UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Focusing on Mom

Focusing on Mom
Jason Johnson and his mother Betty Johnson

Tournament angling takes complete focus. Jason Johnson certainly had that in 2014, but it wasn’t on fishing.

Three weeks before Christmas in 2013, Johnson’s mother, Betty Johnson, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. At what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, Jason and his family were suddenly dealing with a reality that was far from wonderful.

Coming off a fourth-place finish in the Co-angler of the Year standings on Tour in 2014, Jason was all lined up to fish from the back of the boat again in 2014 in hopes of building up to a run at a pro career. But his mother’s news had him talking about backing out so he could stay home and help through her treatment. She would have no such talk.

“She talked me into fishing,” Jason says. “She knew how important it was to me, but she also wanted something to be preoccupied with during treatment. Her focusing on how I was doing could distract her.”

It would be equally as distracting for Jason.

Every other Friday for 16 weeks, Betty received chemotherapy treatments. For another four weeks, she went every Friday. And once that was done she had to endure another 42 consecutive days of radiation treatment. At all but one of Jason’s Tour events, on the Friday takeoff, he went fishing thinking only of his mother and how her treatment was going.

“Every tournament my mind was on her,” Johnson recalls. “That’s all I could focus on, especially on Fridays. I don’t even know what I was doing. I just knew that I needed to do my best because if I did well it would make her feel better.

“She’d be exhausted on those Fridays she had chemo, and everyone would tell her to go home and go to bed. Instead she’d rush home every time to watch the weigh-in online. She’s always been my biggest fan.”

The one bright spot of the 2014 tournament schedule was that the Lake Hartwell event was scheduled on one of Betty’s non-chemo Fridays. That meant she’d actually be able to drive and watch the weigh-in live. Then an ice storm hit Georgia shortly before the event, which threw off Betty’s rotation of treatments and made her unable to attend.

“She was heartbroken,” says Jason. “So was I.”

Still, as Betty’s condition improved through treatment, so did her son’s finishes. After some solid placings in the first two events, Jason got on a roll starting with a 12th-place finish at Sam Rayburn. He then finished 31st at Beaver Lake before finishing fourth at Pickwick. He ended on another top 20 at Kentucky Lake for a second-place finish in the COY race.

Co-angler Jason Johnson caught 8-7 on day two and finished the event in second place. He plans to fish the FLW Tour as a pro next year and the $10,000 paycheck he earned should pay a few entry fees.

It turned out be a strong season for both mother and son. While Jason was preparing to fish the Forrest Wood Cup, his mother received news that she was officially cancer free, and the only remaining treatment would be 30 days of preventive radiation after the Cup. As great of news as that was for the entire family, for Jason it was that much more special. It meant that after an entire season of supporting her son from afar, Betty would be able to attend the Forrest Wood Cup.

“She came to the banquet with me before the Cup,” he says. “She went to every weigh-in. I got choked up on stage during weigh-in because I knew she was there.”

Her presence also allowed Jason to shift his focus. He still wanted to do well for his mother, but now, he wanted to win for her. He came as close as one could get, finishing second, and spearheading a move to the front of the boat for his rookie season on Tour in 2015.

“I lost the fish to win it,” Jason adds, “but she didn’t care. She was just so proud of me.”

It would be nice to say that’s where the story ended, but unfortunately, it didn’t. Betty received another cancer scare earlier this year, though she’s currently doing fine. Jason’s sister, Jennifer Christopher, also had a scare when she found a lump. It ended up being benign, but she still went and had surgery two weeks ago to significantly reduce her chances for breast cancer in the future.

“The thing about cancer is it doesn’t discriminate,” Jason says. “It affects any age, and once it touches you it changes your view on life.

“The thing about my mom is that while she was going through all her treatment, she never complained once. She was tough about it and stayed strong. She gave me strength. She fought it and came out the other side on a good note.”

Tags: jason-johnson  sean-ostruszka  article 

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