Johnson has had success in recent years fishing mid-level tournaments like the one he recently won on Old Hickory Lake with a first-place prize of $3,418. That’s not a lot, compared to some of the mega-bucks national BASS tournaments (Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam has won $6.3 million, for example), but Johnson says he’s perfectly content where he is.
“I’m not interested in competing on that big-time level,” says Johnson, an agent with Cumberland Real Estate. “I fish for the fun of it. It’s a hobby for me and I enjoy it. When you get into that upper level it becomes too much like work.”
That’s not to say the mid-level tournaments are not competitive and pressurized.
“Oh yeah, there’s pressure, but it’s self-imposed,” Johnson says. “I know I’m not doing it to make a living.”
Johnson says he has “always been competitive. One thing I like about tournament fishing is that, unlike a lot of other sports, it’s something you can continue to compete in later in life.”
Johnson, a graduate of Lebanon High Class of ‘98, earned a degree in Ag Business from Middle Tennessee State University. He gradually drifted away from the family farm and into the booming Wilson County real estate market.
But he was never too busy to go fishing.
“I started fishing as a kid, as far back as I can remember,” he says. “My dad didn’t fish, so I’d go with some neighbors. We fished mostly in local creeks and ponds.”
Johnson began fishing some local tournaments, discovered he had a knack for it, and gradually branched out. Nowadays he fishes 25-30 tournaments a year, most of them in or around the Mid-state.
“I fish a handful of regional tournaments that involve travel, but not many,” he says. “I can’t take too much time off from work.”
When fishing two-man tournaments, Johnson’s partner is fellow Lebanon angler Drew Boggs. Boggs two weeks ago won a FLW Tournament on Kentucky Lake, bringing home $4,498.
“Drew and I are long-time friends,” Johnson says, “and we fish a lot alike, which is important when sharing a boat.”
They are also both avid deer hunters; Johnson and Boggs bagged huge trophy bucks in the past couple of years.
Johnson says the highlight of his tournament career – so far -- came two years ago when he and Boggs won a Ranger bass boat in a tournament on Kentucky Lake. Their biggest one-day catch totaled 25.35 pounds, also made on Kentucky Lake.
Johnson’s personal-best bass weighed 8.42 pounds and it too came out of Kentucky Lake.
What’s his secret? How come some fishermen – like him – can catch big fish more consistently than others?
“There’s not any great secret,” Johnson says. “Like most anything else it’s a matter of working hard at it, learning as much as you can about the lake you’re fishing, studying the habits of the fish and applying the best techniques to catch them.”
Johnson is being modest; there is aptitude, talent and skill involved. Some have it, some don’t, and Johnson has it.
All those big bass don’t get hooked by accident.