Chris Johnston holds lead at St. Lawrence

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — The only thing clearer than the pristine waters of New York’s St. Lawrence River is the realization that Elite Series pro Chris Johnston is a force to be reckoned with.

The Canadian is known as a smallmouth specialist and earned that moniker after the first two days of the 2019 Berkley Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet. Johnston weighed in 22-13 today, giving him a two-day total of 47-4 and the lead heading into Semi-Final Saturday. Still, Johnston is not overconfident.

“I have been leading on Day 2 on this river for more tournaments than I can count, and have blown it on the third day. So, I’m not going to count my chickens just yet,” Johnston said.

Plus, the area he has fished relentlessly over the past two days alongside Elite Series pro Shane LeHew may no longer hold enough fish for the win.

“I didn’t get a lot of bites today and only caught six or seven 4-pound fish there," Johnston said. "And I never saw a kicker fish. So, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to scramble tomorrow. I really believe the guy that wins this event is going to be the one who makes the best adjustments on the fly. I just hope I can figure out those adjustments.”

Hot on the trail of Johnston is Elite Series veteran Steve Kennedy, who is only 15 ounces out of the lead. The affable Alabama pro followed up his impressive Day 1 limit of 23-7 with another solid 22-14 worth of smallmouth for a total of 46-5.

“I’m living on the edge,” Kennedy admitted. “I’m only fishing for seven or eight bites per day. If the weather report is accurate and we get overcast skies tomorrow, I might have to change my game plan.”

Kennedy’s tactic so far has been to cast a big glide bait to locate fish, then cast to the fish with a swim bait or hair jig. However, if he can’t see the fish, his weight could slide south.

“I’ve caught some of my biggest fish looking at them. I mean, I’ve had to cast four or five times at the bass to get them to bite," he said. "If I can’t see them, I may be in trouble.”

New Jersey pro Greg DiPalma holds the third-place slot after boating 21-11 on Day 2. His total of 45-1 puts him in solid striking distance of holding the big blue Elite Series trophy at the conclusion of the event, as he is just a couple pounds out of the lead. And unlike Johnston and Kennedy, DiPalma is looking forward to overcast skies tomorrow.

“I’m fishing the 20- to 30-foot zone, so sunshine isn’t as crucial,” he said.

DiPalma also made an important adjustment, which has him feeling confident going into Semi-Final Saturday.

“Yesterday, I basically dragged a jig for all my fish, and I lost a bunch of big ones," he said. "Today, I switched to a Carolina rig and only lost one. I’m only sharing my water with one other angler and there are a bunch of bass there, so I’m confident I can duplicate my weight.”

The biggest move of the day came from Louisiana pro Caleb Sumrall, who weighed in 23-6, the largest limit of the day, and vaulted to 11th place with a two-day total of 41-13. Indiana pro Bill Lowen caught the second biggest limit of the day, 23-4, and moved into fifth place with 44-11.

Brian Snowden landed the Phoenix Boats big bass of the day, a 5-13, which gave him a two-day total of 44-7 and sixth place. The St. Lawrence River, name the No. 1 lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine, again showed off, as 22 limits exceeding 20 pounds were brought to the scales.