Johnson Eyes Home-Water Advantage at 2009 Bassmaster Classic

When Aaron Johnson of Bossier City, La., decided to compete in the Bassmaster Central Open division this season, he didn’t know that the 2009 Bassmaster Classic would be in his backyard.

He lives three miles from the Red River, the competition waters for the Feb. 20-22 Classic out of his hometown, Shreveport-Bossier City.

“When I signed up for the Opens it was because BASS has such great tournaments. The Classic site had yet to be announced, so I didn’t really sign up to make it to fish the Red River,” Johnson said. “I’d been fishing the (Bassmaster) Weekend Series, and I’ve had some success regionally and locally, and I just wanted to give myself the challenge to see if I could compete at the Open level.”

He can. Last weekend Johnson won the Bassmaster Central Open event on Kentucky Lake, putting him in strong contention for one of the three 2009 Classic berths that will be awarded through the Central Open circuit.

He said he has won around 10 local Red River tournaments, but the river stumped him in the Central Open division’s season opener in late April.

“I was so frustrated after that third day on the river,” he said. “That was the worst day I’d ever had on the river in my life.” He finished that Open in 25th place after bringing in only 4 pounds, 6 ounces, on the final day, a disappointment after his Day 2 haul of 17-12.

But now Johnson is elated. His win last week catapulted him from 25th place into the runner-up position in the Central Open standings, just 65 points behind leader Jerry Williams of Conway, Ark.

“The Classic is the pinnacle of all tournaments out there. I know that to get there is extremely difficult,” said the 35-year-old angler, who is manager of a Web-based payroll service company, father of 15-month-old twins and husband to a woman he praises as having “done so much to allow me to be gone from home to fish the Opens.”

The Central Open season-ender, Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Lake Texoma out of Denison, Texas, is the finish line of the points race. The top three in the standings will win Classic entries, with the top 10 qualifying for the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series.

BASS’ CHRIS HORTON TO BE HONORED BY PAA. The Professional Anglers Association will present its Fishing Industry Conservation Person of the Year Award on Oct. 8 to BASS Conservation Director Chris Horton.

“Chris Horton represents one of the most important positions in the sport of fishing as it relates to all of us who enjoy our favorite pastime and its natural resources,” said PAA president Tim Horton, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Muscle Shoals, Ala. “The work he has done along with BASS in its conservation efforts is truly a gift to not only bass anglers, but to all outdoor enthusiasts. We are proud to honor Chris and his work in this years’ Fishing Industry Conservation Person of the Year Award.”

The award will be presented to Chris Horton on the eve of the PAA Corporate Cup presented by OPTIMA Batteries in Florence, Ala. The Oct. 9-11 tournament on Pickwick Lake pairs PAA members with corporate sponsor partners.

“I am truly honored to receive this award from the nation's top bass anglers,” Horton said. “They are responsible for where the sport is today, and I want to sincerely thank them for all that they do to promote conservation, healthy fisheries and the importance of angling as an American pastime.”

THE PATRIOT. As 86-year-old Elliott Moody of Paris, Tenn., shuffled across the pier, heads turned.

It was a Saturday, just minutes before first light at Tennessee’s Paris Landing State Park on Kentucky Lake. The Bassmaster Central Open pros were lining up their boats to take off for the final day of competition.

Moody was carrying a long pole, around which was wrapped an American flag trimmed with braided gold-colored fringe. When he reached the end of the pier, he slowly raised the flag pole high above his head and made a few stabs at inserting the end into a hole in one of the massive dock pilings. The long pole quivered in his hands, the eagle finial bobbing above the water.

An onlooker asked if she could help him. No spring chicken herself, she and Moody were able to anchor the pole and unfurl the flag.

“Why did you bring this flag here today?” she asked him.

“It’s what I do for all these tournaments,” said Moody, adding that he was a Navy veteran of World War II, and that his two brothers had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. “It’s for all the soldiers.”

When the national anthem struck up, Moody clapped his hand over his heart, stepped close to the flag pole and tilted his head far back, eyes on the Stars and Stripes directly above him. He kept his pose throughout the entire song.

In his hand was a Tennessee cap autographed by Bill Dance, the three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

WBT COUNT. The qualifiers for the Women’s Bassmaster Tour Championship presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors have been finalized and the historic event is set for Oct. 23-25 on Arkansas’ Lake Hamilton. With a total of six anglers from Arkansas, the Natural State contingent boasts the second most anglers qualified for the event. The most-represented state in the total field of 40 anglers with nine total competitors is Texas. The Lone Star State, featuring five pros and four anglers in the co-angler division, cements its reputation as a fishing hotbed.

Like Arkansas, Tennessee has a total of six competitors while Alabama and Georgia are represented by three each. Oklahoma and Louisiana are represented by two anglers apiece while New Jersey, South Carolina, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, and Mississippi will all send one angler to the marquee event.

BOY BLUE. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Edwin Evers and his wife found out last week that their baby due Feb. 20 will be a boy.

Evers has announced that he might have to skip the upcoming Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22 on Louisiana’s Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. The Evers are taking a wait-and-see approach to the decision.

He qualified for the 2009 Classic, his ninth, through the Elite Series by finishing sixth in the 2008 standings after a strong season.

If Evers were to miss the tournament, he would forfeit his spot and BASS would not give his berth to another angler. Evers talks about his Classic dilemma in his Sept. 22 blog on BASS Insider, the premium pages of Non-subscribers can read Evers’ story by signing up for a free, 30-day trial.

DAYS WITH DAD. “I’ve fished the Opens over the past few years to get the chance to fish with my dad, to hang out with him. This year it worked out that I could fish all three. Having a shot at making the Classic is a bonus.” — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jami Fralick of Martin, S.D., who is fifth place in the Bassmaster Central Open standings; the top three at the end of the season will earn berths in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.

About BASS

For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive Web properties in and, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content – from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage – to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.