Finally south of the border

Editor's note: This year, the Johnston brothers will share a monthly column where both will offer insight and information on a variety of topics.

Cory: It seems like it’s been years since we fished the Bassmaster Classic at Guntersville, and for a brief time I was concerned that we wouldn’t get back to Alabama to fish the next Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Eufaula. The border is still officially closed to “nonesssential” traffic. It would’ve been horrible to miss the event. Fortunately, the staff at B.A.S.S. did everything in their power to make sure that we can pursue our livelihood. Trip Weldon wrote a letter to the appropriate officials explaining what we do and why we had to come to the U.S., and by the time the date came to cross the border everything was pretty much settled. 

Chris: Even though we’d talked to an agent ahead of time and had the appropriate credentials and paperwork, I was still a little bit concerned up until the last minute. Once we got there, though, it was relaxed ... almost easy. They did take an x-ray of my truck and boat – I’m not sure what they were looking for, but after that they waved me through. Border agents in both directions are usually pretty friendly to us. Many of them like to hunt and fish, so they know what we’re doing and that makes it as painless as possible.

Cory: You might think that we’d have a hard time adjusting to the heat of the Deep South after being at home for so long, but it’s been like 35 degrees — our temperature — up there, which is probably about 90 or so.

Chris: It was over 85 for four straight days, and the water temperatures went from 48 to 73 in a week and a half. We haven’t been able to fish for bass up there yet because the season is closed, but I’m sure they’re in all stages of the spawn. Some are done, and some are just beginning. Some of our bigger bodies of water are still pretty cold.

Cory: I can’t wait to get out on Eufaula. The only time I’ve been there was in prepractice, which was during the prespawn. There were lots of fish up shallow, but I didn’t fish much. Instead I spent most of my time looking at brush and ledges, trying to figure out where they’d be later on.

Chris: I did the same thing, just a lot of graphing. I also ran up the river trying to get a sense of what my options would be. They’ve had so much rain and so much fishing pressure this year that I think there’s a 50/50 chance of whether it will be won deep or shallow. I’m going to try both and keep an open mind. I’m really excited to throw some of the SPRO Little John crankbaits down there. Cranking isn’t necessarily the strongest part of my game, but I know I need to dial it in. So, I’m going to head to Chickamauga before practice starts to work on that a bit and hopefully get in the habit of catching big bass.

Cory: I’m definitely not looking past Eufaula, but it’s hard not to be excited about the three New York tournaments that follow it. Those are all in our wheelhouse, and I’m ready to catch some big smallmouth. There’s a Daiwa 7-foot, 1-inch Brent Ehrler signature series drop-shot rod that I can’t wait to put to use. It’s a little heavy for a drop shot for my taste, but it’ll excel with a small swimbait, a Neko Rig and a Ned Rig.

Chris: The rod that I’m most looking forward to putting in my hand is the Daiwa Cody Meyer Tatula Elite drop-shot rod. It will be just about glued to my hand for the entire summer. Of course, in order to get there first comes Eufaula. I haven’t been able to bass fish since Guntersville, so it’s important that I earn a good finish here and get myself in position for another Classic berth. The biggest issue we may face in New York will come at the St. Lawrence, when we have to decide who gets to fish where. We’ve fished team tournaments together up there for so long that we both know certain key areas, and we don’t want to beat them up. It usually ends up in an argument, but hopefully this time we’ll work it out so we end up with two top finishes.