By BassFan Staff

It looked like it was going to be easy, but it turned out that it wasn't. Nonetheless, Tim Horton's long dry spell is over.

The veteran from Alabama claimed his first Bassmaster Elite Series victory in nearly a decade on Sunday as his 11-07 stringer – his lightest haul of the week – gave him a 4-day total of 83-05 in the circuit's second event of the 2017 season at Florida's Lake Okeechobee. He caught less than half the combined weight over the weekend as he did on the derby's first 2 days, but ended up with enough to thwart Ott DeFoe, who's been the hottest angler on the tour dating back to the end of last season.

The victory was Horton's fourth at B.A.S.S.' top level and second at Okeechobee (he also prevailed at the Big O in 2004). His most recent triumph had occurred during the summer of 2007 at Lake Champlain.

"I really think this one feels better than any of the others, to be honest with you," he said. "I know how hard it is to win out here, and to get back on top just feels incredible."

An incredible amount of stress is what he'd felt for most of the day. He had an 8 1/2-pound lead when he launched his boat, but his fertile area on the south side of the massive lake had been blown out by a strong north wind and he had to scramble to put together a miniscule limit.

He thought his sack would register less than 10 pounds and after DeFoe scaled a stout 18-03, he was certain he'd blown all of his big advantage. He flung his hat into the crowd and dropped to all fours on the stage when he saw that his final tally was a little more than a pound better than DeFoe's.

"It's really hard explain everything I'm feeling. I thought I'd let my family down after they drove 13 hours to watch the weigh-in. I'm just so thankful that they were here to share this with me."

DeFoe, the winner last summer at the Mississippi River in Wisconsin and the 10th-place finisher in this year's opener at Cherokee Lake in his home state of Tennessee, finished with an 82-01 total. Floridian Cliff Prince held onto the No. 3 slot with 78-03 (15-07 on day 4).

Fletcher Shryock boxed a day-best 21-08 to finish a career-best 4th with a 77-10 aggregate. Greg Hackney endured a tough day (12-10) and dropped one place to 5th with 73-12.

Here are the final numbers for the remainder of the Top 12:

6. Dave Lefebre: 73-00
7. Bobby Lane: 72-10
8. Jason Williamson: 69-10
9. Dean Rojas: 68-14
10. Andy Montgomery: 67-12
11. Stephen Browning: 67-05
12. Adrian Avena: 63-14

DeFoe has a 13-point lead in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race after two events. Williamson is 2nd and Josh Bertrand 3rd. Horton, who was a dismal 96th at Cherokee, now sits at No. 46.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Horton didn't put the first fish into his livewell until 11 o'clock on day 4.

The next regular-season event on the circuit will take place April 6-9 at Toledo Bend Reservoir. That'll occur 2 weeks after the 2017 Bassmaster Classic, which is set for March 24-26 at Lake Conroe near Houston.

Relief for Horton

> Day 4: 5, 11-07 (20, 83-05)

Horton spent the early portion of the day in the area where he'd mined more than 56 pounds over the first 2 days and another 15 1/2 on day 3, but it had been ravaged by Mother Nature.

"If the wind would've been out of the northeast (as forecasts had predicted), it would've been protected," he said. "But it came straight out of the north and made everything real dirty."

He ran around to some other places in the vicinity on a quest to find some clean water, but was unsuccessful. He then jumped into the rim canal and came back to the northern part of the lake.

His livewell was still empty at 11:00. He eventually pulled five keepers from holes in the eelgrass on the North Shore using the same Klone Crawsome plastic crayfish imitation that had produced his 26- and 30-pound bags on days 1 and 2.

He was simultaneously surprised, relieved and elated when the scale locked up at an ounce shy of 11 1/2 pounds.

"I didn't look at them real good and I definitely had a little more than I thought I did."

Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishes, will be published this week.

2nd: DeFoe Gave it a Run

> Day 4: 5, 18-13 (20, 82-01)

DeFoe said he slept extremely well on Saturday night and felt no pressure while fishing Sunday due to Horton's substantial lead. He ended up erasing the vast majority of it, but came up a little shy of his second win in three Elite Series derbies dating back to the end of the 2016 campaign.

"I felt from the start of the day that I was way too far out of it and I needed something big to make it interesting," he said. "I knew Timmy could slip up, and the wind probably hurt him more than anybody, but at the same time I expected him to adjust and catch some fish."

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Ott DeFoe made a serious run at overcoming an 8 1/2-pound deficit, but came up a little shy.

He boated 15 to 20 keepers on day 4, the biggest of which weighed 6-06. He missed a couple of bites, but didn't lose any that had been hooked up.

"When (his day-4 fish) weighed what they weighed, and based on what he had said, I knew that if he didn't have 10 pounds I was going to get him. I'd never really considered winning a possibility until then, and that was the only time that I felt any disappointment."

He threw small-profile Terminator frogs in two different colors on lily pads and flipped heavier vegetation.

3rd: Prince Lacked Giant Bag

> Day 4: 5, 15-07 (20, 78-03)

Prince finished 3rd despite not weighing a bag that exceeded 21-11.

"The two guys who beat me both had 30-pound sacks," he said. "When somebody weighs in 30, even if you stay real consistent, it's hard to make up that ground.

"I missed two fish today that would've made a difference in my weight, but not where I finished. When I fish pretty clean like that, I can't complain. If I'd lost a couple of 8-pounders or something like that, I'd be kicking myself."

