ALPENA, MI – With a bachelor’s in psychology from Auburn University, MLF Summit Cup Angler Timmy Horton rubs his hands together in glee when he’s asked to describe the mindset of a successful tournament pro.
“Oh, there’s definitely some psychology involved in this sport,” Horton asserts. “It would be pretty difficult to sustain a successful tournament career if you didn’t have certain mental characteristics. This isn’t a traditional way to make a living, it takes a certain kind of personality to really be good at it.”
Horton entertained thoughts of putting his degree to use as a youth counselor if his tournament career didn’t work out, but those plans were shelved quickly when he cashed a $100,000 check at a Bassmaster Top 150 event in 1999 and then claimed the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year title as a tour rookie in 2000.
The truths he learned in the psychology classroom have stayed with him, though, and the five-time B.A.S.S. winner can point to most of his MLF competitors and identify certain mental qualities that make them among the best competitive anglers in the world.
“Greg Hackney would be successful at whatever he pursued,” Horton observes. “Kevin VanDam also would’ve been excellent at any job he chose to do. There’s a reason why they’re so successful as tournament anglers, and why they’re so good in MLF: their ‘processors’ work incredibly fast, and they’re very confident people. When you think about it, fishing is just a huge algebra problem. You have 30 variables to work with, and you have to get to ‘X’ to be successful.”
Horton also points to the ability to rebound quickly, and to maintain a positive mental outlook when faced with dramatically changing conditions as key components to successful tournament psychology. In his Elimination Round this week on Hubbard Lake, Horton and Brent Chapman were seemingly in control of the round through Periods 1 and 2, recording nine of the day’s first 12 fish on SCORETRACKER. But as the day wore on, Horton’s bite dissipated, and he managed only one fish over the final three hours of the round.
“It’s pretty important to have an edge of intensity about you in any competition, but you have to be able to balance that and turn it off when things don’t go well,” Horton says. “There are a lot of guys who are ‘Type A’ 24 hours a day, but there are times when you have to let it be like water off a duck’s back when things go wrong. It won’t help me any to fret about the last part of that (round); I started moving on the second the round was over.”