May 1, 2019 Â by Curtis Niedermier
On Thursday, for the first time in eight years as a pro and 25 years as a competitive bass angler, Jamie Horton wonât cross the weigh-in stage on a tournament day when heâd planned to compete.
Instead, the Alabama pro will be back in his Centerville home recovering from emergency eye surgery to repair a severely detached and torn retina in his right eye.Â
The hurt that Horton feels for missing out on the âsight-fishing tournament Iâve been waiting for for eight yearsâ is only compounded by the fact that he came into the week in 43rd place with a strong chance of qualifying for the FLW Cup.
Horton originally noticed some distorted vision on Saturday when he was in his shop struggling to thread fishing line through the guides of his rods. He assumed it was a symptom of the severe cold heâs been battling since the last Tour event at Cherokee Lake, or a side effect of his cold medicine.Â
Then on Sunday, during the first day of Chickamauga practice, the persistent problem worsened.Â
âI have enough trouble casting around docks and bushes and stuff anyway, but I was having a lot of trouble,â he says. âEvery time Iâd cast Iâd land to the right of where I was casting.â
Hortonâs vision in his left eye was fine, but when he covered his left eye, he says he could only see out of the bottom left corner of his right eye.Â
His first call was to his pharmacist to inquire about any possible side effects from his medication. It was possible, his pharmacist said, so Horton ditched the meds and went back to preparing for the tournament.Â
By Tuesday, the situation hadnât improved, and Hortonâs wife called the family eye doctor, who immediately sent the pro to a local eye doc in Dayton, Tenn., the host community for this weekâs tournament.
âWhen he checked me out, he said, âI ainât trying to scare you, but I think you need surgery right now,ââ Horton recalls.
Horton was referred to specialist in Chattanooga who agreed.
âI said, âWhen does it have to be. Can it wait âtil Monday,ââ Horton says. âHe said, âIt canât wait. Itâs got to be done tomorrow.â
âMy retina came loose all the way from 12 oâclock to 8 oâclock, and all the way at 4 oâclock it had a tear in it,â he adds. âThey said the tear couldâve been in it a while.â
Late Tuesday evening, Horton met his wife at a 24-hour emergency eye trauma center in Birmingham â one of only two such facilities in the country â where he was scheduled for surgery Wednesday morning.
Now, Horton is at home recovering. He has to remain looking at the floor so that an oxygenator taped over his right eye can properly aid in the healing process.Â
Though Horton admits that while he was consulting with doctors, he was hoping one of them would give him the green light to wait on surgery until after the Chickamauga tournament, the decision was ultimately out of his hands, and heâs glad he had procedure when he did.
âLord knows I donât know much about it, but they said statistics tell you that every day you wait, the less your chance of full recovery,â he says. âI already knew something had gone on Saturday.â
As of now, his doctors are unsure how much of Hortonâs formerly 20/20 vision will return. They expect heâll at least regain his peripheral vision, but thereâs no way to know how strong it will be, nor how it might affect his ability to spot bass on beds.Â
It hasnât affected his desire to compete.
âThey were making fun of me after the surgery today; the doctor was,â Horton says. âApparently I was lying there in surgery, and I kept saying, âI gotta fish tomorrow, Doc. Get me to where I can fish tomorrow.â He kept telling me I canât fish, and I kept saying I had to fish because Iâm in the points. He actually came back in there to make sure I wasnât going to try to fish tomorrow.
âBut I canât complain. Iâve been fishing pro for about eight or nine years, and Iâve never missed a weigh-in because of my motor breaking down or anything. Even when I fished local I never missed a tournament. Iâve been really fortunate. Iâm not going to complain a bit. I could think of a lot of things that are worse than this right here.âÂ
Well, maybe allow him just one complaint âŚÂ
Horton says that with all three major tournament circuits competing on Thursday, heâs going to feel left out.
âEvery professional friend I have in the world is fishing tomorrow but me,â he says. âI wonât have nobody to talk to tomorrow.â