By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

The history of Canadians winning tour-level events begins and ends with Chris Johnston, whose triumph at the Harris Chain FLW Tour in Florida 18 months ago is the lone victory achieved by an angler who resides north of the U.S. Now he's on the verge of doubling that total.

Johnston caught a 19-01 bag on day 3 of the St. Lawrence River Bassmaster Elite Series to push his three-day total to 66-05. He'll try to close out a wire-to-wire win Sunday on a fishery that's not far from his home in Peterborough, Ontario.

Chris Zaldain, a two-time runner-up on the circuit this year, became Johnston's closest pursuer as he boxed 23-12 on day 2 to take over the No. 2 position with 65-15. Rookie Greg DiPalma remained in 3rd as he boxed 19-00 for a 64-01 aggregate.

Jay Yelas, the decorated veteran whose performance has slipped considerably in recent years, assured himself of his first top-10 finish since 2013 with a day-best 23-15 haul that gave him a 64-00 total. He shares the No. 4 slot with Ray Hanselman, who amassed 19-06 on day 3.

Scott Canterbury heads up the lower half of the top 10 after a 20-01 stringer gave him a 63-03 total. He's followed by Keith Combs and Brian Snowden (both with 62-06), Steve Kennedy (62-01 and Micah Frazier (61-11).

The 10 anglers who advanced to the final day are separated by less than 5 pounds. Johnston has led since day 1, but his biggest margin to this point has been 15 ounces, which he enjoyed after both days 1 and 2. Now it's down to 6 ounces.

The Waddington, N.Y. area experienced cloudy skies throughout the tournament day and a bit of rain during the latter portion. That forced Johnston to spend more time in offshore haunts, as he couldn't see the shallow cruisers that he'd caught on the first two days. The conditions badly hindered Kennedy, who started the day in 2nd place and was also dependent in seeing fish prior to casting to them.

Canterbury will be the leader in the Angler of the Year race upon the conclusion of the event. Previous pace-setter Drew Cook, a rookie from Florida, finished the derby in 35th place.

Johnston spent the first couple hours of the day hunting big ones in the shallows and picked up a 4 1/2-pounder and a 4, but eventually headed for the offshore humps and ended up catching three of this weigh-in fish out there.

"I lost a giant up shallow, but I wasn't seeing many fish and I had to abandon that plan," he said. "It would've bitten me in the (butt) if I'd stayed there. I caught a 3 1/2-pounder and a couple 3s out deep, then I went back shallow in the last hour and upgraded with a 3 1/4.

"That fish had two 4s with it. I wish I'd had a little more time."

He admitted that he's not brimming with confidence heading into the final day.



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

Rookie Greg DiPalma has caught some nice smallmouths throughout the tournament, but he's considering a long run in pursuit of largemouths on day 4.

"I'm a little worried; I had to scramble pretty hard to get what I had today. I've got some stuff I haven't fished all the way down toward (Lake Ontario) and it's a place where I might catch 24 or 25 pounds, but I might also catch 12.

"If I stay up here my max is probably 21 pounds, so I'm kind of torn about what to do. I'll have to look at the weather and make a game-time decision."

Zaldain caught his stout bag from the vicinity of the big lake, which is well over a one-hour trip in each direction. His haul included two fish that were within a few ounces of 6 pounds.

“I fished my first three primary spots and didn’t get a bite," he said in a B.A.S.S. press release. "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.

“I only caught eight or nine keepers today. However, when I marked them on my Humminbird, I could get them to eat.”

DiPalma might make a similar run on the final day to chase some hefty largemouths that he found in practice. If it doesn't pan out, he'll head back upstream and continue pursuing smallmouths with a Carolina rig and a jig, as he's done throughout the tournament.

"When you're in position to win, you've got to try," he said. "Whether I catch them or not, I won't have any regrets. I'll know whether it's going to happen within the first 10 to 15 minutes I'm there."

He boated eight keepers on day 3, the biggest of which weighed 4-11. He lost one good fish, but isn't sure whether it would've aided his cause.

"Today was really weird," he said. "Smallmouth just don't like the conditions that we had."

Yelas has a shot at his first victory since the 2002 Classic at Lay Lake.

"It's a thrill to be back in the hunt because it's been a long time," he said. "If I catch them again like I did today, I'll have a shot at the win.

"Today was just amazing – it was the best catch of smallmouth I've had in my whole tournament career. I fished the same spots that I did the first two days, but today some big ones pulled in. We had a rain shower for a couple hours in the middle of the day and I caught all the big ones when it was raining."

His fish are coming from water no deeper than 15 feet and he caught everything today on a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm attached to a dropshot rig. His biggest day-3 specimen weighed 5-01.

"I went through 50 baits; I just caught fish all day. There's a lot of smaller ones along with the big ones."

