2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro
Lake Guntersville - Birmingham, AL, Feb 21 - 23, 2014

An open letter to Mr. 150-to-1: Tim Johnston

Let me tell you about this dude from Montana. Tim Johnston. At the age of 13 he went around his town of Kalispell mowing neighbors’ yards, and then he took the money earned from that and bought A LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP IN B.A.S.S. That was 35 years ago.

“I love the history of the sport, the last thing I did before I left home in Montana was to watch the 1994 Bryan Kerchal Bassmaster Classic.”

Bryan, also a Nation angler, finished last in the 1993 Classic, but won the Classic the next year…wonder what the odds on that feat were.

“I feel like I’m in a fog, especially when I saw that gold Bassmaster Classic trophy, but I did get my KVD handshake out of the way. I went up to him and shook his hand and said thank you.”

“Thank you for what.”

“I thanked him because without him and all the others like him, I wouldn’t be here, none of us would be here, and KVD wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those who came before him. I just had to say thanks.”

And then, “db, it was always my dream to be able to attend a Bassmaster Classic, and now I’m fishing in it.”

The human spirit is the spark that lets a person with 150-to-1 odds STILL GET IN THE BOAT and compete.

That spark is what lets Tim still launch.

“…stumble and fall by the road side…”

He drank Scotch Whiskey, chewed on cheap cigars, and in the summertime breeze of Buffalo, N.Y., he played a grease stained Gibson guitar and sang the blues.

The blues of a junkyard worker who spent a lifetime pulling $20 used generators out of junked cars.

He smelled of tire fire and antifreeze-stained shoelaces.

But he was a master mechanic by heart, but not by Scotch Whiskey, and he would bring home stray wrecks like stray cats, fix them up with parts found in other cars, or on the junkyard ground, and he would drag them, and me, to a local racetrack, a 5/8-mile asphalt oval.

I drove because I was 30 pounds lighter than his son. I was 16.

All the other drivers, years older than I was, laughed, told us we had no chance, “the odds of that kid winning, a million to one.”

First came the smell of scotch, then the stink of the cigar, then his face as he leaned in the car and looked down at me strapped into the seat. “Bones (my nickname as a kid because of my lack of weight). Bones, listen to me, it’s not always the biggest and strongest who win; if you are in the race, you have a chance to win the race…”

And then he said to me something I have taken to heart my entire life, and to all the 150-to-1s out there, please you do the same:

“…when that green flag drops, everybody has 1-to-1 odds…”

“…but don't you ever let nobody…”