Out of a huge class of 28 new Walmart FLW Tour anglers, Chris Johnston came out on top as the 2016 Rookie of the Year. He was recognized with the ROY trophy at Friday’s day-two weigh-in at the Walmart FLW Tour finale on Lake Champlain. He currently is in third place and will fish against the top 20 anglers on Saturday.
An accomplished angler near his home in Peterborough, Ontario, and throughout the northern United States in Costa FLW Series competition, Johnston can attribute some of his success to good timing.
“I’ve looked at it [fishing the Tour] for the past couple years and have been fishing the Costa Series,” he says. “I didn’t want to make the jump until I was finically set up. I’ve got my career set up with my job at home where I can do this now. I didn’t want to be living in my truck and going paycheck to paycheck. I want to be able to fish to win.”
Johnston stormed out of the gates with a third-place finish on Lake Okeechobee and never looked back. He followed up Okeechobee with 12th- and 25th-place finishes in the following two tournaments on Lake Hartwell and Beaver Lake, respectively.
“A lot of the lakes fit right into my wheelhouse,” says Johnston. “I love bed-fishing, and Hartwell and Beaver set up perfect for me.”
The Tour then headed to the Tennessee River for events on Pickwick and Kentucky lakes. Johnston’s pace slowed a bit with 61st- and 40th-place finishes, yet he still rolled into Plattsburgh for the finale with a commanding 102-point lead.
Johnston has a lot of experience on Lake Champlain, and when the 2016 schedule first came out, he says it was the tournament he most looked forward to fishing.
He’s certainly made the most of the opportunity by making the top-20 cut and having a legit shot at the tournament win.
Johnston has no secret bait or new technique to which he can credit his success this season.
“It’s been a different bait every lake,” he says. “I cover a lot of water and try to put a game plan together real quick.”
A unique advantage that the ROY winner has had throughout the tournament season is his brother and fellow rookie Cory Johnston, who finished second in the ROY standings. The brothers team up during practice periods.
“We work together and try to break down a lake quicker,” Chris explains. “We try to split up the water so we aren’t fishing each other’s fish, and it helps big time if he’s on one end of the lake and has a pattern going. If he’s catching them on a jerkbait off deep points, we’ll share that stuff.”
Though Chris still has at least one day of competition left in the regular season plus the Forrest Wood Cup in August, he admits that he’s already looking forward to improving on his stellar rookie season and is setting sights on the Angler of the Year title.
“I’m going to go out and try to win the points race,” he says. “Everyone does, but I feel like I’m pretty consistent, even in the Costas or any new lake. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.”