Johnston Eyes Wire-To-Wire Run To Canadian History
BY DAVE SHEA
WADDINGTON - The United States and Canadian national anthems will be sung on stage at Whitaker Park to start Sunday's final weigh-in for the Berkley Bassmaster Elite Tournament presented by Black Velvet on the St. Lawrence River at Waddington.
Canadians, in what is expected to be another Elite Series record-setting assembly crowd, could very well be singing Oh Canada at the end of the weigh-in if Peterborough, Ont. resident Chris Johnston is able to complete a wire-to-wire run and become the first Canadian to ever win a Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament.
Johnson weighed in 19 pounds and one ounce of smallmouth on Saturday to hold the lead but maintains only a slim six-ounce margin over Texan Chris Zaldain who made a major move with a 23-12 bag to 65-15. Zaldain brought in the second biggest bag of the day just three ounces behind Jay Yelas of Oregon who moved into fourth place at 64-0 behind New Jersey's Greg DiPalma who stood at 64-1 after weighing in 19-0.
Based on the big bag capabilities of the Number one ranked St. Lawrence River fishery a multi-angler shootout or scramble could emerge.
After the weigh-in Johnston talked about how decisions and adjustments would ultimately decide the tournament champion.
"I have some tough decisions to make. It will all depend on the weather," said Johnson who related to the media that he might even make a drastic tactic change by making the long run to the outlet of Lake Ontario.
“I started in the same place I have started the past two days. I immediately lost a 5 1/2 pounder I caught only one keeper. The cloud cover made it impossible to see the fish so I moved out and fished in deeper water," said Johnston.
"I really want to win tomorrow here in Waddington which I consider my home water in sight of Canada. But I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow."
Zaldain, who has placed second in two tournaments this season, plans to make a return run to the mouth of Lake Ontario where he overcame a slow start to a memorable Saturday.
" I fished my first three primary spots and didn’t get a bite. However, I made a simple adjustment going a little deeper and caught the 5-11 and 5-15 on back-to back drops.” Zaldain said.
"And when I brought big ones up I saw other big fish coming up from the bottom with them. So I am pretty sure the fish are still there."
DiPalma also spoke about the need for adjustments to prevail in a sport where he said "the emotion and passion is unbelievable."
"The weather changed everything today and I will probably made some adjustments. I might even go fishing for largemouth. I know a spot where I can get a four-pounder," he said.
Canterberry started out in a survival mode in unfamiliar waters but now feels ready to contend.
"I just wanted to survive the first two days but I figured some things out."
WADDINGTON'S FINAL 10
Chris Johnston (Ont., Canada) 66-5 (19-1).
Chris Zaldain (Texas) 65-15 (23-12).
Gref DiPalma 64-1 (19-0).
Jay Yelas (Oregon) 64 (23-15).
Ray Hanselman Jr. 64-0 (19-6).
Scott Canterberry (Alabama) 63-3 (23-4).
Keith Combs (Texas) 62-6 (17-15).
Brian Snowden (Missouri) 62-6 (17-15).
Steve Kennedy (Alabama) 62-0 (15-12).
Micah Fraser (Georgia) 61-11 (20-6).
Note: The Big Fish of the day was a
six-pound smallmouth caught by Flordian Drew Benton.