Johnston hangs onto Bassmaster Elite lead in Waddington heading into final day today
Sunday, August 18, 2019 - 9:38 am

Canadian pro Chris Johnston maintained a slim lead on Day 3 of the 2019 Berkley Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River after brining in bass weighing 19 pounds, 1 ounce Saturday. Photo by Seigo, submitted by Bassmaster

WADDINGTON — Chris Johnston is holding onto his lead in the Berkley Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River after three days, but barely.

As anglers head out for the fourth and final day of bass fishing today, the leaderboard is getting interesting as Johnston maintained the top spot with his 19-pound, 1-ounce catch Saturday for an impressive three-day total of 66-5. However, his lead is miniscule.

“I had a really tough day,” Johnston admitted. “I started in the same place I have started the past two days. I immediately lost a 5 1/2 pounder. That hurt. I caught only one keeper, a 3-pounder, over the next hour. The cloud cover made it impossible to see the fish, so I couldn’t work them like I needed to. So, I left and went to new water.”

Although most anglers wouldn’t call catching over 19 pounds a tough day, Johnston’s limits have been shrinking since Day 1. He weighed in the event’s largest limit on Day 1 (24-7), and 22-13 on Day 2.

“I was afraid my fish would run out,” he said after weigh-in back at Whittaker Park Saturday. “I have a tough decision to make tonight. I may trash everything I’ve been doing and head toward Lake Ontario. I practiced up there and know that the winning limit can be caught there. I just have to decide whether it’s worth the gamble,” said Johnston.

If the gamble pays off, Johnston would be the first Canadian angler ever to win an Elite Series event.

A scant 6 ounces beghind sits Texas-based pro Chris Zaldain. His Day 3 limit of 23-12 gives him 65-15 heading into Championship Sunday.

“I couldn’t hardly sleep last night because I was looking forward to this morning. The wind, the clouds … everything set up perfectly for the area I’m fishing,” he said.

However, his morning started off slowly. “I fished my first three primary spots and didn’t get a bite. However, I made a key adjustment by sliding out just a little deeper and caught the 5-11 and 5-15 on back-to back drops.” Zaldain said the problem was not catching the fish, but finding them.

He is fishing near Lake Ontario, which is an hour and 15 minutes away from launch. He ran out of gas the first day trying to get back and had to hitch a ride with another competitor. “

Much like Johnston, New Jersey pro Greg DiPalma’s limits have been shrinking since Day 1. Still, the Elite Series standout boated 19-0 for a three-day total of 64-1 to take the third-place spot. “I fished the exact same stuff I fished yesterday with the exact same baits, but the bite simply got tougher,” he said.

Although the St. Lawrence River is fishing tougher than it did last year, the fishery is proving it deserves the No. 1 ranking Bassmaster Magazine awarded it earlier this year. Of the 35 pros fishing Semi-Final Saturday, 21 weighed in more than 18 pounds and three limits exceeded the 23-pound mark. Although Zaldain brought in two fish nearly reaching the 6-pound mark, it was Florida pro Drew Benton who walked away with the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day with a smallmouth weighing 6 pounds even.