Tim Horton will tell you he’s had some trying times on bass fishing’s top circuit in the 10 years since his last victory.
The pro from Muscle Shoals, Ala., came on like gangbusters in 2000, and he remains the only rookie to win a Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Horton then won four events over the next seven years before hitting several rough patches.
“I had a really, really great start to my career,” Horton said on stage after winning the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite on Lake Okeechobee on Sunday. “In about (2009), I couldn’t get it going …
“This one’s special. It’s been a while since I felt what I felt this week.”
It looked as if Horton, 44, would break out in style like his last victory. Horton blew away the field in the 2007 Elite on Lake Champlain, returning to the dock by 10 a.m. and enjoying a pizza there before a 12-pound, 12-ounce win.
At Okeechobee, his 30-4 Day 2 bag put him 8 pounds up. A missed 9-pounder early on Day 3 would have increased his Championship Sunday lead of 8-10 on Ott DeFoe and possibly made it another walk in the park.
However, changing winds muddied Horton’s area on Day 4 and he had to scramble. He managed a limit he thought to be around 10 pounds. On stage, after seeing DeFoe weigh 18-13, Horton spoke as if he would lose. When emcee Dave Mercer announced 11 pounds, 7 ounces and that Horton was now a five-time Bassmaster winner, Horton crumpled to the ground, a quivering pile of emotion.