Big water presents challenges

When Bassmaster LIVE showed Timmy Thompkins cranking his big motor, the South Carolina pro wasn’t leaving his Lake Ontario spot — he was trying to get back to it.

No question, the easternmost Great Lake is guarding its smallmouth bounty with an increasingly insistent south wind. We’ve seen worse — in particular, last year’s SiteOne Bassmaster Elite — but the big waves confronting Championship Saturday competitors have definitely complicated the game.

For one thing, boat control becomes more difficult when strong winds push and tug, while the constant up and down of building waves fluctuates trolling motor efficiency. Precision is key when dropping on wary smallmouth, so managing the conditions becomes as important as bait selection.

Conditions like today’s also complicate fish fighting. Carefully moving around the front deck — often guiding a cantankerous fish around the trolling motor — can become a real test of balance.

Also, scooping a big fish at boatside is never an easy task, but add the dynamics of a rocking boat and things can dicey in a hurry.

Bassmaster Elite angler Cory Johnston has managed today’s conditions well and currently sits atop the unofficial BASSTRAKK leaderboard with 76 pounds, 10 ounces. His estimated Day-3 weight is 26 pounds.

Adam Neu, who entered the day in fifth place, has an estimated total of 75-7 and trails Johnston by 1-3.

With about an hour and a half of fishing time remaining, there’s plenty of time for key moves and day-maker catches. Whatever the outcome, the winner will have well earned the victory.

Bass and boats

You won’t find any high-powered bass boats in Clayton, N.Y.’s Antique Boat Museum, but the site of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open on the St. Lawrence River, offers a fascinating look at watercraft of yesteryear. From oars, to sails, to engines, an intriguing array of nautical designs awaits on Clayton’s waterfront.

Gallant fills limit

Coop Gallant just filled his limit with a three-pounder. That might not sound like a big deal, but after losing three consecutive good ones, I’m sure it’s a relief to put one in the boat.

The Day 2 leader made about a five-mile run to the spot that he’s currently at. After following Gallant on Day 2, it’s been a bit surprising that the quality of fish hasn’t shown up today. On Day 2, every time Gallant set the hook it was a better than average size fish, but today he’s caught a number of non-keepers as well as five much smaller keepers.

Solemn remembrance

Prior to the Championship Saturday takeoff, competitors, fans and B.A.S.S. staff paused for a moment of silence to reflect on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. An Eastern Open at the St. Lawrence had been scheduled for Sept. 13-15, 2001, but when the 9/11 tragedy occurred during the practice period, B.A.S.S. moved to cancel the event.

Gallant settling in

Day 1 leader Coop Gallant has settled into his starting spot on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. After bringing 25-2 to the stage on Day 2, Gallant said this morning that he feels like he’s milked his primary spot for all it’s worth.

The Canadian angler is starting on a point just a few hundred yards away from where he did his damage on Day 2, fishing isolated boulders with a drop shot.

He just boated his first keeper of the morning. A smallmouth that he estimated at about three and a half pounds.

At the dock with Eggleston

Zack Eggleston brought three bass weighing 18 pounds, 4 ounces to the scales on Day 2 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open at St. Lawrence River/1000 Islands, giving him a two-day total of 33 pounds, 6 ounces and the co-angler win!

No Palaniuk, no problem

Brandon Palaniuk, winner of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open at the James River, is not here this week in Clayton, N.Y.

Many fans and anglers were keeping an eye on what he did/didn’t do and how it could impact the field and Classic spots. To put it simply, nothing changes other than how his Classic spot is classified.

To punch a ticket to the Classic through the Opens, anglers must win an event and compete in every tournament for that division. If they don’t, the spot goes back to the Elite Series Angler of the Year standings. At one point in time, Palaniuk was assumed to be double qualified via his Open win, and by finishing third in AOY, bumping the Classic line down one spot on the Elite list. By not showing up for the final Open of the Northern Division, Palaniuk is just single qualified for the Classic (third in AOY) and the Opens spot goes back to the Elite list. He still gives his Opens spot away to the next Elite in line, thus keeping the Classic list the same.

Meanwhile, Scott Martin is watching intently and will continue to on Saturday to see if Cal Climpson, CoryJohnston or any other angler solely fishing 1000 Islands will win, punching a spot for him in the Super Bowl of bass fishing.

Big weights off the back

Sakae Ushio, co-angler (1st, 15 - 13)

Day 1 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open on the St. Lawrence River delivered the goods, as this phenomenal fishery lived up to expectations with lots of plump smallmouth bass. Notably, anglers on both ends of the boat enjoyed the bounty.

Pro leader Cal Climpson sacked up 27 pounds, 7 ounces, while Cooper Gallant follows closely with 27. Gary Adkins and Kevin Park shared the third-place spot with 25-10, while Bassmaster Elite angler Cory Johnston placed fifth with 25-7. Adam Neu’s 23-15 anchors the Top 10.

Impressive results, no question, but looking at the co-angler division we find the top three turned in three-fish limits that averaged 5-plus pounds.

Leading co-angler Sakae Ushio had 15-13, followed by Timothy Nichols with 15-12 and Zack Eggleston with 15-2.

Fourth-place Matthew McCarthy had 14-12, but his limit included Day 1’s biggest fish — a 6-pound, 12-ounce tank.

It will be interesting to see if anglers in both divisions can maintain the pace. The St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario are full of big fish, so the potential is there.

Climpson and Gallant starting strong

There were only two anglers who topped 26 pounds yesterday, and both of them are fishing within sight of each other early on Day 2. Cal Climpson (first) and Cooper Gallant (second) both brought more than 27 pounds of smallmouth to the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open stage on Day 1.

Both anglers are fishing the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, utilizing forward-facing sonar to pick off individual smallmouth in 15 to 30 feet of water.

With that said, they’re not boating the numbers of fish, but they’re putting the right ones in the box.

Gallant just put his third keeper in the box, roughly a 5-pounder.

Williams with a solid limit

Tommy Williams, who fished the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, currently has a solid limit that he estimates to be around 18 pounds.

The Kentucky native is sitting in third place in the overall Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year race as well as seventh place in the Northern Opens AOY standings. So he certainly needs a good event here on the St. Lawrence River.

Williams checks in at 3:50, so he’s still got plenty of time to upgrade before the end of the day.

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