By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Chris Johnston and Scott Canterbury came into the St. Lawrence River Bassmaster Elite Series right in the thick of the Angler of the Year race. After day 1, they're separated by just one place at the very top of the standings as the circuit returned to action in western New York after an eight-week break.

Johnston, a Canadian with a lot of experience on the St. Lawrence, boxed 24-07 to lead the 75-angler pack. Canterbury, an Alabama resident with a strong track record on Northern fisheries from his long stint on the FLW Tour, weighed 23-08.

Veteran Steve Kennedy, who posted just one finish inside the top 50 through the season's first six tournaments, was just an ounce behind Canterbury with 23-07. His bag was bolstered by the biggest fish that came to the scale a 6-02 smallmouth.

Rookie Greg DiPalma was next with 23-06, followed by Shane Lehew with 23-00. The bottom half of the top 10 was comprised of Ray Hanselman (22-10), Brian Snowden (22-01), Lee Livesay (22-00), Jake Whitaker (21-12) and Keith Combs (21-05).

Weights were off a bit from last year, when seven anglers caught at least 25 pounds on day 1 and almost half the field (52 of 107) sacked at least 20. Exactly one-third of the competitors crossed the 20-pound threshold in the opening round this time.

Quality fish came from both deep and shallow locales and most of the leaders are sharing at least some of their water. A few more clouds are in the forecast for day 2, which could stimulate the skinny-water bite.

AOY leader Drew Cook, a rookie from Florida, is in 45th place with 17-07. The field will be reduced to the top 35 following the day-2 weigh-in, with only the top 10 advancing to the fourth and final round.

Johnston anticipated catching a stout sack, but his weight exceeded his expectations.

"I'd have been happy with 22 pounds going in," he said. "This was probably the toughest practice I've ever had on this body of water; I didn't catch a 5-pounder out deep and I maybe saw one or two up shallow.

"I figure that 22 pounds a day stands a good chance of winning it. This is the toughest I've ever seen this river fish."

His bag was topped by a fish that was just shy of 6 pounds. He lost a 5-pounder and two that were over 4.

"There was another boat on my best spot when I left at 11 and I think he stayed there all day and kept beating on it. I'm not sure if it'll reload or not. There's a few fish on it, but those 5s are hard to come by.

"I spent the afternoon checking new stuff and upgraded once with a 4 3/4. I didn't find anything great, but there are places I can get a fish from if I need it."

Canterbury went through about 15 keepers to compile his stringer. The best of those was a 5 1/2-pounder and the smallest he weighed was a little over 4.

"I'm fishing mainly deep," he said. "I had a little company, but it wasn't terrible. Other guys found those fish too, but it wasn't like it was the biggest community hole on the lake or anything like that.



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Scott Canterbury rotated through half a dozen spots to compile his 23 1/2-pound stringer.

"I'm having to bounce around quite bit; I don't have a bunch of fish anywhere. I've got six or seven spots and I'm trying to rotate through them, maybe hitting every spot twice during the day."

Kennedy didn't hook up with much in practice, but he was nonetheless confident when day 1 got under way.

"I spent most of practice throwing a big glide bait with the hooks turned down, just looking," he said. "I caught a total of one fish in three days, but I knew where a bunch of big ones were.

"I'm fishing shallow less than 15 feet. I only landed seven fish and it took me until 2 o'clock to catch a limit, so I feel like I'm living on the edge. They're pretty finicky and they're harder to catch than I remember (from past St. Lawrence events)."

The 6-pounder was his limit-filler. He said there were two other boats in his best locale, which is a stretch of bank that runs for about 500 yards.

"There's still lots of fish there that none of us could catch because they're so finicky, but I'm fishing the way I like to hunting individual big fish. It gets personal and it's pretty awesome when you catch them."

Hanselman boated 17 or 18 pounds in the first hour of the day, then ran some other stuff that wasn't nearly as productive. He picked up several kickers from the place where he'd started last year's event.

He handled about 25 keepers and backed off in the early afternoon in order to conserve fish.

