Tim Horton had qualified for 10 consecutive Bassmaster Classics before his worst-ever Elite Series season in 2009 left him a few spots shy in the Angler of the Year (AOY) standings of making the 2010 edition. Now he'll miss two in a row.
Instead of bouncing back and laying the foundation for a new streak, he fell even farther down the points list this year (he ended up 51st after finishing 40th in '09). He concluded the campaign with some solid outings, but a miserable beginning left him far short of the cutoff to compete in New Orleans in February.
He's not happy about his recent results, but he's not sitting around at home in Alabama beating himself up, either. He says he still has all the competitive drive he ever had, but he's found another niche within the sport that has made his mini-slump a lot easier to stomach.
"I'm just on fire for teaching right now," he said. "I don't want to use it as a crutch, but doing the TV shows and teaching are something I'm really having fun with. I'm doing more seminars than I've ever done.
"I think what any individual is really seeking is self-fulfillment, and I still have that drive to win, but after you've been patted on the back for it, it becomes empty after awhile. I'm getting a lot of fulfillment from teaching and having people come up and say, 'Hey, I watched your show and then I went out to my own lake and did what you were talking about.' It's something that's happened over time and right now it's sticking with me more than the desire to go out and catch more fish than everybody else."
Horton's thick blond hair, ever-present smile and smooth Southern voice make him a natural for bass-fishing television – he comes from the same sort of mold that produced a couple of guys named Martin and Houston, who were no strangers to the leaderboard or the camera.
This off-season he's continued his work on The Bass Pros, the Bass Pro Shops-produced series on Versus that follows a primarily instructional format, and next spring he'll launch his own education-themed show called Tim Horton Outdoors. Negotiations with networks are ongoing, but several episodes have already been shot.
"The things I've done with TV have really opened my eyes to its value, and with the things I've got going, I'm really enjoying the response from the fan base," he said. "As a pro tournament angler, you can get caught up in results, and those are very important, but I believe that even if you won everything in the world, you'd still need that connection with the fan base to be totally successful.
"There's not too many who can do it both ways, but Kevin (VanDam) is one who does a great job at it. Not by any means am I saying that I don't have the desire to go out and compete at that level anymore, because I do, and the tournament trail is one of the best places to teach."
Coming off back-to-back subpar seasons, it'd seem natural for Horton to set a moderate goal for 2010 – like getting back to the Classic. That won't do, though.
"I want to win another AOY," said the man who captured that title as a rookie back in 2000. "I know this story might sound like I'm admitting to losing some of my edge, but I'm still as fiery of a competitor as I've ever been.
"Also, I'm excited about the changes at B.A.S.S – it's like a breath of fresh air with the new management. It might be just what I need personally, feeling like things are moving in the right direction.
"To a fault, I've taken a lot of the things that have happened in this sport too personally," the former Professional Anglers Association (PAA) president concluded. "It's not just a job for me, it's a passion. Even though there's a lot of things going on with me, not wanting to win is not one of them."
> Horton said he not only enjoys filming the TV shows, but planning them as well. "It's so cool to sit in my office and take the lakes into consideration and outline what I want to cover," he said. "The question I get asked most often by fans is how you figure out a new lake, and that's a lot of what we'll do with the new show. We'll got to the Potomac River and point out, 'This is why we look shallow here at this time of year,' or go to Champlain and say, 'Here's why we're going to fish deeper.' And then we'll go heavily into the lures that are going to be involved."
> He started the 2010 campaign at No. 57 in the BassFan World Rankings, but will begin the new campaign at No. 92.