First Weight Holds Up For Day Bassmaster Elite Lead At Waddington
BY DAVE SHEA
WADDINGTON - Chris Johnston had "a blast" while his brother Cory Johnston Johnson suffered through a nightmarish fishing day out of Waddington in the first day of the Berkley Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament, presented by Black Velvet, on the St. Lawrence River on Thursday.
But both Canadian pros from Peterborough, Ont. brought in significant weight showing why the St. Lawrence fishery is ranked number one in the nation by Bassmaster magazine.
As the first angler at the weigh-in Chris Johnston weighed in 24-7 pounds of smallmouth bass anchored by a 5-13 big fish.
"My day started pretty rough. I lost the first three fish I hooked, two 4s and a 5 but then I landed a couple of good ones and caught one that nearly weighed six pounds," said Chris Johnson.
"I love fishing smallmouths and I had a blast. This is just a great place."
Cory Johnston's day also started rough and it got worse. He lost a pole, later lost his trolling motor and arrived back to Waddington late and suffered a major penalty which reduced his 22-5 bag back to 15-5 for 60th place.
"It was my worst day of fishing ever. But tomorrow could be much better, that is the way i goes on this river," he said,
But he persevered to come with a 22-5 bag which was one of 26 20-pound bags brought to the stage at Whitaker Park which showcased record smallmouth catches last year.
Five anglers brought in bags exceeding 23 pounds.
Alabama angler Scott Canterbury stood second with 23-8 in his first day of Elite Tournament fishing on the St. Lawrence River.
"These fish were a different color than the green ones that I am used to. I have been in a survival mode all season and my weight today is a blessing," said Canterbury.
"I was blessed with good hits.”
Another Alabaman, Steve Kennedy, continued his success at Waddington taking third place at 23-7 with the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day, a 6-2 smallmouth.
“I have seen a lot of 4 pounders, but those 5- and 6-pound fish are rare where I am. I’m hoping more bass move into the area, otherwise I’ll have to go to Plan B," said Kennedy who was one of the favorites of the large first day crowd and the members of the Northern New York Junior Bassmasters Club who volunteered their time to help out in all phases of the first day action.
Action which many anglers felt was a tough day on the fabled fishery..
"The fishing was tougher that it has been in the past," said Keith Combs who finished at 21-5..
"The wind changed and there were some lulls".
But Drew Menton feels that Friday could be a monster day.
"Today the wind went down and current went up and between three and six the fish just ignited," said Menton who used a later surge to weigh in 20-6 pounds of bass.
Anglers will begin to leave at 9 a.m. with the first weigh-ins taking place a 5 p.m. Following Friday's fishing he cut will be made for Saturday.
Rounding out the top contenders were: Greg DiPalma of New Jersey at 23-6 and Shane LeHew of North Carolina at 23-0.
NOTES: Jamie Hartman, the only New York angler in the field, finished at a notable 21-4 looking to follow up a Sunday 10th to first charge to victory at the last Elite Series stop on Lake Guntersville. "It was a good start and I want to thank everyone for their support," said Hartman...Several anglers thanked Barb Elliott for providing instruction on fizzing to decrease fish mortality during tournaments. "I was really grateful for the fizzing lessons Barb taught us. One hundred percent of my fish released swam away healthy. This is an awesome fishery here and I am glad it is being taken care of.. One of the legends of the sport Rick Clune, who has 16 career tournament wins ,weighed in 20-1 and recalled winning the first BASS Tournament on the St. Lawrence River with an average of 14 pounds per day. "The bass in river had doubled in size. It is unbelievable".