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How Nick Saban coached Jamie Horton to victory

BASS press release
Jamie Horton, the reigning B.A.S.S. Federation Nation champion as of last Saturday, contends that the coaching of Nick Saban changed his luck and life.

"Saban always preaches to not look at your goal, but at what you have to do to get there," said Horton, 44, who lives in Centreville, Ala., not far from the Tideís Tuscaloosa home. "He explained the difference between spending time and investing time to reach a goal."

"I took that and went with it. I focused on doing the best I could, to my ability, on the water. Not on the outcome, or on the reward, but on what I could control. You canít be like that on everything. You have to pick out something special, something you want really, really bad." Horton said.

Like being the Federation Nation champion. Like qualifying again for the Bassmaster Classic, getting another chance after his first time out in Classic 2002.

Like losing weight. Horton decided the first thing he could control was excess poundage. He weighed 307.

"That was back in November (2010). I decided that if I could lose 30 pounds before the Southern Divisional in April, then Iíd feel good about myself and I would fish better. Then I said that if I could lose 30 more pounds by The Nationals, then I felt like I could win it."

He cut back his food intake. Even though Horton was not a morning person, he forced himself to exercise at 5 a.m. each morning to condition himself for tournaments. He exceeded his April goal, dropping 35 pounds before his Southern Divisional and qualifying to move on to the championship. By the beginning of November, he had lost a total of 82 pounds.

"I was so driven. I had no problem passing on the sweet tea or the candy or whatever. I knew I only had to do it for eight months to reach my goal. And I remembered that losing weight was what I could do, what I could control, to make myself better."

He rolled with that success onto the water. Saturdayís victory on the Ouachita River, proved his determination paid off. And also served as a slice of redemption from 2007, when he led a national championship tournament for two days, but lost the event.

"I was focused on the prize, not on what I had to do. Later, when I heard Saban talk about focusing on the moment, I knew what I had done wrong," Horton said. "This (Federation Nation win) settles that score with me."

Horton is eager to scout the Red River, the 2012 Classic fishery. Unlike in the 2002 Classic, when Lay Lake was a new fishery to him, Horton has solid Red River experience. He wants to check out the river and how itís changed.

But first things first: Monday morning, Horton was in a tree stand in Kansas. He had flown directly from the tournament site in Monroe, La., to Kansas to meet his brother and father for their annual bow hunting trip.

He said he passed on a buck early in the day.

"I chose to wait on a bigger one," he said. "I have been pretty lucky lately."

And then there was one: With six B.A.S.S. Federation Nation qualifiers determined last Saturday, thereís only one seat left on the bus to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.

The six most recent Classic qualifiers came from the Nov. 3-5 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats: Overall champ and Southern Division winner Jamie Horton of Centreville, Ala. Josh Polfer of Nampa, Idaho, Western Division Matt McCoy, Indianapolis, Ind., Northern Division Chris Price, Church Hill, Md., Mid-Atlantic Division John Diaco, Rochester, N.H., Eastern Division and Tom Jessop, Dalhart, Texas, Central Division.

The last seat will be filled Nov. 12 by the winner of the 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship presented by American Bass Anglers. The event will begin Wednesday, Nov. 9 on South Carolinaís Santee Cooper Reservoir.

Made up by lakes Marion and Moultrie, vast Santee Cooper covers more than 110,000 acres at full pool. Water levels, however, are reportedly far below normal, and some productive backwater areas are high and dry.

Shane Williams wants to go home to the Classic: When the 2012 Bassmaster Classic comes to Shreveport-Bossier City, La., in February, angler Shane Williams will be there, just like he was in 2009 when the Classic last came to his home waters of the Red River.

This time, instead of watching Classic pros on the Red, Williams wants to be one of them.

"The Classic is every fishermanís dream. But to be in it at home Ö" Williams said needs no further explanation.

Williams found four chances to qualify. Three were by entering the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open, the B.A.S.S. circuit that offers Classic seats to each of three event winners. Williams did well for an Open rookie ó he ranked 45th in points among 181 Central Open anglers ó but only winners get Classic seats through the Opens.

This week Williams will make his fourth and final attempt of 2011. To succeed, he has to beat about 200 other anglers on the South Carolina impoundment of Santee Cooper in the Nov. 9-12 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship presented by American Bass Anglers.

Just like in a Bassmaster Open event, only the Weekend Series champ will get his ticket punched for the Feb. 24-26 Classic.

Williams, 31, competed for years in various circuits before he stepped up into the 2011 Opens. A Weekend Series angler since 2006, he qualified for the circuitís 2009 and 2010 championships.

Although he has experience in the format, heís never competed on Santee Cooper. That doesnít worry him too much the shallow-water, cypress-tree setup of Santee Cooper gives him confidence.

"A lot of the lakes in northwest Louisiana are the same kind of lake," said Williams, who lives just south of Shreveport in Keithville, La.

Williams isnít the only angler in the Weekend Series Championship who calls the Red River home water. He said he knows at least six other anglers with his same incentive: to fish a Classic thatís on home water.

"Thatís what weíre going for," he said.

Quotes from Bassmaster Classic Qualifiers through the Federation Nation:

"For the last, probably, 48 hours, Iíve felt like the man in the ninth inning with two outs. The adrenaline and the butterflies going through my belly are unbelievable." ó Chris Price, Classic qualifier from the Mid-Atlantic Division

"The last time (2002) I was there Ö I was in shock still ... I didnít even know I was fishing. I was just looking around, just kind of casting, ĎIím in the Classic, Iím in the Classic.í This time Iím going to catch some." ó Chris Price after qualifying for his second Classic

"Thankful and tired and grateful." ó Tom Jessop describing how he felt after winning a Classic spot by overtaking two-day leader Jared Miller in the Central Division

"Itís a dream come true ó I mean, whatís a guy say?" ó Josh Polfer, Classic qualifier by taking first place in the Western Division, the second in a row from Idaho.

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