If it’s going to happen for Chris Johnston, it has to happen early. At least, that’s what his results on days two and three of the FLW Tour event presented by Lowrance at the Harris Chain suggest.
On day two, the Ontario pro experienced a quick flurry of action right after takeoff that lasted until about 9:30 a.m. and produced most of his tournament-best 25-pound, 7-ounce stringer. Today, the action was similar. Johnston made his first cast just two minutes after takeoff and hammered away at fish after fish. Yet, the bite shut off earlier – at about 8:15.
Both days he parked on a key indentation along an edge in some offshore hydrilla, and he’s hoping there are enough fish left there to produce one more morning flurry to carry him through to the win. With 16-12 today, Johnston’s 62-pound three-day total leads second-place pro Tony Dumitras by only 14 ounces.
“Today the overall size was better on average,” Johnston says. “Yesterday I caught a lot more, but I did get a 5 and some other big ones [including an 8-6]. At 8:15 is when I started to expand on my area because it stopped. I thought I could expand, but I didn’t get a bite.”
Johnston’s key baits in the morning are a jerkbait and lipless crankbait. The fish are feeding on a shad spawn, and reaction baits have been the ticket in the low-light period. Both baits have produced big bites. The lipless duped the 8-6 bass yesterday.
“I’d like to throw a jerkbait the whole time where they’re chasing, but there’s only about a foot and a half [of water] over the grass,” Johnston says. “So I have to fish something that’ll come over the grass better. I caught my biggest one on a trap. Also, there are a lot of fish there. I can see them under the boat – white bass, bass and probably some gar. So I think the big ones are too lazy. An 8-pounder doesn’t want to come up through that and hit the jerkbait.”
Johnston says that after he left his starting spot he went nearly six hours before catching the next keeper that could help his limit. Along the way, he landed a few on a ChatterBait and broke off a good one on a bed. Eventually he had to audible to a secondary pattern he’s had his eye on all week, stemming back to when he lost a good fish in a fray of surface schooling activity on day one. Ever since, he’s been on the lookout for more breaking fish. Today he found it and was able to capitalize at 3 p.m. with just minutes left until check-in.
“There were quite a few fish in the area. I wish I’d had another 20 minutes,” he says.
Johnston plans to start on his honey hole once again in the morning and keep watchful for schoolers. With the bed-fishing bite heating up and others behind him in the standings working that program, he knows he’ll need to be prepared to pack up and regroup quickly if the morning flurry never comes.
“I’m nervous because if they aren’t there I’m going to hit the panic button really early. It’s been fast and furious the last two mornings, and I’m hopeful there’s one more morning there.”
Top 10 pros
1. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ont. – 62-0 (15)
2. Tony Dumitras – Winston, Ga. – 61-2 (15)
3. Glenn Browne – Ocala, Fla. – 58-15 (15)
4. Anthony Gagliardi – Prosperity, S.C. – 57-13 (15)
5. Jeff Gustafson – Keewatin, Ont. – 55-13 (15)
6. Buddy Gross – Chickamauga, Ga. – 55-6 (15)
7. Jared McMillan – Belle Glade, Fla. – 55-4 (15)
8. Matt Greenblatt – Port St. Lucie, Fla. – 55-0 (15)
9. Kurt Dove – Del Rio, Texas – 54-15 (15)
10. John Hunter – Shelbyville Ky. – 54-2 (15)