BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Allyson Tinsley has a real knack for assembling dream teams. A mother of three from Pelzer, S.C., Tinsley won the 2012 B.A.S.S. Fantasy Fishing Sweepstakes, presented by Toyota Trucks, a competition to choose the Top 5 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers at each of the eight stops on the tournament trail.
Tinsley’s grand prize included a Triton 18 SE boat with a 150 Mercury OptiMax engine valued at more than $43,000, plus a $5,000 gift card to Bass Pro Shops. The contest winner already has plans for the boat — her husband and son can use it for fishing local bass tournaments, and she and her twin daughters, Taylor and Kayle, will be on the lake fishing and tubing.
Tinsley credits the win to extensive research. Her son, Hunter, 15, helped her study the field of anglers prior to each tournament. Her husband, Tony, was choosing his own teams each week with much less success. He finished in 1,086th place.
Tinsley said she never expected to come out on top against all the Bassmaster fans angling for first place.
“I was just trying to beat my husband,” said Tinsley, whose favorite angler is Mike Iaconelli. “I didn’t know I’d beat everybody else.”
It wasn’t until late in the season, when Tinsley saw that she was in 30th place, that she really began to get excited about her game. As she inched up into seventh, she could see the potential for a win.
“During the tournaments, my son and I would study our smartphones and follow BASSTrakk,” Tinsley said. “We could watch the weigh-in online from wherever we were — especially that last week. It was really exciting.”
The competition began before the first Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, the St. Johns River Showdown, March 15-18. As fans got into the spirit of choosing the top anglers for each tournament, at times, the fantasy play got downright contentious, though it was all in good fun.
“The great thing about Fantasy Fishing is that you can play against your friends and peers to see how well you do,” said Jim Sexton, vice president of digital for B.A.S.S. “The contestants weren’t just competing against strangers. It made it more fun to compete against people they know. Several companies even started their own leagues and gave out prizes independent of B.A.S.S.”
Sexton said after studying last year’s Fantasy Fishing set up, the game was changed for 2012. The “buckets” for each of the five levels were reset every two events. The top anglers were in the top tier of choices and anglers at different levels of competition were sorted into four other tiers for fans to choose from.
“In 2011, we set the buckets and they stayed that way for the whole season, which did not account for people moving up competitively or for local favorites at different events,” Sexton said. “For instance, this year with Travis Manson as a local favorite at Green Bay, we moved him into a higher bucket. And as Brandon Card’s success continued this year, we moved him up and someone else down.”
Resetting the buckets made the competition tougher, but at the same time made the playing field of Fantasy picks more level.
“Changing those buckets allowed the audience to come back in and rechoose their five top guys,” he said. “To win it, you really had to study it and keep up with it. If you can only pick one of the top guys, it makes you dig deeper into the list of anglers to see who you should pick.”
Another game changer for Fantasy Fishing fans was increased content on the Bassmaster website, with columns from fishing aficionados about their picks and with information from BassGold about how the lake would fish.
“That gave people more resources to study to choose their teams,” Sexton said. “We have a lot of really dedicated Fantasy players. I’ve been so impressed with the level of knowledge and passion among them. To win, it really is a serious accomplishment. You’re playing against people who study the heck out of this and follow every detail.”
Tinsley also joined three company leagues — Tackle Warehouse, Bass Rankings and Quantum — and won prizes in those leagues for her accuracy in determining how a tournament would play out.