UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Ft. Gibson

Johnson keeps steaming on the Mississippi, leads opening round despite himself

Johnson keeps steaming on the Mississippi, leads opening round despite himself
Pro Jim Johnson of La Crosse, Wis., caught 10 bass limit weighing 33 pounds, 2 ounces to lead day two of the Stren Series Midwest Division event on the Mississippi River.

ONALASKA, Wis. - If Jim Johnson had his way, he wouldn't be leading the Stren Series Midwest Division tournament on the Mississippi River with two days remaining to fish. As it was, Johnson had his way and then some with the river bass for the second day in a row and led the Pro Division in the opening round with a two-day weight total of 33 pounds, 2 ounces.

With temperatures soaring into the 90s Thursday, lots of five-bass limits again came in from the Big Muddy - 147 on the pro side and 61 on the co-angler side - and Johnson's catch of 15 pounds, 1 ounce was one of the better ones. Added to his day-one leading weight of 18-1, it gave him a handy lead over everyone else after the opening round.

Not that he wanted it that way. A longtime tournament veteran on this fishery, Johnson knows that it takes more than a couple headline-grabbing limits the first two days to win a four-day competition here. He said his goal Thursday was fish management: catch enough to make the cut and then get ready for the final push. But sometimes an angler is simply on a lot of good fish.

"I went out to get my 10 pounds, but my second bite was a 4-pounder," said Johnson, a native of La Crosse, Wis. "So I stuck around until I got my five. I was able to cull up a couple of times, and I also found a new area."

Johnson said he caught the bulk of his bass - mainly largemouths - again on a Custom Lures swim jig, the details of which he is reluctant to divulge at this point. The key to his success so far, however, isn't so much what he's throwing as where he's throwing it. Johnson has a honeyhole on the river's Pool 8, discovered through years of fishing this waterway, about which few other competitors seem to know.

"I've known about it for a couple of years, but I stumbled on these fish about three weeks ago. It's full of postspawners that just haven't left yet," he said. "It's really a needle in the haystack. All the fish seem to gravitate there in one little area, and I haven't really seen anybody else on it. It's not like it's fast and furious, but the fish I'm catching are quality."

Johnson said the crucial aspects of this particular area involve three elements: current, clean water and eelgrass.

"It's that combination that's kind of hard to find right now," he said. "The clean water is key; you need about 3 or 4 feet of visibility."

Johnson said he also locked down to Pool 9 later Thursday to scout new fish for the finals. His competitors, however, should be worried about his main area on Pool 8, which he plans on mining for gold the rest of the week. Plus, there's always the new area that he found.

"I've been able to catch a limit pretty quick up here," Johnson said. "But I found a smallmouth spot today that hopefully works out, too."

Second-place pro Chris Cox of Belleville, Wis., caught a limit weighing 15 pounds, 5 ounces Thursday, totaling 30-7 over the first two days.Cox second

The top three spots in the opening round were filled out by veteran pros with a lengthy track record of success on this part of the Mississippi River.

Behind Johnson was Chris Cox of Belleville, Wis., who finished third here in last year's Stren tournament. Cox caught a limit weighing 15 pounds, 5 ounces Thursday, totaling 30-7 over the first two days.

"I'm fishing a little differently than everyone else, I think, which is deep," Cox said. "A lot of people are fishing shallow in the slop, but this is a solid area that I've had for the last four years."

Cox caught his fish Thursday on Pool 9 and said it didn't matter what bait he was throwing because the fish were biting everything. But he did hint that he was using tubes and jigs.

Stanton third

Another local with a storied track record on the river at La Crosse, Doug Stanton of Winona, Minn., grabbed third place for the pros with an opening-round weight of 30 pounds, 2 ounces. He caught a limit weighing 15-8 Thursday.

Like Johnson, Stanton said he caught his fish on a Custom Lures swim jig - a Lethal Weapon - but after just two days, he seemed to think the outcome of this event was already a foregone conclusion.

"Jimmy (Johnson) will win this thing, hands down," Stanton said. "He's the best fisherman that has ever hit La Crosse. I've been out on the lake with him, and he's taught me more in a half-hour than I've learned in seven years."

Stanton finished second behind another La Crosse standout, Tom Monsoor, at this event in 2001. Today, he credited Monsoor for giving him some room to fish. Monsoor - a notable absence on the leaderboard this week - got stuck on a sandbar Wednesday, didn't make it back to weigh-in and zeroed. While he weighed in a limit Thursday, Monsoor evidently played the gentleman's role when he and Stanton crossed paths on Pool 9.

