CLAYTON — As long as the best bass anglers in the country keep coming to the north country, a Johnston is sure to win.
Cory Johnston continued the run of victories for the Canadian family, which includes his brother Chris, by producing his biggest bag of the week at 27 pounds, 6 ounces to win the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open at the St. Lawrence River/1000 Islands.
Johnston finished second to his brother during the Major League Fishing Toyota Series Northern Division event on the St. Lawrence River, based in Massena two weekend ago. A year ago in Clayton, Chris Johnston became the first Canadian to win a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.
Cory Johnston suffered mechanical issues in that 2020 event, which derailed what would likely have been a strong finish.
“It feels good to win one here,” Johnston said. “The U.S. side of this place has had my number. (Canadian waters were closed during both Elite events). It feels good to get the monkey off my back and I can’t wait to get back here for the Elite next year.”
Edging Day 1 leader Cal Climpson by 13 ounces, Cory Johnston won the top prize of $43,433. Hailing from Cavan, Ontario, he said local knowledge proved invaluable.
“It was a great week and I had a lot of fun,” Johnston said. “I have a lot of spots out on Lake Ontario. I only pre-fished for about two days out here; I just know this place so well, but it’s burnt me so many times.
“I caught a ton of fish and I caught a lot of big fish. It just goes to show you what an incredible fishery we have here, so we have to look after this place.”
Chris Johnston finished seventh overall with a Day 3 total of 23-12 and a final haul of 71-3.
The first two days, Cory Johnston kept himself in the hunt with limits of 25-7 and 25-3 that put him in fifth and second place. His final-round limit was the event’s second-heaviest, behind Climpson’s Day 1 bag of 27-7.
Johnston’s win provided a much-needed dose of redemption, after what looked to be a run at the victory ended with a fourth-place finish at mid-July’s Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River.
With Canadian waters open this week, Johnston fished both sides of the river and Lake Ontario. Days 1 and 2 saw him starting in the river and working his way out to the lake. On Saturday, he committed to the latter and caught fish over various rock structure in 18 to 42 feet.
“I was about 20 miles out in the lake,” Johnston said. “I just had a milk run and I worked my way out. I started at the closest spot, worked my way out to the farthest spot and then came in. It’s pretty simple out here. I had the Garmin LiveScope going and just covering a lot of water.
“I spent my day in the lake today because the way the wind was blowing I could stay sheltered a little bit. There was a point way up the lake and that sheltered me a little. There were still 6-footers, they just weren’t 8s.”
Johnston caught his fish on a drop shot with a 3/8-ounce weight and a 4-inch prototype worm he and Chris are designing for SPRO on a No. 2 Gamakatsu G-Finesse hook.
“I was using Power-Pole Drift Paddles and they slow you down so much when you’re out there in the big water in 6-foot waves,” Johnston said. “You can just drift with the wind, use the Garmin and cover a lot of water.”
Climpson, who also makes his home in Cavan, backed up his opening limit with 22-7 on Day 2 and slipped to third. Stepping on the gas for Championship Saturday, he added 27-5 for a tournament total of 77-3.
Adam Neu of Forestville, Wis., finished third with 76-6. He placed 10th on Day 1 with 23-15, improved to fifth with 25-2 and closed out his performance with his biggest limit — 27-5, which included a 6-8.
Neu spent his final day at the mouth of the river near Cape Vincent. Focusing on a broad area of rocky structure in about 20 feet, he caught his fish on tubes rigged on a 3/8-ounce head.
Andrew Upshaw of Hemphill, Texas, won the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award with a 6-13.
With all three Northern Opens now in the books, Jonathan Kelley of Old Forge, Pa., claimed the Northern Open points title with 549 points. Mike Iaconelli of Pitts Grove, N.J., placed second with 549, followed by Alex Redwine of Blue Ash, Ohio with 549, J.T. Thompkins of Myrtle Beach, S.C., with 520 and Coop Gallant of Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, with 512.
Top 10 Finishers
1. Cory Johnston, 15/78-0, 2. Cal Climpson 15/77-3, 3. Adam Neu 15/76-6, 4. Coop Gallant 15/73-6, 5. Timmy Thompkins 15/72-5, 6. Gary Adkins 15/72-5, 7. Chris Johnston 15/71-3, 8. Dean Meckes 15/65-8, 9. Jonathan Kelley 15/63-15, Brad Leuthner 15/57-8.