The bass fishing world lost two veterans in February with the deaths of David Wharton, 59, and Michael Holt, 51.
An 11-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, Wharton died of an apparent heart attack in a Beaumont, Texas, hospital Feb. 16. Wharton had suffered a mild heart attack at his home the day before.
"It was a tremendous loss to the fishing world," said fellow Texas angler and Elite Series pro Zell Rowland. "I grew up fishing against him, and I can tell you there was no finer gentleman on or off the water than David Wharton."
Wharton retired from professional fishing in 2005 after competing in 264 Bassmaster events since 1974. He won $800,000 with BASS, recording 34 Top 10 finishes and four victories. His last major victory came at the 2003 Louisiana Showdown on Toledo Bend Reservoir in Texas.
He was a dominant figure in regional tournament trails prior to and during his professional career.
"I drew him in a Toledo Bend tournament, we became friends and I found him to be the nicest guy this sport has seen," said Elite Series angler Denny Brauer.
Both Brauer and Rowland said Wharton was a far better angler than he ever got credit for.
"He was so quiet and unassuming," added Brauer. "You never heard him brag, yet all of the fishermen respected his abilities."
Wharton fished his first Bassmaster Classic in 1980 on the St. Lawrence River. His last Classic was 2002 on Lay Lake in Alabama. His highest Classic finish was seventh, twice, in 1983 and 1990.
He is survived by his wife, Carla Sue, and son, Blake.
Michael Holt died Feb. 17 after a long battle with cancer. He was a two-time B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship winner (1993 and 2001), qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic twice. He finished 20th in 1993 and 21st in 2001. He and Ed Cowan hold the distinction of being the only anglers to win two Federation Nation Championship titles.
"Mike was unique. He was humble," said longtime friend Jeff Gottshall.
Gottshall and Holt met when they both worked for BellSouth in Columbia, Tenn. They started fishing together in 1986, but Gottshall quickly discovered that Holt was a beginner. "He started fishing with a white Zebco rod and a push-button reel. One day he sat in the middle of the boat and asked what I used this pork rind for."
So Gottshall taught Holt how to flip a jig-and-pig. For the next seven years they fished tournaments together. "The impressive thing about Mike was that he picked it up so quickly. You hear of many people who have a gift at something. For Mike it was fishing."
In 1990, Holt was transferred to Lexington, Tenn., and started fishing Kentucky Lake, which was experiencing a bass boom at that time. In addition to competing in the Federation Nation, Holt also entered regular BASS Invitational events. His best finish in one of those was eighth in the 2001 Bassmaster Oklahoma Central Open on Fort Gibson Lake.
Michael Holt will be remembered as one of the best anglers in the history of amateur bass fishing.
He is survived by his wife, Adele Smith Holt; daughter, Carrie Lynne Holt Mullins of Sherwood, Ark.; son, 1st Lt. Aaron Michael Holt of Conyers, Ga.; his mother, stepfather and brother; and three grandchildren.
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