KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana angler Tim Johnston recalls during his Little League baseball days in California the excitement of one of his teammates who won a contest that made him bat boy for a day with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Johnston’s chance to feel that same excitement awaits him at the Bassmaster Classic.
"That is how I feel,” Johnston said. “I get to hang out in the dugout with all of these pros, but the only difference is I get to grab a bat and take one swing, and it will be the biggest swing of my life. So it is the best of both worlds. You get to hang out with the people you admired and really learned so much from and then you get a chance to be out on the water with them and fish the same tournament they do.”
The Western Montana Bassmasters club member already experienced some of the Classic thrills when he practiced on Lake Guntersville.
“Just to put my boat out on the water gave me goose bumps because there have been so many tournaments launched there,” he said. “It was amazing to go down and prefish. That was something pretty neat because while I was pre-fishing, all these pros that I have watched and kind of idolized for so long were fishing around me.”
The 48-year-old nurse anesthetist joined the B.A.S.S. Nation 23 years ago and has competed in 10 Nation divisionals. Watching him compete in his first Classic will be his wife, Delane, and his two sons, Skeeter, 17, and Case, 11. While growing up, the boys watched the Bassmasters Classic on television every year with their dad.
“They know that it’s the biggest one and they are excited about going,” Johnston said.
In fact, Skeeter wrote and produced the song that Tim will walk out to on the Classic stage.
“I have always wanted to go to the Classic as a spectator," said Johnston. "I have had so many opportunities to go, but I purposely never went because I never wanted to be so nervous when fishing and knowing what I was getting into trying to make it to the Classic through the Nation."
Now he knows that Classic feeling and is ready to swing for the fences.