CLAYTON, N.Y. — Cooper Gallant’s Day 2 limit of 25 pounds, 2 ounces was right about where his practice results indicated he’d be, but an unexpected Day 1 bonus positioned him to take the Day 2 lead of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open at the St. Lawrence River/1000 Islands.
Placing second on Day 1 with 27 pounds — 7 ounces behind first-round leader Cal Climpson — Gallant said he was surprised at that weight because he came into the tournament targeting the 25-pound mark. Topping the field with a two-day total of 52-2, the Bowmanville, Canada, pro enters Championship Saturday with a 1 1/2-pound lead over Bassmaster Elite angler Cory Johnston, who sits in second with 50-10.
“I had a pretty good bag today, but I didn’t see any of the big, big, big ones like those 6-pounders you’d like to have,” Gallant said. “If you can catch five 5s, you’ll be sitting pretty good.
“I ended up culling about four times and I had about 10 fish all day. I’m not getting many bites, but they’re the right ones.”
Gallant spent his day in Lake Ontario, not far from the mouth of the river. There he fished a drop shot with an unnamed bait over rocky bottom with isolated boulders on the Canadian side.
“The bigger fish are getting on the noticeably bigger boulders and then you also have big ones cruising the whole flat,” Gallant said. “I found when it’s calm and the sun’s out, they get on the boulders really good.
“From what I’ve seen, when the wind’s blowing, they’ve been pulling off of them. You just have to drift and find them. I think they feel protected sitting on those boulders.”
After Thursday’s huge catch, Gallant commented that he was concerned he had caught most of his spot’s potential.
“I knew there was still fish around there, but I didn’t know if I could catch five,” he said. “I thought I could catch one or two but I ended up camping out all day on what I fished yesterday.
“Tomorrow I’m going to switch it up. I pounded that area pretty good the last two days and we’re going to gamble and hopefully come in with another 25 pounds.”
Two months ago, Johnston finished fourth in the Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite event on the St. Lawrence. This week, the Canadian pro has been consistent with daily limits of 25-7 and 25-3.
“I ran similar stuff as I did yesterday; I started in the river and worked my way out to the lake and caught fish all day,” Johnston said. “I worked little subtleties in the (rock structure) in about 40 feet and caught them on a drop shot with a prototype Spro worm.
“The fish are definitely moving (with the cooling weather). They’ll probably be gone tomorrow and I’ll have to find new fish.”
Climpson slipped to third with 49-14. After starting with the event’s heaviest bag — 27-7 — the Cavan, Canada angler added 22-7. Day 2, he said, required much more of a search effort.
“I had to run quite a bit of spots,” Climpson said. “Today, it wasn’t so much that the fish left; I just lost a few key fish. I didn’t relocate today, I just kept running a couple of the spots where I’d found them in practice and I just ran into them. I only fished two new spots that I didn’t fish yesterday.”
Targeting rocky bottom and boulders in 20-30 feet, Climpson again caught his fish on a drop shot with a 3/4-ounce weight. On Thursday, he rotated through three different baits. Today, he had to increase his selection to five.
“They’re getting picky for sure,” Climpson said. “I probably dropped down on a dozen fish that wouldn’t bite today.”
Andrew Upshaw of Hemphill, Texas, leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass standings with a 6-13.
Zack Eggleston of Goleta, Calif., highlighted his summer visit with Upstate New York relatives by winning the co-angler division with 33-6. After placing third on Day 1 with 15-2, he added an eye-popping 3-fish limit of 18-4.
Eggleston caught one of his keepers on a drop shot with a 4-inch Big Hammer Baits Salt Shaker worm and a 3/8-ounce weight, but most of his fish ate his homemade 3/32-ounce black hair jig. Eggleston added a piece of stick worm to the jig’s hook shank to bulk up the body.
“I think they like the hair jig because it’s very subtle in the water; it’s not intrusive,” he said. “They’ll follow it but then they’ll come up and eat it. It’s something you can swim and cover water with. There are so many little bugs that get washed around down there; it’s just like candy to them that they can’t pass up.”
Eggleston tied Mathew Mccarthy of Marysville, Ohio, for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers. Both caught fish weighing 6-12.
Jonathan Kelley of Old Forge, Pa., leads the Northern Open points standings with 554. Mike Iaconelli of Pitts Grove, N.J., is in second with 549, followed by Alex Redwine of Blue Ash, Ohio who is tied for second with 549, J.T. Thompkins of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is in fourth with 520 and Gallant is in fifth with 515.
Jacob Powroznik of North Prince George, Va., leads the overall Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year points standings with 1,029.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. ET at the Antique Boat Museum. The weigh-in will be held at the museum at 2:30 p.m.
Live coverage of the event can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast live with the tournament leaders from 8-11 a.m.
1000 Islands Clayton Chamber of Commerce and the Antique Boat Museum are hosting the event.