Girl hooks big break

July 04, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

SHARPSBURG - Fishing has always been a religious experience for Laura Johnson.

The 13-year-old Sharpsburg girl said she prays as she's baiting her hook, casting her line and waiting for the tug. Laura, who fishes competitively, prayed that she would win "the whole thing" at a 2003 junior regional tournament. She came away a winner, but, she said smiling, "I didn't realize what 'the whole thing' was."

After she won first place in Maryland in that regional tournament, Laura was selected as one of two Maryland youths to compete in the first-ever Junior Bassmaster World Championship, which will coincide with professional fishing's largest event, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, July 30 to Aug. 1 on Lake Norman, near Charlotte, N.C. The junior event will be held on July 25 and 26.

The only female member of the Junior Potomac River Bassmasters local fishing club, Laura said she made her largest catch, a 3-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass, on Seneca Lake in Montgomery County.


Her father, Paul Johnson, 53, said his family lives by the Potomac River, which hooked Laura on fishing at an early age.

When Laura was 7 years old, he said, "She was catching fish faster than I could keep the hook baited."

At the championship, Laura said Bassmaster Classic competitors, such as last year's Classic winner, Michael Iaconelli, will act as boat captains and guides. She wants to be paired with Iaconelli, she said.

"I've been praying about that one a little more," she said.

Laura said any night before she's planned to go fishing, she sorts through a green tackle box, which her father said weighs 25 pounds and holds about 300 different lures, and packs a "huge yellow bag" that she always takes to competitions.

She said she won't be able to use one of her favorite baits - bologna - at the championship.

The basketball guard and soccer midfielder said that when she goes fishing, she always leaves the house at about 4 a.m., after grabbing her lucky Chicago Cubs visor, and sleeps on the way.

When she's out on the boat, the praying begins.

"Whenever I'm doing something and I'm really intense, that's where I go to," she said.

Laura said that when she gets older, she wants to be a professional athlete, an astronaut, a stand-up comedian or a lawyer.

Laura said she'll "fall back on fishing."

"If I can't be what I want to be, I'm not going to be anything at all," she said.

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