Tyler Courtney of Texas wins Fantasy Fishing grand prize

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tyler Courtney of Lubbock, Texas, will be upgrading his 1998 Triton for a 2016 version after winning the grand prize in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing presented by Toyota, a fantasy game that follows the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Before each tournament begins, fans predict the best angler in each of five groups, or “buckets,” and are awarded with points based on the angler’s finish. Big prizes are awarded to the top player for each event and to the best overall player of the season.

“I still really can’t believe it,” said Courtney, who took first place overall by the eighth tournament of the 10-event season.

“I thought it was great but that I probably would end up making some bonehead move.”

Courtney lost the lead in the ninth event but gained it back when it counted. He beat more than 30,000 other players of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing and won a Triton 189TrX boat with a Yamaha VF150LA motor, a single-axle trailer, MotorGuide trolling motor and a Lowrance Mark 5X. His prize package is valued at $37,793.

Courtney had never even played Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing until this year.

“This is my first season,” said Courtney. “My buddies invited me and we started our own group. We didn’t even put any money in it; it was all just for bragging rights.”

He definitely earned bragging rights. When the season was drawing to a close and Courtney was hovering around the top of the leaderboard for the last few weeks, his friends were constantly texting him.

“I started getting nervous those last few weeks, and I asked my buddies to help me so I wouldn’t mess up,” said Courtney. “But they wouldn’t help! They said I just needed to keep doing what I was doing.

“I did, and I guess it worked out!”

Courtney, 28, stays busy with his sales job, but he did give his Fantasy Fishing picks some time during the season.

“I would spend 15 or 20 minutes on the Monday before a Bassmaster Elite Series event, looking up each angler’s past results on a lake,” said Courtney. “When I got to the lower buckets, I would choose an angler who lived close to the lake, hoping he would have some experience there.”

Courtney also picked Aaron Martens often, which was a win for any Fantasy Fishing player. Martens, who won the 2015 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award, was the best angler to pick in his bucket several times throughout the year.

The Wednesday night before each Elite Series event, Courtney would go back over his picks to be sure he didn’t want to make any changes.

“I certainly didn’t have any elaborate planning method,” Courtney said, “but I was consistent.”

Courtney wasn’t the only winner. He may have won the season, but 10 other players won individual events. The prize for those was a $2,500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops, and each winner who was also a member of B.A.S.S. won an additional $500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops.

Winners were Austin Crank, Oklahoma; Mark Trodden, Virginia; Josh Edwards, Georgia, Steven Bow, California; Cristy Collier, Oklahoma; Justin Earps, Tennessee; Kenneth Bulin, North Carolina; Dylan Adams, Arkansas; Mike Whitley, West Virginia; and Christopher Pike, Virginia.

Playing Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing is free. The season for 2015 is complete, but play will resume in early 2016 to kick off the Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series season.