When an experienced and seasoned tournament angler like Tadd Johnson of Lakeville says, “I was the most relaxed during this tournament, as I ever have been,” you probably think that things came easy, the pattern held true over the course of the tournament and that everything worked like it should.
Well that is hardly the case in this situation!
Tadd, who was competing in his second BASS Nation Divisional Tournament, is no stranger to the bass fishing tournament scene, as he has been competing at various levels for over 15 years, began his practice for this year’s event being held on Lake of the Ozarks long before he pointed his truck and boat south.
By using Google Earth and looking at maps, Tadd was able to identify areas of the lake that looked to have the right kind of rock transition on the shoreline. “I particularly paid attention to the Google Earth images from March 2013, as the water level then was very close to what we had during this event,” said Tadd.
By marking the areas on his GPS ahead of time, Tadd was able to run the upriver section of the lake, drive by an area and see if it had what he wanted, if it didn’t he would move on. “As long as that channel swing came close to a backwater lake or creek arm, it held fish.”
Like most of the angler’s fishing this event, the Storm Wiggle Wart was a key lure choice for Johnson. On day one of practice, Tadd fished his bait on the far reaches of the river and boated around 18 lb’s, a great start for sure. The second day was much slower for him, but he still yielded a few good bites. Following the second day, Tadd identified the key 20-30 miles of river he would further dissect in practice and in the end focus his time on during the event.
Now it may seem right now that things were all going according to plan for Tadd, but at the same time, Tadd’s thoughts and focus was at home with his wife and family, as his father-in-law was in the ICU battling a complication from a virus. “The team knew and we had a contingency plan in place, that I could be headed back to Minnesota at the drop of dime,” said Tadd. “I just want to thank my wife for letting me to stay put in Missouri and for being so strong…she is an amazing woman!”
On the first day of the tournament, Tadd boated 11 lb 11 oz; this would be his smallest limit of the event and had him in 67th place. This put Tadd in contention on day two and gave him the confidence to keep running his pattern up river.
Shortly after takeoff day two, as Tadd was running up river, his engine began to bog down and would only idle, luckily he shut down right outside of the cove that the cabin was located that Team Minnesota was staying at! Upon getting approval from BASS, Tadd contacted Peter Perovich, President of the Minnesota BASS Nation and the plan was put into place for Tadd to move his gear into the fellow Prior Lake Hooksetter club member, Greg Ruff’s boat.
“I can’t thank Peter and Mark Gomez enough, by the time I got to the dock, they had Greg’s boat all hooked up and ready to go,” said Tadd. “We loaded my gear in and I drove back to launch to go back through boat check.”
By 9:00, Tadd was fishing again and shortly thereafter had two keepers in the boat, this was beyond the pace he had caught his fish on day one. The second day worked out well for Tadd, as everywhere he went he caught a good one, and in the end put together a 16 lb 14 oz limit, which bumped him up to 37th overall and second on Team Minnesota behind Brian Skluzacek.
Following day two, Tadd had a conversation with Minnesota Team Captain, Corey Brant about what boat he should use on the third and final day of the tournament. “Corey was an amazing captain and did everything he could to help the team out,” stated Johnson. “Corey insisted and upon asking boat owner, Aaron Daeges, it was decided that I would be using Aaron’s boat on the final day.”
Tadd had just installed a Minn Kota Ultrex on his boat, which proved to be very beneficial on day one, when it was very windy. Aaron’s boat also had an Ultrex, so having that advantage on the final day of the event was a main reason of the boat switch for Tadd.
To begin day three, Tadd ran all the way up river and worked his way down. When the scales closed, Tadd had a 15 lb 2 oz limit, which bumped him up to 17th overall and in first for Team Minnesota, earning Tadd a berth to his fall’s BASS Nation Championship.
The main component to Tadd’s success was deflecting his bait off the rocks as the bass on Lake of the Ozarks seemed to be in a funk, where they weren’t quite eating the bait, but slapping at it out of aggression. “I switched the treble hooks on my baits to extra wide gap trebles as it seemed this would hook up the bass that were just slapping at the bait.”
Fellow club member, Greg Ruff took home the co-angler title for team Minnesota and pre-fished with Tadd on the final days of practice. These practice days helped Greg develop the confidence in the pattern. “Being able to help Greg out in practice was awesome and now that both of us qualified for the Championship is awesome,” exclaimed Tadd.
“When we are in the boat with our co-anglers at these events and compare how our weeks are going, people are amazed at just how organized and well run Team Minnesota is,” stated Tadd. “Minnesota truly is one of the best at this and I can’t thank Peter, Mark, Corey and the rest of the team enough for their support and help throughout the wee!”
Tadd and Greg will head to South Carolina in October to fish Lake Hartwell for the Championship event, where the opportunity exists for anglers to qualify for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic. Tadd has never fished Hartwell, but will begin his homework in the next week and aims to try and get down there prior to it going off-limits. “I’m a shallow water guy, so that will be my goal is to fish to my strengths and see if I can put something together up shallow.”
“I want to thank my wife again, she is truly amazing,” said Tadd. We were one of the best looking teams down in the Ozarks with all of the amazing gear Classic Bass provided us, the support means a lot! Lastly, I’d like to thanks Rapala and team member Rick Billings.
We wish Tadd and Greg the best of luck on Lake Hartwell this fall and will be checking back in with them prior to the event. You can also follow Tadd this summer as he competes in the inaugural season of the Classic Bass Champions Tour presented by Skeeter Boats and Yamaha Outboards.SHARE THIS CONTENT ON: