Patrick Walters of Summerville is best known for his bass fishing skills, but he’s now a trophy gator hunter as well. The University of South Carolina Fishing Team angler won the FLW College Fishing National Championship two years ago, and he’s won his share of money and trophies on other trails as well. But all the while he’s been fishing, he’s kept his eyes on the water for gators too.
Walters’ teammate on the gator hunt was his dad, Todd Walters, a proven bass angler in his own right, who has also won his share of trophies and money, as well as spotted plenty of gators while fishing.
The hunt started out of Cypress Gardens on the Cooper River at about 9 a.m. on Sept. 11. After checking out one likely spot and seeing nothing, they moved toward Bushy Park, observing the water and the bank as they went.
“We were headed up toward Bushy Park and I saw a good one walking on the bank, and it just layed down right there. I could tell it was a pretty good size, and I told dad ‘there he is.’”
Neither men had ever killed an alligator, but in the same way they prepare for bass fishing tournaments, they felt as though they had all they needed to bag their first gator.
“We learned real quickly that no matter how much we thought we were prepared, we weren’t prepared,” Walters said.
With a big Penn spinning reel spooled with 40-pound braid and a 10/0 offshore hook, they made a cast at the gator, embedding the hook in it. The gator took to the water, diving under and coming up repeatedly over the next 45 minutes.
“We finally got another hook in him, but this time the gator went under, and sat on the bottom for a good 30 minutes,” said Walters.
Next, they made about 20 tosses with a length of 550 paracord tied to a 12/0 hook, and finally sunk this bigger treble in the beast.
“Now the gator went berzerk!” said Walters, who said this was the point he realized that even though they had all the right tools, equipment, and knowledge to bag a gator, there is no preparing for the gator’s say-so in the matter.
“We’d been fighting that gator by hand for some time by now, and the sun was brutal, we were fighting the tide, the gator, and some motor trouble. The tide was pushing us toward a dock, and luckily we were able to crank the motor just in time to steer away from crashing into it,” said Walters.
After finally getting the gator up to the surface, the father-son duo realized both of their 10/0 hooks were in the gator’s rear legs.
“We got him up in position, and I hit it in the head with the bang stick. Nothing happened! Dad yelled ‘hit it harder!’ so I hit it harder. Again, nothing,” said Walters, who began digging for another bullet to reload the bang stick.
“This is when the hunt got interesting. The gator started coming in the boat. It was crazy!” he said.
Finally, with another round in the bang stick, the two had the gator in position again, and when Walters hit it with the bang stick this time, it was a done deal.
“After all that, we wrapped a whole roll of electrical tape around his mouth before we put him in the boat. We would’ve put more around his mouth if we’d had it,” he said.
The gator measured over 10 feet in length, and weighed 243 pounds. Cordray’s Processing is turning the big lizard into sausage, jerky, filets, and gator bites, and is doing a full body mount.