After a bunch of near misses, I finally took home my first Bassmaster trophy this past weekend. While it wasn’t a blue one from the Bassmaster Elite Series, it was pretty sweet nonetheless.
Anyone who thinks that the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open field is AAA in any way is just deluding themselves. I beat a field full of hammers on the St Lawrence. Of course there’s my brother, who’d won a major event there just a couple of weeks earlier. He finished seventh. My neighbor Cal Climpson finished second, and our good friend Coop Gallant was fourth. If I hadn’t won, I probably would never have heard the end of it.
Clearly it’s been a pretty good month for the Johnston brothers fishing close to home. We each got a win, we both finished in the Top 10 in the Elite event and we combined to take home a bunch of money. As many of you know, not only do we share information, but we share expenses and winnings. Right now the partnership is firing on all cylinders.
We’ve been able to bounce ideas off each other and cover a ton of water without overlapping, which ensures that we’re prepared for just about any possible scenario. Of course, we need to be careful not to cannibalize each other’s fish, but each year the system gets better and better.
Heading into the tournament, I figured it would take about 25 pounds a day to win. In the end, I had to average 26, and even then I beat Cal by less than a pound. Twenty five pounds a day didn’t make the top three. With that pre-tournament estimate in mind, I kind of laid off my fish the first two days.
There was a 6-plus-pounder on Day 2 that I had in my grasp three times that eventually got off. I know that everyone has stories about fish that got away, but I would have been sick if that one smallmouth had cost me the tournament. I was able to come back from a 1 1/2-pound deficit because I gambled on an area the final day. I knew that big ones lived there because I’d found them earlier, but when Chris checked them in practice they were gone. I took a risk, and it paid off.
My only regret is that I didn’t have a fourth day to see if I could become the first angler to hit that magical 100 pounds of smallmouth mark. I’m sure we’ll have a chance again next year in the Elite event, but that’s harder to accomplish in July than it is this time of year. It’s going to happen sooner or later, and I want to be the first one to do it.
It was really nice to get that first win. Overall, I had a good year, making the Classic through a number of good Elite Series finishes, but I’m a competitor. This victory just whets my appetite for more of them. Anything less than first place is no good.
So while I’ll be ready to hunt after a few more local tournaments, I’m also anxious to get back out there to add a blue trophy to the mix. Over this past month I feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about the St. Lawrence, and while I’ll certainly be aiming for a win earlier in the season, I’ve already got next year’s visit to Clayton circled on my calendar.