Horton holds a hawg

MONROE, La. — With the Ouachita River fishing so small, some of the contenders held back on their fish today in the 2011 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship (FNC) presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats, but Alabama’s Jamie Horton went all out.

Thinking about what Alabama football Coach Nick Saban would say facing such tough conditions as Horton encountered on the Ouachita, the Centerville, Ala., angler put together a 16-pound, 4-ounce limit to take over the lead at the FNC.

“Nick would probably tell you to focus on doing your best and preparing yourself and not focusing on the goal at the end,” said Horton, a four-time FNC qualifier who also competed in the 2002 Bassmaster Classic. “I have been telling myself that over and over and hope these three days I can fish just as clean and as hard and as good as I can do and the result at the end will be what it is.”

 Horton caught only two fish in practice but had stayed away from his best spots.

 It was a struggle all day and I only caught six fish,” Horton said.

Some of the competitors kept mentioning during the weigh-in that they just concentrated on catching a limit and saving the rest of their fish for the next couple of days, but Horton had a different strategy.

“I went to the biggest 12 fish I knew about first and caught five of them,” he said.  “I felt excellent about what I had and then I caught a 5-pounder right before I came in.

“It was just isolated fish on isolated pieces of cover. I moved around a lot and hit all of my best stuff. I didn’t hold back anything because the way the wind was blowing I didn’t know what tomorrow might hold. I didn’t even have a plan because I didn’t have any expectations of catching them like that, but after I caught those five and thought I had about 10 or 12 pounds I decided I wasn’t  going to let up.“ 

Fifty-four contestants are split into six geographical divisions in this three-day event.  The top finisher in each division will qualify for a coveted berth for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, also to be held in Louisiana on the Red River.  

Tournament leader Horton tops the Southern Division. The other division leaders are Josh Polfer of Idaho in the Western with 11-3; Matt McCoy of Indiana in the Northern with 14-1; Richard McCrone, New Jersey, in the Mid-Atlantic with 10-10; John Diaco, New Hampshire, in the Eastern with 11-15; and Jared Miller, Oklahoma, in the Central with 10-9.

Tomorrow’s takeoff will begin at 7:15 a.m. CDST at the Forsyth Park boat ramp (2201 Riverside Dr., in Monroe).