Bainbridge junior angler Drake Walls and co-angler Hunter Shrader win national bass fishing tournament

Published 2:40 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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Rising BHS freshman Drake Walls and co-angler Hunter Shrader brought home a big win at the national Bassmaster Junior Series fishing event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Jasper, TX. 

The duo brought in a 12-pound 6-ounce bag at the tournament, netting a first-place finish and qualification to the Bassmaster Junior Series Event National Championship. The win on the reservoir was the team’s first win after years of top-5 placings.

“It was very emotional,” said Natalie Walls, Walls’ mother. “He was so excited, like, this is what he’s dreamed of.”

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Dusty Walls, Walls’ father, captained the championship pair at the one-day event. In the days leading up to the event, a big storm came in, causing the lake to rise nearly nine feet. That was a drastic change to fishing conditions, according to Dusty, and it forced Walls and Shrader to formulate a new strategy. Dusty said a big part of the win was the anglers’ fishing on instinct. 

“The tournament came around Sunday, I mean, the weather changed completely,” Dusty said. “The reason we won was because my son and them, they just wanted to fish the flooded cypress trees, and it all made sense.”

Walls talked to about their strategy and bait choices.

“We chose to fish cypress trees because there were a lot of bugs on the trees from the water being down,” Walls told “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.”

“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 told Bassmaster. “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 they had caught their fish limit before 7:30 a.m. that morning, but that they didn’t want to get cocky. Dusty said he told the anglers that if they bagged around 12-13 pounds of fish, they had a good shot at the top ten. They were sitting at an estimated 11 and a half pounds in the boat.

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

When they came in to weigh, Dusty said they were all pretty nervous to see how their day of fishing would turn out compared to their competition. At the end of the day, the scale went their way, and their official 12-pound-6-ounce haul was enough to get the win.

“It was really nerve-wracking even to know that we had enough to take the lead,” Dusty said. “When it all got said and done, and we ended up winning the thing, it was pretty special. 

The win earns Walls and Shrader a bid to nationals. This will be the pair’s second appearance at Nationals— they first competed in the 2023 Bassmaster Junior Series National Championship on Lake Hartwell.

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

The Bassmaster Junior Series National Championship is scheduled for July 26-27 on Lake Chickamauga in eastern Tennessee.