for a 1-in-10 shot at $100,000.
“This has been a tough season for me so far, but to have two days like today and Sunday put together is just awesome,” Walker said. “The highs are so high and the lows are so low in tournament fishing. It’s tough to be even keel. One good day can make up for a whole lot of bad ones.”
Walker started the day in a favorable position — fifth place to be exact. After a lengthy weather delay, the Tennessee pro began lighting up SCORETRACKER® in a hurry, adding three bass for 5-9 in the first 45 minutes. He had about two hours in which he didn’t register a scorable bass, but once the third period got underway, Walker caught five bass for 10 pounds to secure the top spot.
“It was just a day where I made the right choices,” Walker said. “I caught fish so many different ways today and I have so many rods on the deck of my boat.”
Walker now advances to his first Championship Round appearance since Stage Two in 2019 on Lake Conroe where he finished fifth.
All three anglers may be below the 2023 REDCREST qualification line as it stands now, but Ott DeFoe, Clabion Johns and Scott Suggs will all earn some much-needed points after securing their respective spots in the Knockout Round. DeFoe, a Tennessee native, has looked extremely comfortable on Watts Bar during his first two days, catching 21 bass for 37 pounds and earning a fourth-place finish in Group B. The Bass Pro Shops pro caught 13 bass for 23 pounds on Tuesday.
Suggs added 12 bass for 23-3 to his total weight, pushing him into fifth. The Arkansas pro was able to climb up from 16th place thanks to a shaky head fished on offshore brush piles.
The biggest day of Group B belongs to Johns, however. The Georgia pro had the most scorable bass (14) and the most weight on SCORETRACKER® (26-12) for the day. Johns worked a frog in the backs of pockets along the Watts Bar shoreline to bring in every one of his fish. This will be the Big Bear Rods pro’s second Knockout Round appearance of the 2022 season.
No run was more impressive than Jordon’s. He started the day in 34th and even fell into 40th place midway through the day. His chances at making the Knockout Round seemed slim to none. With no fish to his name for the day, Jordon went looking for fish offshore just to try and get on the board. What he found was his ticket to the next round.
“When I found ‘em, it was on,” Jordon said. “My first fish weighed 4-6 and I thought to myself, ‘Here we go.’ That place I caught them today has a lot of fish, and if it reloads, I could be in good shape for Wednesday.”
Shryock started his morning in 27th place and just 1-10 below the Toro Cut Line. Unlike Jordon, Shryock started off his morning in good shape with three bass in the first period for 6-14, putting him above the cut. But after three hours without a scorable bass, Shryock saw himself falling ever closer to moving out again.
The Alabama pro caught a 1-15 at the end of Period 2 to get back in it, followed by his big fish of the day — a 5-2 largemouth in Period 3. Shryock ended the day with five bass for 13-15, enough to put him 1-15 above the cut.
Jacob Wheeler — the man at the top of the AOY standings — is moving on to another Knockout Round, which is important since second-place Jordan Lee and third-place Andy Morgan already clinched their Knockout Round spots on Monday. Zack Birge (eighth place) was able to secure a spot in the Knockout Round out of Group B while Jesse Wiggins (fifth place) and Alton Jones Jr. (sixth) were both unable to qualify and will miss out on some valuable points with only two events left on the season calendar.
Thirty-eight anglers return to Watts Bar on Wednesday for the Knockout Round. Weights will reset back to zero and the top eight anglers on SCORETRACKER® after three periods of fishing will move on to the Championship Round to join Kevin VanDam and David Walker. Fishing kicks off at 8 a.m. EST on Wednesday. Live coverage starts at 7:45 a.m. EST on the MLF NOW! live stream. Watch for free on MajorLeagueFishing.com, the MLF app, or the MyOutdoorTV app.
The 2022 Bally Bet Angler of the Year will take home a $100,000 prize at the end of the 2022 Bass Pro Tour season. Jacob Wheeler leads the race entering this event with 300 points, followed by Jordan Lee with 283 points and Andy Morgan with 255 points. All three anglers have advanced to fish in the Knockout Round.