New friendships that will last a lifetime

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — What do you do if you’re competing in the Bassmaster Classic in Alabama, but you and your boat live in Montana?

That’s the conundrum Tim Johnston faced when he qualified for the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro.

Johnston, who will represent the Western Division after winning his region in the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, lives in Kalispell, Mont.

That’s 2,152 miles from Alabama’s Lake Guntersville.

“In November, I contacted the Lake Guntersville Bassmasters club through their website just to find someone who would be willing to keep my boat during the off-limits period,” said Johnston, who was scheduling a trip to pre-fish on Guntersville at the time.

“I had three offers immediately,” he said, impressed with the way B.A.S.S. Nation members across the country work together to help out their fellow anglers. Tony Jones was the one Johnston worked out the details with.

“Tony basically took me under his wing and helped me far beyond anything that I could ever have asked. He invited me to fish a tournament with his club, helped me understand the lake, took me to and from the airport, allowed me to keep my rig at his house, fixed a flat tire on my tow vehicle, towed my boat (during off-limits and while I was back in Montana) to Dawson Marine for repairs and allowed me to stay at his home,” said Johnston.

But Jones also gave him what Johnston calls “the greatest gift of all.”

“While I was pre-fishing in December about lunchtime — I was eating a sandwich — my cell phone rang,” Johnston explained. “I answered it, and on the other end was Timmy Horton!”

“Welcome to Alabama,” said Horton, “and congratulations on making it to the Classic.”

“I was sitting in my boat on Lake Guntersville speaking with Timmy Horton!” said Johnston, a self-proclaimed huge fan of the sport and also a big supporter of Horton.

“Tony is friends with Timmy and gave me this great gift,” said Johnston. “That’s how great these guys are. The other day I told Tony that I was sending a new prop to his house for my boat because I dented my other one during my last day of pre-fish. He told me that was fine but that he had already fixed the dented one on my boat.”

Johnston was floored that someone he had never met before December would be so helpful.

“I don’t understand why bass fishermen are so competitive yet so incredibly giving,” said Johnston. “The guys and gals in this community are first-class. I’m so grateful.

“The tournament will end on the 23rd. But my newly established friendships will last a lifetime.”

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