In the end, Horton’s final round catch of six pounds, 10 ounces gave him a total of 65 pounds, 14 ounces – just enough to hold off Hackney’s final tally of 62 pounds, two ounces.
Ironically, there were more 20-plus pound catches in the final round than there were earlier in the competition, when Horton and Hackney were both scoring big. When asked what happened to their fish, Horton had a theory.
“I think Greg and I just caught ‘em all,” the affable angler said. “Our spot was only about 50 yards square and we never left it for three days.”
Their super-spot, located in the South Bay area of Okeechobee, produced an amazing 128 pounds of bass over three tournament days for the top two finishers. Both Horton and Hackney agree that it was so productive because it’s choked with several types of vegetation. In addition to what the lake provided through regular growth, the hurricanes of recent months contributed additional vegetation that was blown in and then became matted in a green labyrinth that Big O’s bass clearly love.
Horton never set his flipping stick down for three days. He pitched a four-inch black neon Yum Vibra King tube to the matted vegetation and penetrated the grass and pads with the aid of a 1 1/2-ounce tungsten slip sinker.
Hackney worked the area over with several baits, but had most of his success with Wave Worm’s Tiki-Crawdude. His said that his fish would hit other baits, but seemed to want the Crawdude more, and that made it easier to get a good hook-set, according to the 2004 CITGO Rookie of the Year.
Hackney’s second-place finish at Okeechobee was enough to give him the points championship on the CITGO Southern Open trail. Horton’s win moved him into fifth place in the overall standings.
David Walker of Tennessee finished in third place at Okeechobee with 57 pounds, six ounces. Like Horton and Hackney, he flipped up most of his better fish, but unlike the top two finishers, Walker used other techniques to take the smaller bass that made up the core of his catch.
“I fished both ends of the lake,” Walker said. “I caught fish flipping and pitching a black and blue craw, but also caught them casting worms, Rat-L-Traps and a spinnerbait. I had my chances,” Walker added. “I got as many bites today [Saturday] as any other day; I just didn’t capitalize on enough of them.”
The top finisher from Florida was Prattville’s Chris Lane, who used his final round catch of 15 pounds, eight ounces to take fourth place. The big mover on the final day was Georgia’s Michael Johnson, who brought 21 pounds, six ounces to the scales, including the Purolator Big Bass of Day Three, which weighed a hefty eight pounds, three ounces. Johnson’s catch carried him from 18th place all the way to fifth.
On the non-boater side, Don Carpenter of Ohatchee, Alabama, was never lower then second in the standings and finished in the top spot with 31 pounds, 15 ounces, besting North Carolina’s Terry Chapman by one pound and ten ounces. Carpenter credited his winning catch to a Paca Craw soft plastic lure manufactured by Net Bait Company and the selfless efforts of his professional partners.
“Chuck Economou, Charlie Hartley and Duke McCardell were great to fish with,” Carpenter said. “They all worked hard to help put me on fish and were real gentlemen. It was a fantastic experience.
Terry Chapman jumped from 44th place after Day Two all the way into second on the strength of the biggest bass caught in the tournament by a non-boater. His eight pound, nine ounce lunker fell to a black and blue creature bait that he was flipping and pitching into heavy vegetation.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, and Bass Pro Shops.
Local Sponsors include Okeechobee County Tourist Development.
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