By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

The overall weights as the 2019 St. Lawrence River Bassmaster Elite Series weren't quite as eye-popping as they were a year earlier, but the venue nonetheless strengthened its claim as the country's preeminent smallmouth fishery. Micah Frazier averaged nearly 22 pounds per day en route to victory with a four-day total of 87-04 and the final top 5 were separated by just a little more than 4 pounds.

Following are some of the specifics on how the 2nd- through 4th-place finishers went about the business of compiling big sacks of bronzebacks in Waddington, N.Y.

2nd: Chris Johnston

> Day 1: 5, 24-07
> Day 2: 5, 22-13
> Day 3: 5, 19-01
> Day 4: 5, 20-01
> Total = 20, 86-06

Chris Johnston, a resident of nearby Peterborough, Ontario, was on absolutely everybody's list of pre-tournament favorites. He'd have staged a wire-to-wire victory if Frazier hadn't caught such a monstrous final-day sack.

His primary tactic was hunting big fish that he could see cruising in shallow water. He also had some deeper fish on offshore humps as a backup and he had to turn to them on day 3 when the sun disappeared, but they didn't produce to his expectations.

"Probably 90 percent of the fish I caught, I saw them before I casted to them," he said. "That's how I like to fish there, but it's something that's very susceptible to weather. If the sun's not out, you can't see them."

He averaged about 10 keeper bites per day. He had one area that was prolific through the first two days, but he was sharing it with Shane LeHew and they'd worn it out by the third day. He abandoned it after about an hour on day 3.

"Knowing when to leave that spot that was getting burned out was a big key for me," he said. "If I'd stayed there all day I'd have weighed maybe 12 pounds."

His main offering was a 1/8-ounce marbou jig reeled slowly over vegetation. He also used a spybait and a dropshot rig with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm.

> Jig gear: 7'6" medium-light G. Loomis IMX 901 or NRX 901 rod, Shimano Sustain or Shimano Exsence 2500 spinning reel, 8-pound PowerPro braided line (main line), 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon leader, 1/8-ounce hand-tied marabou jig (black).

> Dropshot gear: 7' medium-light Shimano Expride rod, Shimano Sustain 2500 spinning reel, same line, 3/8-ounce teardrop-style weight, size 1 Gamakatsu Aaron Martens TGW Drop Shot Hook, Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm (green-pumpkin).



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

Scott Canterbury became the new leader in the Angler of the Year race with his 3rd-place finish.

3rd: Scott Canterbury

> Day 1: 5, 23-08
> Day 2: 5, 19-10
> Day 3: 5, 20-01
> Day 4: 5, 21-05
> Total = 20, 84-08

Scott Canterbury, who's in his first season on the Elite Series following a long tenure on the FLW Tour, was fishing the St. Lawrence for the first time.

"It was pretty much a grind," he said. "I wasn't catching a ton of fish, but I was just getting some of the right bites."

All of his fish came from deep water (25 to 44 feet) and were enticed by a dropshot rig featuring various baits. He had six locales that he rotated through, usually hitting each one twice during the day.

"The biggest thing for me was keeping my bait in the water and staying patient, knowing I was eventually going to get some bites."

> Dropshot gear: 7'6" medium-light Halo TI rod, Ardent Bolt 3000 spinning reel, 10-pound P-Line XTCB 8 braided line, 6-, 8- or 10-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon leader, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Flat Out Tungsten weight (teardrop or ball-shaped), size 1 or 1/0 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot hook, 3.5" Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm (brown back), 2.75" Strike King 3X ElazTech Baby Z Too soft jerkbait (Arkansas shiner), American Bait Works Set The Hook Stumpy Crush Worm (green-pumpkin) or Set The Hook Drifter (juvenile goby).

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

A major program adjustment on day 2 keyed Keith Combs' 4th-place finish.

4th: Keith Combs

> Day 1: 5, 21-05
> Day 2: 5, 22-09
> Day 3: 5, 18-08
> Day 4: 5, 21-14
> Total = 20, 84-04

Keith Combs spent almost off of his practice time in deep water and caught a strong bag out there with a dropshot rig on day 1 of the event. However, midway through day 2, he realized he'd have to run an audible.

"Based on last year, I thought it would be won out deep and I didn't fish shallow very much at all in practice," he said. "I had a shallow area where I'd caught a few last year and I went there one time, but it wasn't happening in there.

"I think I made a really good call about halfway through the second day," he said. "I had a couple of good fish, but it became apparent that what I'd found out deep wasn't going to be enough to do anything even get to the third day. That's when I picked up a jerkbait and a (Strike King 5XD crankbait) and started covering a tremendous amount of water. If you threw enough times and covered water fast enough you'd get a few good bites."

He said his fish were pretty much equally distributed between the dropshot, jerkbait and crankbait and he also picked up a few on a tube.

> Dropshot gear: 7'3" medium-action Shimano Zodias rod, Shimano Stella 2500 spinning reel, 15-pound Seaguar Smackdown braided line (main line, hi-vis yello), 10-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon (12' leader), 1/2-ounce Strike King Tour Grade tungsten weight, 2/0 Owner Mosquito Hook, 2.75" Strike King 3X ElazTech Baby Z Too soft jerkbait (Arkansas shiner).

> Jerkbait gear: 6'10" medium-action Shimano Zodias rod, Shimano Curado DC casting reel (7.4:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, Strike King KVD Deep Jerkbait.

> Cranking gear: 7' medium-action Shimano Curado fiberglass composite rod, same reel and line as jerkbait, Strike King 5XD or 6XD (yellow perch).

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

Jay Yelas' 5th-place showing was his highest since 2013.

5th: Jay Yelas

> Day 1: 5, 20-10
> Day 2: 5, 19-07
> Day 3: 5, 23-15
> Day 4: 5, 19-01
> Total = 20, 83-01

Jay Yelas caught all of his fish from depths of 15 feet or shallower en route to his highest finish since 2013.

"I pretty much fished the same water all four days," he said. "I'd never been here before so I thought my best bet was to keep dancing with the one that brung me. It started petering out toward the end and I was wishing I had more water to try, but I went back at the end of the last day and caught a 4-pounder and a 5, so they were still there.

"I just kind of stuck with how I know to river-fish I've never caught much dragging baits around out in the middle. I just fished current seams and eddies and things like that that fish get in."

He estimated that he caught 15 of the fish he took to the scale on a dropshot rig and the other five on a spybait.

"That place has got so many bass that you can pretty much pick whatever depth you want and there's fish there. The bottom of the river is littered with gobies, zebra mussels and crawdads. The biomass of baitfish is just incredible."

> Dropshot gear: 6'10" Team Lew's Custom Pro Mark Rose Ledge Series rod, Team Lew's Pro 3000 spinning reel, 17-pound Berkley NanoFil (main line), 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader, 1/2-ounce Provider Tackle weight, 1/0 hook, Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm (green-pumpkin).

> Spybait gear: 7'2" Team Lew's Custom Pro rod, same reel, 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, Duo Realis Spinbait 80 or slow-sinking Berkley SPY (ghost minnow).

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