KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Derek Remitz seemed to be in shock when he bested Mike Iaconelli, Steve Kennedy and Kevin VanDam to win the first tournament of the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series. Remitz caught 111 pounds, 7 ounces over four days on Lake Amistad to win $100,000 in the first event of his rookie season.
Remitz went on to have many ups and downs over the remainder of the 11-tournament season. But that victory probably had more to do with his winning the Toyota Rookie of the Year title than anything else this season.
"It was a big boost of confidence," said the 25-year-old Hemphill, Texas, resident. "I didn't know what to expect in my first real big professional tournament of my life. I think that was just a massive dose of confidence that helped me through the whole year."
Remitz received his trophy and the $25,000 check that goes with it Saturday during the Day Three weigh-in at the Sunshine Showdown at Lake Toho, presented by Allstate Boat Insurance.
There was a strong class of rookies on the Elite Series tour this year, including Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., and Matthew Sphar of Pavilion, N.Y.
Going into the last tournament, Ashley had almost overcome Remitz' early lead and made it a race for the rookie title. Sphar was in the mix, too, although it would have taken a victory at Toho for him to overtake the two leaders.
Sphar made a run at it, finishing 29th at Toho. But the key for Remitz this week was finishing 61st, 22 places above Ashley.
"There were lots of ups and downs all year long, but I guess it was meant to be," Remitz said. "I learned a lot this year, but I still don't really know a fraction of what I need to know."
Remitz did learn to overcome adversity. After a 20th-place finish on Grand Lake in June, he was 104th of 108 on Lake Champlain and 66th at Lake Erie. Then he came back with a 19th-place finish on the Potomac River in August.
"Anybody in this field can catch fish," Remitz said. "It's the mental edge you have to have to persevere through the bad times.
"Overall, I was pretty good at dealing with those bad tournaments. Just move on to the next one is what you've really got to do.
"I'm just excited that it ended up working out for me."