Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Ontario brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 27-06 to win the three-day Northern Toyota Series event at the St. Lawrence River in Massena, New York. Johnston’s total of 15 bass weighing 77-15 earned him the win by a 6-05 margin over his brother Cory Johnston of Cavan, Ontario, who finished the event in 2nd place with 71-10. Chris took home the top payout of $39,048.
Though he’s a former FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series champion, Chris said he’s been foiled by Toyota Series events on the St. Lawrence and the associated waters too many times over the last several years. After running hundreds of miles during the event, from Massena to Lake Ontario each day, he said he was excited to finally get the win.
“I was thinking about it while running back up the river, thinking ‘If I get back, I’ve finally got this off my back,’” he said. “I’ve obviously won tournaments, but the St. Lawrence River is special to me. To win this one means a lot because something has always gone wrong. I jumped off a 6-pounder on day 3 before I had a good one in the boat, and my co-angler boated three good ones.
“Then I ended up breaking a 6 1/2-pounder off, and thought ‘Oh no, it’s going to happen again.’ Thankfully, I finally got some in the boat, but I was definitely sweating a little bit today.”
Catching 25-pound bags each of the first two days, Johnston mixed in a couple river bass both days. On day 3, he said he headed straight to the lake to finish the event in style.
“It was good, but I didn’t have a lot of time,” he said. “People think it’s easy to go out there and catch a big bag, but it’s really not. I didn’t have a spot that was loaded. I only hit two spots on Day 3, but they weren’t loaded. I had to work for them and I needed all four hours to catch them.
“My starting spot on day 3 never had a bass on it. On day 2, I hit two spots that were dry. That’s what’s scary, when you’re making that run, if you hit two spots in a row that don’t have fish on them, you don’t have enough time to be running around.”
Johnston said an unidentified prototype worm on a dropshot was the main player, which he threw on a Daiwa Certate LT 2500, a 7-foot, 1-inch Daiwa Tatula Elite spinning rod, 10-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid with an 8-pound Seaguar Gold Label leader, on a No. 2 Gamakatsu TGW Drop Shot Hook with a 3/8-ounce drop-shot weight.
“I had a river spot that I was counting on for day 1,” Johnston said. “I caught three good ones off it. It’s just a break that they get on, and when its sunny and calm I could see them, that’s how I found them. They’re hard to catch, though. They knew the gig was up because I only got two the second day.”
As for the lake, he said he mostly fished deep rock, usually piles or stretches of it in general areas. He said he fished small sections in 20 to 40 feet of water so that he wouldn’t get too bogged down.
“I could roll up to a spot, fish it 10 or 15 minutes, and I’d know whether they were biting,” he said.
Here are the final totals for the Top 10:
1. Chris Johnston: 77-15
2. Cory Johnston: 71-10
3. Justin Atkins: 70-07
4. Brent Anderson: 64-07
5. Jonathan Robla: 62-06
6. Brent Crow: 61-12
7. Charlie Hartley: 59-11
8. Jesse Spellicy: 58-10
9. Scott Cooke: 57-15
10. Marty Robinson: 57-01