Cindy Hill of Smyrna, Tenn., and Marcia Rubin of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, tied for second place at 11 pounds, 5 ounces, more than 2 ½ pounds behind Johnson.
The pros are competing for a $50,000 Triton/Mercury boat rig and crucial points that count in the Toyota Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year race. The Red River event, which concludes Saturday, is the pros’ final chance to top off their points for the season.
The points also count toward one of 12 berths in the 2008 Women’s Bassmaster Tour Championship, Feb. 21-23 on South Carolina’s Lake Keowee. The championship will be in conjunction with the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 22-24 on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C.
The rapid, day-to-day changes in the river’s fishing conditions stumped many in the Red River event; only 17 of 81 pros managed limits.
Not so for the leader, a 34-year-old who co-owns a tree service business in Georgia.
“The river was good to me today — great, in fact,” Johnson said. “No way could I have expected more weight than I had today.
“I love fishing backwater stumps and grass. It’s not at all what I’m used to, but the oxbows and backwaters suit my type of fishing. But every day on the river is different — every day of practice was different, and tomorrow will probably be different than today.”
Hill and Rubin are gunning to qualify for the WBT Championship.
“I don’t think I can catch angler of the year, but I wanted to come in and secure my top-12,” said Hill, who is ninth in the AOY standings. “I’m going to pitch my arm off to stay up there tomorrow.”
Now 16th in the AOY race, Rubin still has hopes of making the championship.
“I had one of the worst pre-fishing times of my life,” said Rubin, who owns a woodworking machinery repair business. “I don’t know what I did differently today. I fished the same areas I fished in pre-fish, when the bites were few and far between.”
In fourth place with 10 pounds, 15 ounces, was one-time WBT winner Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas. Tied for fifth place with 10 pounds, 9 ounces, was Sammie Denyes of Baker, Fla., and Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga.
AOY race leader Sheri Glasgow of Muskogee, Okla., was in eighth place after the first day with 10 pounds, 2 ounces, and a five-fish limit.
“Other than getting a ‘lucky’ or bigger bite, I could not have done anything differently than what I did,” Glasgow said.
Three-time WBT winner Tammy Richardson of Amity, Ark., who went into the Red River event second in the AOY standings, finished Thursday in 61st place. Another angler in contention for the AOY crown, Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., who won the inaugural WBT Championship in February, was in 10th place with 8 pounds, 9 ounces.
Last year’s angler of the year and two-time WBT winner Dianna Clark of Bumpus Mills, Tenn., who is sixth in the 2007 AOY standings, ended the first day at the Red River event in 52nd place.
Leading the co-angler division with 11 pounds, 5 ounces, was one-time WBT winner Robertina Filburn of Vine Grove, Ky. She bested Arkansas’ Lesa Brown, who had 9 pounds, 7 ounces, and Texas’ Brenda Reeves, who had 8 pounds, 7 ounces.
The Red River event continues Friday and Saturday, when the pros will launch at 6:50 a.m. CT and weigh in at 3 p.m. CT at Red River South Marina in Bossier City. Live, streaming video will be available at www.ESPNOutdoors.com, as well as a real-time leaderboard of the weigh-ins.
For related photos, visit www.espnoutdoorsmedia.com.
Sponsors of the Women’s Bassmaster Tour include Mercury Marine, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Plano. Local sponsors of the Red River event include the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority and Bass Pro Shops.