By Todd Ceisner
From 2000 to 2009, Tim Horton was a fixture at bass fishing's signature event, qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic each year during that span. The last 5 years, though, have been a different story with 2012 representing his only Classic appearance this decade.
Through five events this season, Horton is 25th in points and in position to get back to the event every pro bass angler covets. His performance, and most notably his consistency, this season has improved, he says, because of a more relaxed approach on the water. He's cashed four checks so far and has avoided the bombs (finishes of 65th or worse) that pulled him out of Classic contention in recent seasons.
"A lot of it is having a good attitude and I'm enjoying myself this year," said the veteran pro from Muscle Shoals, Ala. "We've been to some lakes that I enjoy fishing and that always is a big help."
What also helps is being able to put together solid finishes in events where the bites to win don't materialize.
"What's been cool this year is I have not found winning fish and when you don't find winning fish you still have to maximize yourself to have a pretty good tournament," he added. "That's what I've been able to do. We're getting into my favorite time of year. When you have tournaments where you haven't found winning fish and you're still able to capitalize and avoid those out-of-the-money bombs, that builds confidence. In years past I've had those finishes in the 80s and 90s and they're so hard to overcome. The last 4 or 5 years, I've had one or two of those and that's been the refreshing thing this year."
Plenty of New Water
While the early part of the schedule was dotted with waters Horton was quite familiar with, the latter portion will be mostly foreign.
Since the upcoming BASSFest at Lake Chickamauga will have no impact on the AOY standings for Elite Series pro (all Elite Series anglers will receive 100 points), the final two tournaments of the year at the Delaware River and Cayuga Lake will be the final determining events in who heads to the Angler of the Year championship (Top 50 in points) in Michigan in September.
Both the Delaware and Cayuga will be new venues to most Elite Series pros, especially the tide-heavy Delaware. Horton is planning a scouting trip to the northeast in late June as part of his filming schedule for his Timmy Horton Outdoors television series and hopes to spend some time on the historic river near Philadelphia.
"That whole deal with the Delaware River is really going to be different," he said. "None of us are used to what we're going to see with tides there. Do you stay somewhere or try to run the tides? It's really going to be a perplexing deal. It's going to be a low-weight event. You're going to see the leaderboards move a lot there good and bad for people because it won't be an event where you can say, 'I know I can go in this creek and be productive.'
"Up there, you can practice for 3 days and miss the tides and go into day 1 having not found anything. That part will be intriguing. My hope is to be able to move up in the points and get into the Classic. That's the goal, no doubt."
His approach to breaking down new water, such as the Delaware, is fairly simple.
"The biggest thing I like to do is take a map and look for big spawning areas and big flats because regardless if you're in the North, the South or out West, those are the parts of the river or lake that will hold the biggest populations of fish," he said. "Then I'll look at water clarity because that'll tell me how deep or shallow they'll get. I'll take those factors and try to get comfortable with some patterns in those areas.
"I really want to stay in some areas all day (at the Delaware) just so I can see what the fish do differently when the tide's moving. That part makes it a bit different. At Cayuga, the key will be figuring out a smallmouth/largemouth deal."
After last season, Horton parted ways with Pradco after several years on the lure company's pro staff. He attributes part of his resurgence this season to his involvement in the launch of ProFound Outdoors, a direct sales tackle company that markets pro-designed baits (crankbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits and soon soft plastics) under brand names like Swampers (jigs, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits), Azuma (hard baits) and Klone (soft plastics).
He founded the company after researching other successful direct sales companies such as nutrition giant AdvoCare and seeing a place in the fishing industry for a similar approach.
"I had actually talked to management at Pradco about it three or four years ago, but it just didn't fit their business model," he said.
ProFound launched around New Year's this year and first-quarter sales results were "phenomenal despite limited inventory," Horton said. The company is structured around individual distributors, who pay a one-time $79 startup fee to join. From there, they can opt to sell ProFound products via the web, from home or at their local launch ramp. Think of it as the Avon of bass fishing.
"In fishing, I've seen how the weekend guy is the heartbeat of our industry, period," he said. "The pros don't have a living, BassFan doesn't have a website, tournament trails don't have tournament trails without the weekend guys. They're the core of our industry. Within those guys, what they want more than a great product is an opportunity to belong to a company.
"Unless you've won an FLW Championship or a Bassmaster Classic or two or three major events, it's hard to get a financial deal. Right here is an opportunity to get a financial deal just by believing in the products. Within our industry, it really fits the weekend guy."
Besides Horton, Aaron Martens, Edwin Evers, Gary Klein, Kelly Jordon and Cliff Pace are among the pros who are designing baits for ProFound and Horton said the response from distributors at the grass-roots level has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We have distributors who are averaging $1,000 per month financially and they're just weekend anglers," he said. "That part is cool. We're having tournaments won on our products. It's all very gratifying. People are wrapping their boats and trucks in ProFound Outdoors logos to build sales and their business."
What's more, being able to work with other pros on lure design has helped Horton turn a corner this season.
"It's been a big change for me and I think that's been a big player, not only the lures, but communicating with the pros that we have," he said. "With Aaron and Edwin and Gary and Cliff and those guys, it's just a real strong lift to be able to communicate about lures and why they work and color combinations and designs. That part of it has really had me thinking about lure selections and what I use. A lot of times, just some little change in what you have going on in your fishing makes a big deal and that has for me this year."
> Horton said ProFound will soon announce the addition of the Klone line of soft plastics to its product offering. Mark Pack, formerly of Lake Fork Trophy Lures and now of M-Pack Lures, and Jordon were instrumental in the design of the initial shapes and colors.