The biggest fish in his day-4 bag weighed 4 1/4 pounds. He'd caught a 7-pounder on each of the three previous day.

"I had a 5-pounder today that jumped completely over my frog. I threw back in and she at it, but I didn't get the hook in her good and she just pulled off.

"In practice I caught a 5-pounder from that same place and that was probably the same fish."

4th: Shryock a Little Bummed

> Day 4: 5, 21-08 (20, 77-10)

Shryock had a good day and achieved a finish he'd never reached previously, but still felt some disappointment.

"In a way, it kind of sucks," he said. "The bottom line is I had more than enough bites to win, but I didn't figure out how to land them until late on the second day.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Fletcher Shryock's 21-08 bag was the biggest of day 4.

"On day 1 and 2 I should've had mega-bags, and that's on me so it's a little bittersweet. I'm not a spring chicken anymore and I've never been on fish like that before – it was really special. I'm from Ohio and I'm not used to catching 5- to 7-pounders on a swimjig."

The 7 1/2-pounder that topped his Sunday stringer was the biggest fish of the day.

"On days 1 through 3 the bites were either 6- to 8-pounders or they weighed a pound and a half. Today a bunch of 3 1/2-pounders showed up, but I only got the one really good bite."

5th: Hackney Exceeded Own Expectations

> Day 4: 5, 12-10 (20, 73-12)

Hackney didn't have a great final day, but said he had a fun week.

"I enjoyed it, and I didn't think I was going to before the tournament started," he said. "I wouldn't say I was dreading it, but I thought I was fixing to take it on the chin based on my practice.

"That's kind of stereotypical of our bunch – we complain about the fishing in practice, but we're trying to cover as much water as possible. Then once we settle down in an area and fish, a lot of times it's a lot better than what people thought it was going to be."

A 3-pounder was the biggest fish he boated on day 4. He said he made a tactical mistake by leaving the area that had produced for him the previous 2 days, which hadn't been dirtied up by the wind, in favor of a secondary spot that he eventually discovered had been violently churned.

"I killed about 2 hours doing that. When I came back I caught four in 45 minutes and culled a couple of times."

7th: Lane Gained Some Ground

> Day 4: 5, 18-08 (20, 72-10)

Lane moved up five places with a strong final-day bag.

"I had a special little area on the North Shore all to myself today," he said. "I found this place when me and a good friend were here a couple months ago. We'd put the Power-Poles down and were eating sandwiches, and we eventually found that we could throw anything there and catch a fish without even putting the food down.

"The first day of practice I rolled in there and found an 8-pounder laying on a bed. I caught her the first morning and I did most of my damage within 100 yards of that spot."

He threw a Yo-Zuri 3DB Pencil and a Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper worm on a 1/8-ounce weight for most of the event. When the cold front showed up on the final day, he flipped mats along the lengthy stretch from Harney Pond to King's Bar.

"My Power-Poles and my Costa sunglasses were both a must this week. Without them, I couldn't have done my job."


> Day 4 stats – 12 anglers, 12 limits.

More details of this tournament will be posted soon.

Day 4 (Final) Standings

1. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 20, 83-05 -- 110 -- $100,500
Day 1: 5, 25-15 -- Day 2: 5, 30-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-11 -- Day 4: 5, 11-07

2. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 20, 82-01 -- 109 -- $26,000
Day 1: 5, 31-03 -- Day 2: 5, 17-03 -- Day 3: 5, 14-14 -- Day 4: 5, 18-13

3. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 20, 78-03 -- 108 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 21-11 -- Day 2: 5, 21-06 -- Day 3: 5, 19-11 -- Day 4: 5, 15-07

4. Fletcher Shryock -- New Philadelphia, OH -- 20, 77-10 -- 107 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 17-00 -- Day 2: 5, 20-04 -- Day 3: 5, 18-14 -- Day 4: 5, 21-08

5. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 20, 73-12 -- 106 -- $14,000
Day 1: 5, 20-02 -- Day 2: 5, 19-09 -- Day 3: 5, 21-07 -- Day 4: 5, 12-10

6. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, PA -- 20, 73-00 -- 105 -- $13,500
Day 1: 5, 07-07 -- Day 2: 5, 21-05 -- Day 3: 5, 25-11 -- Day 4: 5, 18-09

7. Bobby Lane Jr. -- Lakeland, FL -- 20, 72-10 -- 104 -- $14,000
Day 1: 5, 21-15 -- Day 2: 5, 12-14 -- Day 3: 5, 19-05 -- Day 4: 5, 18-08

8. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 20, 69-10 -- 103 -- $12,500
Day 1: 5, 17-09 -- Day 2: 5, 19-05 -- Day 3: 5, 17-07 -- Day 4: 5, 15-05

9. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 20, 68-14 -- 102 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 17-13 -- Day 2: 5, 25-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-01 -- Day 4: 5, 10-12

10. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 20, 67-12 -- 101 -- $11,500
Day 1: 5, 20-13 -- Day 2: 5, 12-09 -- Day 3: 5, 23-12 -- Day 4: 5, 10-10

11. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 20, 67-05 -- 100 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 26-13 -- Day 2: 5, 15-12 -- Day 3: 5, 17-04 -- Day 4: 5, 07-08

12. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 20, 63-14 -- 99 -- $10,500
Day 1: 5, 15-02 -- Day 2: 5, 17-00 -- Day 3: 5, 23-06 -- Day 4: 5, 08-06