May 22nd, 2024

Canadian Cory Johnston moves closer to registering first Elite Series victory

By The Canadian Press on April 20, 2024.

PALATKA, Fla. – Canadian Cory Johnston is the man to beat heading into the final round of the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Johns River.

Johnston, of Cavan, Ont., will carry a 14-pound lead into Sunday’s round as he chases his first-ever Elite Series win. Johnston’s five-fish bag weighed 23 pounds two ounces on Saturday, giving him 73 pounds 13 ounces overall.

American Brad Whatley, whose five-fish bag of 31 pounds four ounces was the day’s heaviest, is second at 59 pounds 13 ounces.

“It’s one of those things it’s going to happen when it’s going to happen,” Johnston said. “The last two days I’ve caught a big one on my last cast so I hope it works out.”

Johnston took the tournament lead Friday and carried an advantage of 11 pounds nine ounces into Saturday’s action

In 2021, Johnston won a Bassmaster Open tournament in Clayton, N.Y., but three times he’s settled for second in Elite Series tournaments.

Johnston envisions going to new water Sunday, figuring the areas he worked the first three days are unlikely to remain as productive.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” he said. “I do have a backup plan.

“I haven’t had to do it yet this week so I feel like (Sunday) is probably going to be the day.”

Johnston is attempting to become the third Canadian to win on the Elite Series after his brother, Chris, of Peterborough, Ont., and Jeff Gustafson, of Kenora, Ont.

Chris Johnston will be among the other nine competitors chasing Cory Johnston. Chris Johnston stands third overall at 56 pounds 14 ounces after his five-fish bag on Saturday weighed 18 pounds 14 ounces. The top-10 finishers advanced to Sunday’s round.

Cooper Gallant of Bowmanville, Ont., finished 31st overall at 41 pounds one ounce after his five fish Saturday weighed 11 pounds three ounces. Gustafson didn’t qualify for Saturday’s round, finishing 101st.

The Johnstons are a team on the Elite Series, working together during tournaments. In fact, Cory Johnston credited his brother with providing information that helped him catch one of his fish Saturday.

But Chris Johnston won’t be conceding anything to his brother Sunday.

“My mom would be proud if I did,” he said. “She wants everyone to be fair and he hasn’t won yet. “¦ I’m not laying off anything.”

No one knows better than Chris Johnston just how precarious a lead can be on the St. Johns River.

In 2019, Johnston was the overall leader heading into the final day of his first-ever Elite Series event. But veteran Rick Clunn rallied for the win by weighing a five-fish limit of 34 pounds 14 ounces, relegating Johnston to second, the first of five runner-up finishes he’s had on the circuit.

“I’m getting sick of the whole ‘close,’ thing, I want to seal one,” Johnston said. “My brother has a bit of a lead so I’m a little bit behind the 8-ball but you never know.

“Whatley weighed 31 pounds (and) when I got beat here Rick Clunn weighed 35 (pounds), he caught two 10-pounders so on any cast you can get a 10-pounder on this fishery.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2024.

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