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 35 anglers, 35 limits.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., Aug. 18 – P.M. Showers – 79°/67°
- Wind: From the SSW at 5 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Chris Johnston -- Peterborough, ON -- 15 -- 66-05 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 24-07 -- Day 2: 5, 22-13 -- Day 3: 5, 19-01

2. Chris Zaldain -- Fort Worth, TX -- 15, 65-15 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 19-12 -- Day 2: 5, 22-07 -- Day 3: 5, 23-12

3. Greg DiPalma -- Millville, NJ -- 15, 64-01 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 23-06 -- Day 2: 5, 21-11 -- Day 3: 5, 19-00

4. Jay Yelas -- Lincoln City, OR -- 15, 64-00 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 20-10 -- Day 2: 5, 19-07 -- Day 3: 5, 23-15

5. Ray Hanselman Jr -- Del Rio, TX -- 15, 64-00 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 22-10 -- Day 2: 5, 22-00 -- Day 3: 5, 19-06

6. Scott Canterbury -- Odenville, AL -- 15, 63-03 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 23-08 -- Day 2: 5, 19-10 -- Day 3: 5, 20-01

7. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 15, 62-06 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 21-05 -- Day 2: 5, 22-09 -- Day 3: 5, 18-08

8. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 15, 62-06 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 22-01 -- Day 2: 5, 22-06 -- Day 3: 5, 17-15

9. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 15, 62-01 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 23-07 -- Day 2: 5, 22-14 -- Day 3: 5, 15-12

10. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 15, 61-11 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 20-11 -- Day 2: 5, 20-10 -- Day 3: 5, 20-06

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.

11. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 15, 61-04 -- 90 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 21-03 -- Day 2: 5, 23-04 -- Day 3: 5, 16-13

12. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin, ON -- 15 -- 61-02 -- 89 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-02 -- Day 2: 5, 19-03 -- Day 3: 5, 23-13

13. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 15, 59-02 -- 88 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-04 -- Day 2: 5, 21-06 -- Day 3: 5, 18-08

14. Hunter Shryock -- Newcomerstown, OH -- 15, 58-14 -- 87 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-03 -- Day 2: 5, 17-04 -- Day 3: 5, 21-07

15. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 15, 58-11 -- 86 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-11 -- Day 2: 5, 17-09 -- Day 3: 5, 20-07

16. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 15, 58-04 -- 85 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-02 -- Day 2: 5, 21-01 -- Day 3: 5, 18-01

17. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 15, 58-04 -- 84 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-06 -- Day 2: 5, 17-13 -- Day 3: 5, 20-01

18. Caleb Sumrall -- New Iberia, LA -- 15, 58-03 -- 83 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-07 -- Day 2: 5, 23-06 -- Day 3: 5, 16-06

19. Shane LeHew -- Catawba, NC -- 15, 57-14 -- 82 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 23-00 -- Day 2: 5, 21-05 -- Day 3: 5, 13-09

20. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 15, 57-11 -- 81 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 21-04 -- Day 2: 5, 16-06 -- Day 3: 5, 20-01

21. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 15, 57-05 -- 80 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 20-07 -- Day 2: 5, 17-04 -- Day 3: 5, 19-10

22. Randy Sullivan -- Breckenridge, TX -- 15, 57-03 -- 79 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 18-15 -- Day 2: 5, 20-12 -- Day 3: 5, 17-08

23. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 15, 57-03 -- 78 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 19-08 -- Day 2: 5, 19-08 -- Day 3: 5, 18-03

24. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 15, 56-12 -- 77 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 19-15 -- Day 2: 5, 17-13 -- Day 3: 5, 19-00

25. Derek Hudnall -- Baton Rouge, LA -- 15, 56-11 -- 76 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 17-11 -- Day 2: 5, 21-00 -- Day 3: 5, 18-00

26. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 15, 56-05 -- 75 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 20-13 -- Day 2: 5, 18-00 -- Day 3: 5, 17-08

27. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 15, 56-02 -- 74 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 16-09 -- Day 2: 5, 21-01 -- Day 3: 5, 18-08

28. Seth Feider -- New Market, MN -- 15, 55-15 -- 73 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 21-01 -- Day 2: 5, 15-13 -- Day 3: 5, 19-01

29. Robbie Latuso -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 55-12 -- 72 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 19-15 -- Day 2: 5, 17-15 -- Day 3: 5, 17-14

30. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 15, 55-11 -- 71 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 19-14 -- Day 2: 5, 18-11 -- Day 3: 5, 17-02

31. Jesse Tacoronte -- Kissimmee, FL -- 15, 54-12 -- 70 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 17-05 -- Day 2: 5, 19-13 -- Day 3: 5, 17-10

32. Jake Whitaker -- Fairview, NC -- 15, 54-09 -- 69 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 21-12 -- Day 2: 5, 16-01 -- Day 3: 5, 16-12

33. Lee Livesay -- Gladewater, TX -- 15, 53-07 -- 68 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 22-00 -- Day 2: 5, 17-02 -- Day 3: 5, 14-05

34. Luke Palmer -- Coalgate, OK -- 15, 53-05 -- 67 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 18-13 -- Day 2: 5, 18-03 -- Day 3: 5, 16-05

35. Drew Cook -- Midway, FL -- 15, 52-15 -- 66 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 17-07 -- Day 2: 5, 20-11 -- Day 3: 5, 14-13