"I fished deep mostly and some at the mid-depths; everything was between 15 and 30 feet," he said. "My biggest one might've gone 4 1/2, but they were all about the same size."

It was a rough day for Clifford Pirch, the 4th-place finisher at the St. Lawrence in 2013 who ended up inside the top 30 on two other visits. He weighed 12-08 and sits in 69th place.

"I haven't been able to catch them at all in places that have been historically good," he said. "They've completely moved because the food has moved or something. I only had one good day in practice and two others that were about like today.

"Today was interesting because I probably caught more fish than I have on any other day here, but they were all 9- to 13-inchers. I had two real nice ones and like 70 little ones."

Notable

> Day 1 stats 75 anglers, 75 limits.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., Aug. 16 Partly Cloudy 78/63
- Wind: From the E at 5 mph

> Sat., Aug. 17 Isolated Thunderstorms 78/62
- Wind: From the SSW at 6 mph

> Sun., Aug. 18 Partly Cloudy 86/69
- Wind: From the SSW at 6 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. Chris Johnston -- Peterborough, ON -- 5, 24-07 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 24-07

2. Scott Canterbury -- Odenville, AL -- 5, 23-08 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 23-08

3. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 5, 23-07 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 23-07

4. Greg DiPalma -- Millville, NJ -- 5, 23-06 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 23-06

5. Shane LeHew -- Catawba, NC -- 5, 23-00 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 23-00

6. Ray Hanselman Jr -- Del Rio, TX -- 5, 22-10 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 22-10

7. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 22-01 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 22-01

8. Lee Livesay -- Gladewater, TX -- 5, 22-00 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 22-00

9. Jake Whitaker -- Fairview, NC -- 5, 21-12 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 21-12

10. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 5, 21-05 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 21-05

11. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 5, 21-04 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 21-04

12. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 5, 21-03 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 21-03

13. Seth Feider -- New Market, MN -- 5, 21-01 -- 88
Day 1: 5, 21-01

14. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 5, 20-13 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 20-13

15. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 5, 20-13 -- 86
Day 1: 5, 20-13

16. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 5, 20-11 -- 85
Day 1: 5, 20-11

17. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 5, 20-11 -- 84
Day 1: 5, 20-11

18. Jay Yelas -- Lincoln City, OR -- 5, 20-10 -- 83
Day 1: 5, 20-10

19. Harvey Horne -- Bella Vista, AR -- 5, 20-08 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 20-08

19. Garrett Paquette -- Canton, MI -- 5, 20-08 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 20-08

21. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 5, 20-07 -- 80
Day 1: 5, 20-07

22. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 5, 20-06 -- 79
Day 1: 5, 20-06

22. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 5, 20-06 -- 79
Day 1: 5, 20-06

24. Chris Groh -- Spring Grove, IL -- 5, 20-05 -- 77
Day 1: 5, 20-05

25. Hunter Shryock -- Newcomerstown, OH -- 5, 20-03 -- 76
Day 1: 5, 20-03

26. Robbie Latuso -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 19-15 -- 75
Day 1: 5, 19-15

26. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 5, 19-15 -- 75
Day 1: 5, 19-15

28. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 5, 19-14 -- 73
Day 1: 5, 19-14

29. Chris Zaldain -- Fort Worth, TX -- 5, 19-12 -- 72
Day 1: 5, 19-12

30. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 5, 19-08 -- 71
Day 1: 5, 19-08

31. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 5, 19-04 -- 70
Day 1: 5, 19-04

31. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 5, 19-04 -- 70
Day 1: 5, 19-04

31. Tyler Rivet -- Raceland, LA -- 5, 19-04 -- 70
Day 1: 5, 19-04

34. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 5, 19-02 -- 67
Day 1: 5, 19-02

