KISSIMMEE, Fla., Dec. 15, 2001 - With a dominance rarely seen in major- league bass fishing, Alabama pro Tim Horton, as expected, finished off the competition Saturday in the $477,950 Florida CITGO BASSMASTER Tour event to score his second national victory and earn $110,000.
As it turned out, Horton, 29, didn't have to get out of bed Saturday to win the tournament on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes - thanks to a lead of nearly 15 pounds.
But the 2000 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year went fishing and caught the largest five-bass limit of the finals (12 pounds, 1 ounce). That enabled him to expand his final cushion to 17-6 with a four-day total of 61-4.
"Man, what a great week!" Horton said. "Everything just worked out great this week. To win one of these events with the most elite anglers in the world, it just doesn't get any better than that.
"I was happy to have such a big lead going into today, but I never felt like it was safe. With the caliber of bass in this lake and the caliber of fishermen in the finals, no lead is safe. So I went out and did the best that I could."
Horton, who posted his second consecutive top-10 performance on the Kissimmee Chain, made a strategic change Saturday designed to protect his lead. Instead of traveling to the area on the southern end of Lake Tohopekalgia where he had caught enough big bass to establish his insurmountable lead, he started on a spot that held an abundance of smaller bass. After boating four small bass, Horton ran to his best area at around 9 a.m. and proceeded to cull his three lightest fish.
His big-bass pattern, which produced two 8-pound-plus bass during the event, involved pitching and flipping two Riverside lures (a 3-inch Big Claw and Vibra King Tube teamed with a 1-ounce Penetrator tungsten weight and 50-pound McCoy braided line) into holes in extremely dense hydrilla. His smaller "limit" bait was a 6-inch Riverside ribbontail worm.
Top pro Larry Nixon entered Saturday's final round without any illusions about overtaking Horton. The Arkansas angler finished with 9-4 to place a distant second with 43-14.
"I figured I had about a 1-percent chance of catching Timmy, let's be realistic," Nixon said. "I was 15 pounds behind, and I hadn't caught over 15 pounds since the first day. And Timmy had been catching them so consistently. I knew I couldn't catch that much today. It would have taken something highly unusual for that to happen."
Legendary Florida pro Roland Martin finished third with 40-13. "I was aiming to beat Larry," he said, laughing. "That was my goal going into today."
Fourth place went to Jeff Magee of Mississippi with 39-09, followed by Florida's Chuck Economou with 37-15. Rounding out the top-10 finalists: George Cochran of Arkansas (37-5), Texan Tommy Martin (36-6), Mickey Bruce of Georgia (35-14), Connecticut's Lee Bailey (31-12) and Davy Hite of South Carolina (31-5).
Nixon took Saturday's big-bass honors with a 4-pound, 1-ounce largemouth.
ESPN2 will broadcast the event beginning Feb. 2, 2002 at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern). It will also re-air Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
By sanctioning over 20,000 tournaments worldwide, B.A.S.S. is the world's largest fishing organization. The CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit. It continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism, and sportsmanship after more than three decades.
Sponsors of the Florida CITGO BASSMASTER Tour event include: CITGO, Chevrolet Trucks, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Pennzoil Marine, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Stowaway Batteries, Kumho Tires, Long John Silver's, Gore-Tex Outerwear, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Armstrong Industrial Hand Tools, GMAC/ B.A.S.S. Vehicle & Boat Insurance, B.A.S.S. Platinum Visa/First USA.
Associate Sponsors include: Bass Cat Boats and G3 Boats
The Florida CITGO BASSMASTER Tour is presented locally by the Kissimmee -St. Cloud Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Story Courtesy of B.A.S.S., Inc.