Congratulations to Chris for winning this week’s trivia contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits! For the answer, read below.
Art Ferguson’s victory at the 2000 Alabama Bassmaster Top 150 was the sole tour-level victory of his career to date. He’s won at the AAA level since then, but never again on either the FLW Tour or the Elite Series (or its equivalent).
The May 2000 event on Wheeler was of course significant for Ferguson, but it was less significant for another highly-accomplished angler – simply because the angler in question didn’t really need to show up.
In order to win this week’s prize, look through the list of 136 competitors – Hall of Famers, nobodies and everyone in between – and let me know which angler has gone on to a stellar career despite going into Ferguson’s glory week without a care in the world.
Here’s the answer:
Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the angler whose finish is historically meaningful yet unnecessary at the same time. The Wheeler tournament was the final event in the seven-event Top 150 schedule that spanned the calendar years 1999 and 2000. Horton, then a rookie, won the Angler of the Year title that season. Back in those days, each angler could “drop” his worst finish for the year, and after six events Horton had clinched the title. Thus, even though Wheeler was virtually in his backyard, he didn’t need the hometown advantage to secure his title. Nevertheless, he finished 11th to really knock the ball out of the park.
Although Alton Jones won the previous event (MegaBucks) on Lake Murray, Horton finished 5th there to wrap up the title. His worst finish on the season was a 38th at Lake Champlain. His results included the following in chronological order:
Lake St. Clair 6th
Lake Champlain 38th
Potomac River 1st
Kissimmee Chain 22nd
Lake Seminole 4th
Lake Murray 5th
Horton thereby became the first rookie to win the AOY title. “As far as being a rookie and winning Angler of the Year in just six tournaments, yeah, it even amazes me that it happened that way,” he told the media. “You know, things fell into place for me this year with every tournament. I think when good things happen and you start getting confident, things just flow a lot better. And that’s how every tournament went for me this year.”
The B.A.S.S. press release prior to Wheeler described Horton as “[p]erhaps the most relaxed pro in the Lake Wheeler event….”
“It’s great to have Angler of the Year already wrapped up,” he told B.A.S.S. “Now I can swing for the fences and go all out to win the tournament. It could be a real good tournament for me or it could be real bad. I’m going to do the best that I can, but I’m going looking for big schools of fish instead of worrying about picking up a fish here and there.”
A couple of years later BassFan described Horton’s rookie season as “the most incredible…ever seen in the sport. On the BASSMASTER Top 150 tour he accumulated one win, three additional Top 10s and earned B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. That feat might not be repeated in our lifetimes.” Others, like Derek Remitz, have made moves to equal or beat Horton’s rookie accomplishments, but so far BassFan’s prediction has not been disproved.
When B.A.S.S. established their Rookie of the Year award in 2012, Horton told BassFan that it would “be a neat award because it gives first-year pros something to shoot for. It’s also something you can look back on 10-15 years from now and say that you were rookie of the year.” Now, 13 years after his rookie season, and with 11 Bassmaster Classics under his belt, he may not have a formal ROY award to his name, but no one can take away his AOY title – and he didn’t even need a full season to accomplish it.