Montana angler Tim Johnston joins “The Fraternity”
It’s not the first time we’ve heard it, nor will it be the last – that catching fish on a Huddleston Deluxe swimbait makes you feel like you are a part of a fraternity, but this is exactly how Tim Johnston describes what catching a five-fish limit weighing 25 pounds while fun-fishing on Echo Lake near his home in Kalispell, Montana made him feel on April 25, 2012.
“It was April and the water was 45 degrees and nobody was catching any fish,” Johnston recalls. “I have been fishing Echo Lake for 22 years and the biggest bass I had ever caught in April in 45-degree water was maybe three or four pounds and maybe two to three fish a day while dropshotting. Echo is a clear water glacier lake and I could see big bass hanging near some submerged trees but they were real spooky and every time I threw a dropshot at them they would swim away.
“I remember making my very first cast with an eight-inch Huddleston and as I was reeling it in, I could see a 5-pounder nipping at it all the way back to the boat,” added Johnston. “To make a long story short, I ended up catching eight fish with my best five going 25 pounds.”
Needless to say, the 47-year-old Johnston was hooked for life, just like everyone who has ever caught a Hudd fish is.
“I went back to Echo the next day and caught 17 pounds and the next day a front came in and nobody I talked to had caught a fish and I caught 15 pounds.
“The following week I got some Huddleston 68 Specials and I took my son to Lake Mary Ronan in western Montana,” Johnston added. “My son caught about 20 pounds and I caught the biggest bass of my life, a 7-1, on the 68 Special. The Montana state record is only 8-8. I never would have caught those fish any other way during that time of year. I sat in my car at the boat ramp and I almost sobbed. ‘How did I miss this?’ I thought to myself. ‘I’ve been fishing for 20 years and I never thought to do this… nobody did this in Montana,’” said Johnston as he recalled that memorable day.
Johnston caught his big bass on a Huddleston 68 Special ROF-5 in the rainbow trout pattern using a Dobyns 806 HSB rod rigged with an Abu Garcia Revo Toro 51 reel spooled with 20lb green Trilene Big Game line.
Born in Long Beach, California, Johnston grew up a short hour and a half drive away from southern California’s Lake Casitas and Castaic Lake, where several of the largest bass ever caught had came from, but this was long before he got into bass fishing. He worked as a paramedic for the L.A. County Fire department until earning his nursing degree at L.A. County – USC Medical Center and moved to Kalispell in 1990, where he currently works as a Nurse Anesthetist at a local hospital. Johnston lives with his wife Delane and their two boys Skeeter (you’ll never guess what brand boat Tim runs) and Case, who are 16 and 10 years old respectively.
“I fish a lot of team tournaments in the area and did the dropshotting thing like everybody else and would come in with two and a half pounders like everybody else,” said Johnston. “But in the past year, I threw the Hudd and began winning tournaments with three and four pound fish.
“Unfortunately, word started getting around that I was using a Huddleston and other guys started throwing them and they started catching bigger fish too,” added Johnston. “Man, I wish I could have had one full year with the bait to myself,” Johnston said with a laugh. As you might imagine, we’ve heard this quite a few times before, too.
Johnston has fished tournaments for 22 years favoring the Bassmaster Federation Nation tour where he has enjoyed a great deal of success due in a big part to using Huddleston swimbaits. In fact, he recently finished third in the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Western Divisional tournament held at Clear Lake, California on April 10-12, 2013, thus qualifying for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship to be held on October 24-26, 2013 at Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas. And though he wouldn’t come right out and say it, I’m guessing that there may be a Hudd or two in Tim’s boat when he gets there.
Like most successful swimbait fishermen, Johnston sought out and received a great deal of information and encouragement from other swimbait specialists including western bass pro Richard Dobyns and trophy bass specialist Matt Peters, another California transplant now living in Florida. Johnston also received a tremendous amount of knowledge about the baits and about trophy bass from the Grand Master himself, Ken Huddleston.
“I remember the very first time Tim called me,” recalls Huddleston. “He had just caught his personal best, a seven pounder, and caught a 25-pound bag on his home lake in Montana. He was very excited and couldn’t believe how one bait could have such an impact on his life.
“Tim’s story is one of the many great success stories I’ve heard over the years and it warms my heart,” added Huddleston. “It takes a lot courage for a guy to commit to throwing a swimbait all day in a tournament and not everybody has what it takes to do it, but Tim definitely has what it takes.”
Johnston said that he has caught more fish on the 68 Special but he prefers throwing the original 8-inch ROF-12 because he generally catches bigger fish on it. He acknowledges that he is still in a learning curve with the bait which, of course, we all are. And while Johnston says that he has the mechanics of fishing the bait down, he is still learning the science of the bait as to why it works and when it works best. He added that he feels “horrible” that these baits have been out for as long as they have yet it took him until now to finally experiment with them.
“Now it’s really caught on and a lot of guys are throwing the baits – it doesn’t take long for something like this to catch on in Montana,” said Johnston. “Ken has been awesome and I really want to see him succeed. I’d rather see him succeed with selling baits than to keep something like this a secret.”
Trust me, Tim; it’s no longer a secret anywhere.
Johnston admits that as a tournament angler it is sometimes extremely difficult to keep throwing the Hudd when you are close to making a check and the swimbait bite is slow and other techniques are working – even if the limits are smaller. He adds that it helps him tremendously to talk with other “Hudd Slingers” and hearing their tournament success stories with the bait, adding that this keeps him throwing the bait when he otherwise might not.
“I’ve got to keep talking with guys like you and Ken and Matt Peters who tell me to just do it, that it does work, that it’s worth taking the chance,” said Johnston. “I have come to learn that swimbait fishermen are a fraternity, a fraternity that I am now blessed to be a part of.”