Quest For The Ring: An Interview With Coach Jimmy Johnson - The Fisherman

Quest For The Ring: An Interview With Coach Jimmy Johnson

The tournament crew of End Game captained by Jamar Campbell took third heaviest tuna overall and top small boat tuna optional prize in the ’22 Quest for the Ring tournament for Chris Vaughan’s 208-pound bigeye.

Legendary NFL Hall of Fame coach, broadcaster and avid angler Jimmy Johnson is all in.

Former Dallas Cowboys coach turned broadcaster Jimmy Johnson has taken the angling world by storm as he brings his 3rd annual Quest for the Ring fishing tournament back to Atlantic City from July 16-23, 2023.

I (NH) had a chance to sit down with Coach Johnson (JJ) to get the lowdown on the Quest for the Ring championship event at the Jersey Shore, and here’s what the NFL Hall of Famer had to say.

NH:  What was driving motivation to start the Quest for the Ring?

JJ:  We had a small tournament in the Florida Keys. The first year we had about 30 boats or so. Since then, we’ve given out about $12 million. I think one reason for interest is it’s not just a fishing tournament, it’s the experience, from the incredible fishing, the food, the swag bags, the whole gifting experience. It’s just like the Emmys.

NH:  What separates your tourney from all the rest?

JJ:  Hardcore fisherman want more than just going out to catch fish, they want the entertainment and the experience. That’s why we decided on Atlantic City.  We give out millions in prize money but all they talk about is the championship ring. To get the money is fine, but they want the ring.

NH:  What’s your most significant fishing memory?

JJ:  The first time I caught a blue marlin fishing alone about 15 or 20 years ago. I was out before daylight off Islamorada, fishing for mahi when I hooked the blue marlin. I fought it for 2-1/2 hours, and normally I would let it go, but being alone, I brought it back, called A couple friends at 9 a.m. and said ‘You won’t believe what I caught.’ It weighed 250 pounds. I definitely had some Heineken Lights on way home. Since then, I’ve caught four other blue marlin fishing alone.”

The author (left) with Coach Jimmy Johnson (right) talking about the Quest for the Ring tournament at weigh-in during the 2022 event in Atlantic City.

NH:  If you could fish with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

JJ:  To be honest, my preference would be to fish by myself for the simple reason there’s no pressure on me to catch fish or entertain. I like the peace and quiet of being on the water. I’ve got a stereo system but never turn it on. After that, it would probably be my wife, but she usually wants to come back in after 45 minutes.”

NH:  What’s your ultimate fishing goal?

JJ:  I don’t set goals for myself when fishing. I’m not competing.  I’m not under pressure, I guess you can say my goal is to come back with peace of mind and relax. I don’t want to go out there and be stressed. And I’ve caught plenty of fish – have had some great trips in cay sound catching wahoo. People asked to fly me to Africa, and to be honest I don’t want to go to Africa, just want to be in Islamorada and open up a Heineken Light.

NH:  What’s your favorite fish to target?

JJ:  I really enjoy catching wahoo 2 to 3 miles from my house. Usually they’re 20 to 30 pounds but we get 60- to 70-pounders. After that I enjoy mahi and tuna. One trip I fished with Terry Bradshaw for yellowfin tuna off the Venice rigs and that was fun. We were gonna go for three days but we filled every hold with yellowfin and had no more place to put fish so we went back a day early. But I definitely have to say high speed trolling for wahoo. I fished with Gene Hackman a couple of times too which was fun. Took Urban Meyer and his son out showing him how to catch wahoo. Bradshaw and Howie Long and I were out wahoo fishing once, passing Hens and Chickens when Bradshaw dropped the lines in and I told him ‘Hey, reel them up! We can’t fish here!’ Those guys are always fun to fish with.

NH:  Any fishing secrets you want to tell us about?

JJ:  I hate to give away my secrets, but I love using a little black worm for the blackfin. For wahoo, I put out green C&H Rattle Jets, then a few rigged ballyhoo on blue/white Ilanders on the flat lines, then the jets on the center flat line and the riggers.

NH:  What’s the future vision for tournament?

JJ:  We did Atlantic City for the first time in 2021. It was brought with some skepticism to start, but now everyone wants to be involved. MJ (Michael Jordan) now fishes the tournament. He boated a 70-pound white marlin on his first competition. We just want the tournament to draw anglers from all over to be entertained, and if you’re lucky, you win the ring.

Fox NFL Sunday analyst and tournament host Jimmy Johnson and our esteemed Saltwater Underground TV host Nick Honachefsky taking a break from talking fish.

About The Tournament

Another $1 million guaranteed purse is up for grabs in Jimmy Johnson’s Atlantic City ‘Quest for the Ring’ Championship Fishing Week (JJFISHWEEKAC).  The July 16-23, 2023 week will include a kick-off party at the Golden Nugget Rooftop on Sunday, a secondary registration day on Monday for those who can’t make it Sunday, and a choice of pick three out of five days of leave it out on the waters tournament competition.

Daily dockside parties will be held at the JJFishweekAC Hospitality Village at the Golden Nugget Marina, where teams can enjoy a taste of Atlantic City restaurants, drinks, and music, an ultimate gifting experience.  A wagon will be provided to help you roll out all the goods, and a closing party hosted at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that is not to be missed.

Coach Jimmy Johnson looks over a white marlin brought to scales during last season’s Quest for the Ring in Atlantic City.

Jimmy Johnson’s Atlantic City ‘Quest for the Ring’ Championship Fishing Week is brought to you in partnership with Meet AC and the Atlantic City Sports Commission, hosted by Contender Boats, and powered by Yamaha Outboards.  Get information on the Quest for the Ring tournament by visiting

And the next time you’re down in Key Largo, FL make sure you pop in for a cold drink and bite to eat at Coach Johnson’s Big Chill Restaurant at mile marker 104. Who knows, with a couple of those light beers in front of him at the bar, he may even dish out a couple of extra secrets for catching wahoo.



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