Canadian Chris Johnston remains second at Elite Series finale on St. Lawrence River

CLAYTON, N.Y. — Canadian Chris Johnston remains in the hunt for his second Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River.

Johnston, of Peterborough, Ont., remained second Friday in the season-ending event. Johnston had five fish weighing 24 pounds, 11 ounces to boost his overall total to 52 pounds, 14 ounces.

Johnston enters Saturday's round a half-pound behind American Kyle Welcher. He took the overall lead Friday at 53 pounds, six ounces after his five-fish limit weighed 27 pounds, 12 ounces.

Johnston finished the opening round Thursday in second spot at 28 pounds, three ounces. American Bryant Smith took the opening-day lead with 29 pounds, five ounces, the heaviest single-day, all-smallmouth catch in Bassmaster history.

Johnston's success here isn't surprising. In 2020, he became the first Canadian to win an Elite Series tournament, finishing with a four-day total of 97 pounds, eight ounces on the St. Lawrence River.

Last year on the same river, Johnston's brother, Cory, of Cavan, Ont., became the first competitor to weigh over 100 pounds of smallmouth bass in an Elite Series event. Not long after, though, American Jay Przekurat became the second and finished two pounds, four ounces ahead of Johnston, who settled for second.

Series rookie Cooper Gallant, of Bowmanville, Ont., stands ninth overall at 48 pounds, 15 ounces after his five fish Friday weighed 21 pounds, nine ounces. Gallant was third Thursday at 26 pounds, 12 ounces.

Cory Johnston skyrocketed to 12th spot at 47 pounds, two ounces. He stood 51st (19 pounds, 14 ounces) on Thursday but had five fish weighing 27 pounds, four ounces in second-round action.

The Johnstons and Gallant all qualified for Saturday's round by finishing in the top-50. Jeff Gustafson, of Kenora, Ont., was 51st at 40 pounds, 11 ounces, finishing just three ounces behind American Josh Webster for the final qualification spot.

Gustafson, the '23 Classic winner, had five fish Friday that weighed 21 pounds, three ounces.

The top-10 competitors following Saturday's round will advance to Sunday's final.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2023.

The Canadian Press