Super Bowl and National College Championship-winning head coach Jimmy Johnson hosts a $1 million fishing tournament and four-day party in the keys.
Always game for a little competition, legendary football coach and Fox NFL Sunday analyst Jimmy Johnson hosts the sixth annual edition of Jimmy Johnson’s Quest for the Ring Championship Fishing Week, taking place March 8–11 in Key Largo. The contest includes the two-day National Billfish Championship, with many of the best anglers in the country competing for a guaranteed purse of $1 million. Johnson sat down with Ocean Drive to talk competitive fishing, football, and life in the Keys.
Can fishing be as competitive as football? It’s not as competitive as when I was coaching football, for the simple reason that I don’t want to fish unless I can enjoy it and relax. There wasn’t a whole lot of relaxing in the playoffs and when you’re winning Super Bowls.
But with $1 million on the line, it must be hard to relax. It’s hard-core. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino stepped up and decided this year to guarantee a purse of $1 million, which makes it the largest in the country. But you can still relax and it’s still a fun tournament. The dinners and luncheons are great, but obviously a lot of the charter boat captains and top fishermen from around the country come into the tournament.
Speaking of fun, is your day job with Fox as enjoyable as it looks? We have a ball. Terry Bradshaw is one of my closest friends. We fly out to LA and we have three TVs set up there in the hotel room, so we watch college football all day on Saturday and then do the show on Sunday. Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and I started Fox NFL Sunday 23 years ago. Of course, I took off four years to coach the Dolphins, but we’ve been doing it a long time. Our ratings are through the roof. I think we beat the competition by almost 50 percent this year. It’s been that kind of dominance ever since we started the show.
You were pretty dominant at the University of Miami. What’s your greatest memory from your time coaching at UM? We had such a great run. I think we lost two regular-season games in four years. What people don’t realize is that because we were independent, during my last couple of years I think we played 12 teams that were in the top 15. Nowadays everybody is on television, but back then you might have one big national game. But every other week, we were on national television playing Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, on and on. It was a lot of visibility, and with the success that we had, it brought in good players. I’m still a huge fan of UM, and I think they’re getting better, but that was a different era… Even Alabama doesn’t have the schedule and visibility we had back then.
You live in the Keys. How much time do you spend fishing? During the football season, I’ll try to fish once, sometimes twice a week. In the off-season, I’m on the water more—sometimes it’s boating, sometimes it’s lobster fishing. I do quite a bit of entertaining. I can’t count the number of NFL owners, general managers, and head coaches we’ve had come down to visit. Bill Belichick comes down every off-season and spends time with me.
What’s the best way to spend a day in the Keys? It’s all going to involve water. First you stop at Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill (104000 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo, 305-453-9066), and then you go across the street to Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and do some snorkeling or diving. Then you can go a little farther south and grab one of the charter boats at Holiday Isle or Duck Key and do some fishing. It’s such a beautiful drive all the way to Key West. Jimmy Johnson’s Quest for the Ring Championship Fishing Week takes place March 8–11.