Imagine you’re on a business trip and you decide to go for a bicycle ride. While on the ride, you get hit by a car. The driver said he didn’t want the police to be involved and gives you over $10,000 in exchange for that favor. This was in the 1970’s. The money in question would be valued over $35,000 today.
The legendary Kenny Johansen knew the perfect way to handle his newfound wealth. Kenny Jo, as his friends called him, had arrived in Morehead City for the Big Rock Tournament when he came into his fiduciary windfall. He rented a luxury condo on the water, and invited everyone to a week long party. The celebration is still discussed in Billfish tourney circles. When it finally wrapped, Kenny Jo had just enough cash to buy a new bicycle.
Kenny Jo was a free spirit so he refused to be tied professionally to just one boat. “Back when there weren’t as many marinas, mates may want a day off, and Kenny Jo would be ready to fill in,” Captain Marty Brill said of his departed friend. “He was a professional freelance mate.” Marty noted Kenny Jo was the pro who showed him the right way to rig a squid.
Mike ‘Bubble Gum’ Merritt, Captain of the Sandra D, appreciated Kenny Jo’s craft. “When he rigged a squid or a Spanish mackerel it was a work of art,” Merritt said during Saturday’s Extended Edition of the Other Side of Fishing. “He was a great mate.”
Merritt also admired Kenny Jo’s tenaciousness. Kenny Jo once jumped off a boat to successfully gaffe and deck what was thought to be a lost 500 pound Blue Marlin. Kenny Jo’s skills were always in demand around tournament time. In addition to the aforementioned bike accident, a couple other colorful moments took place at the Big Rock.
Friends recalled him (literally) swimming from boat to boat to get a waiting beer. They also remember when Kenny Jo had been riding a very nice bicycle around the marina. A person said to him, “That’s a mighty nice bike there Kenny Jo.” Upon hearing that, he picked up the bike, and threw it in the creek. When asked why he did that, Kenny Jo responded, “Too much upkeep.”
Merritt and a group of area captains plan to fulfill Kenny Jo’s wish of having his ashes sprinkled into the Gulf Stream. Kenny Jo didn’t have any formal family left, but his fishing brethren will still marvel at the person whose fishing prowess could only be matched by their unbridled spirit. “You know that old saying one of a kind,”Merritt said. “That’s what he was, one of a kind.”