35. Randy Sullivan -- Breckenridge, TX -- 5, 18-15 -- 66
Day 1: 5, 18-15

36. Dale Hightower -- Mannford, OK -- 5, 18-14 -- 65
Day 1: 5, 18-14

37. Luke Palmer -- Coalgate, OK -- 5, 18-13 -- 64
Day 1: 5, 18-13

38. Frank Talley -- Temple, TX -- 5, 18-10 -- 63
Day 1: 5, 18-10

39. Chad Morgenthaler -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 18-09 -- 62
Day 1: 5, 18-09

40. Caleb Sumrall -- New Iberia, LA -- 5, 18-07 -- 61
Day 1: 5, 18-07

41. Brett Preuett -- Monroe, LA -- 5, 18-03 -- 60
Day 1: 5, 18-03

42. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin, ON -- 5, 18-02 -- 59
Day 1: 5, 18-02

43. Koby Kreiger -- Alva, FL -- 5, 17-14 -- 58
Day 1: 5, 17-14

44. Derek Hudnall -- Baton Rouge, LA -- 5, 17-11 -- 57
Day 1: 5, 17-11

45. Drew Cook -- Midway, FL -- 5, 17-07 -- 56
Day 1: 5, 17-07

46. Kyle Monti -- Okeechobee, FL -- 5, 17-06 -- 55
Day 1: 5, 17-06

47. Jesse Tacoronte -- Kissimmee, FL -- 5, 17-05 -- 54
Day 1: 5, 17-05

48. Randy Pierson -- Oakdale, CA -- 5, 17-04 -- 53
Day 1: 5, 17-04

49. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 5, 17-03 -- 52
Day 1: 5, 17-03

50. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 17-01 -- 51
Day 1: 5, 17-01

50. Tyler Carriere -- Youngsville, LA -- 5, 17-01 -- 51
Day 1: 5, 17-01

52. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 5, 16-09 -- 49
Day 1: 5, 16-09

53. Gary Clouse -- Winchester, TN -- 5, 16-07 -- 48
Day 1: 5, 16-07

54. Mike Huff -- Corbin, KY -- 5, 16-05 -- 47
Day 1: 5, 16-05

55. Patrick Walters -- Summerville, SC -- 5, 16-02 -- 46
Day 1: 5, 16-02

56. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 5, 16-01 -- 45
Day 1: 5, 16-01

57. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 5, 15-13 -- 44
Day 1: 5, 15-13

58. Bill Weidler -- Helena, AL -- 5, 15-12 -- 43
Day 1: 5, 15-12

59. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 5, 15-08 -- 42
Day 1: 5, 15-08

60. Cory Johnston -- Cavan, ON -- 5, 15-05 -- 41
Day 1: 5, 15-05

61. Quentin Cappo -- Prairieville, LA -- 5, 14-07 -- 40
Day 1: 5, 14-07

61. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 5, 14-07 -- 40
Day 1: 5, 14-07

63. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 5, 14-06 -- 38
Day 1: 5, 14-06

64. Yusuke Miyazaki -- Forney, TX -- 5, 13-13 -- 37
Day 1: 5, 13-13

64. Clark Wendlandt -- Leander, TX -- 5, 13-13 -- 37
Day 1: 5, 13-13

66. Brandon Cobb -- Greenwood, SC -- 5, 13-08 -- 35
Day 1: 5, 13-08

67. Brad Whatley -- Bivins, TX -- 5, 12-10 -- 34
Day 1: 5, 12-10

68. Shane Lineberger -- Lincolnton, NC -- 5, 12-09 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 12-09

69. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 5, 12-08 -- 32
Day 1: 5, 12-08

70. Rick Morris -- Lake Gaston, VA -- 5, 12-02 -- 31
Day 1: 5, 12-02

71. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, AL -- 5, 10-14 -- 30
Day 1: 5, 10-14

72. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 5, 10-13 -- 29
Day 1: 5, 10-13

73. Carl Jocumsen -- Queensland, AUS -- 5, 10-05 -- 28
Day 1: 5, 10-05

74. Rob Digh -- Denver, NC -- 5, 08-09 -- 27
Day 1: 5, 08-09

75. Ed Loughran III -- Richmond, VA -- 5, 07-15 -- 26
Day 1: 5, 07-15