"I've got to give Tommy a compliment today," said Stanton. "I was fishing a spot that we both know, and when he came in, because he wasn't in contention, he backed off and made sure I could fish where I wanted."

Pro Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., earned the fourth qualifying spot with an opening-round total of 29 pounds, 15 ounces. He caught a limit weighing 15-2 Thursday.Morehead fourth

Pro Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., earned the fourth qualifying spot with an opening-round total of 29 pounds, 15 ounces. He caught a limit weighing 15-2 Thursday.

Morehead caught the bulk of his keepers flipping grass, lily pads and isolated wood. He fished mainly on Pool 9, but also scratched out a few lucky ones on Pool 8. By Thursday, Morehead had caught so many fish that his hand had a nice, painful raspberry on it from handling bass.

"You just Superglue it and go on, and stop (complaining)," laughed Morehead about his hand.

Catching the second-heaviest limit Thursday - 18 pounds, 6 ounces - was pro Rick Taylor of West Olive, Mich. He vaulted from 93rd place on day one into fifth place on day two with an opening-round total weight of 29-14.Taylor busts over 18, leaps into fifth

Catching the second-heaviest limit Thursday - 18 pounds, 6 ounces - was Rick Taylor of West Olive, Mich. He vaulted from 93rd place on day one into fifth place on day two with an opening-round total weight of 29-14.

"It was a tough dang deal, but it was fun," said Taylor, who also sustained a minor fishing injury Thursday. He had part of a treble hook still embedded in his finger at weigh-in. "I had a great sack today."

Taylor fished on Pool 8 in slack current Thursday.

Rest of the best

The top 20 pros made the cut into the two-day final round starting Friday. The cut weight settled at 27 pounds, 14 ounces.

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Mississippi River:

6th: Chris Aswegan of Solon, Iowa, 29-13
7th: Troy Eakins of Nixa, Mo., 29-5
8th: Jeff Benson of Holmen, Wis., 29-4
9th: Tony Defilippo of Lake Ann, Mich., 29-1
10th: Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., 28-14

Each of the top 10 pros - in fact, the top 20 - caught limits both days of the opening round.

Jeff Naill of La Crosse earned $750 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 4-pound, 14-ounce largemouth.

Co-angler Mark Myers of Minneapolis caught a 13-pound, 2-ounce limit Wednesday and a 12-12 limit Thursday to take the lead with an opening-round total of 25-14.Red-hot Myers leads co-anglers

Fresh off a Wal-Mart FLW Tour victory at Lake Champlain last month, Mark Myers of Minneapolis maintained momentum this week by heading up the Co-angler Division in Stren Series competition at the Mississippi River. He caught a 13-pound, 2-ounce limit Wednesday and a 12-12 limit Thursday to take the lead with an opening-round total of 25-14.

"I've been looking forward to this one. This is a great fishery, and I've had some great pro partners," he said.

Myers said he caught his fish on a variety of baits Thursday, including a slug, jig and a frog.

High five co-anglers

Second place for the co-anglers went to Brady Farrell of Fort Atkinson, Wis., for an opening-round weight of 25 pounds, 3 ounces.

Bud Strader of Rockwood, Tenn., earned the third co-angler spot with a weight of 24 pounds, 14 ounces. He caught the heaviest stringer from the back of the boat Thursday, a limit weighing 14-14.Bud Strader of Rockwood, Tenn., earned the third co-angler spot with a weight of 24 pounds, 14 ounces. He caught the heaviest stringer from the back of the boat Thursday, a limit weighing 14-14.

Fourth place for the co-anglers went to local Bob Bott of Onalaska for a two-day weight of 24 pounds, 7 ounces.

Michael Taylor of Muscatine, Iowa, rounded out the top five co-anglers with an opening-round weight of 23 pounds, 3 ounces.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers to make the cut at the Mississippi River:

6th: Eric Boberg of Arcadia, Wis., 22-11
7th: Tom Medlock of Licking, Mo., 22-9 (day-one leader)
8th: Karl Basinski of Rosholt, Wis., 22-9
9th: Michael Parve of West Bend, Wis., 22-9
10th: Timothy Marcou of West Salem, Wis., 22-8

Andy Bylander of Amery, Wis., earned $250 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 4-pound, 10-ounce largemouth.

The top 20 co-anglers advance into the next round. The co-angler cut weight settled at 20 pounds, 10 ounces.

Into the cut

Day three of Midwest Division competition at the Mississippi River begins as the semifinal-round field of 20 boats takes off from Clinton Street Landing in La Crosse at 6 a.m. Central time. Anglers' weights are reset to zero for Friday, and winners in both fields are determined by the heaviest accumulated weight over the next two days.

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2006-07-12-mississippi-river-onalaska 

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