UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Harris Chain Practice with Chris Johnston

Harris Chain Practice with Chris Johnston

After a sparkling debut season on the FLW Tour when he finished second overall in points and grabbed Rookie of the Year honors, Chris Johnston is off to another hot start. This year, the younger half of the Johnston duo is catching them again and is in 23rd place in the Angler of the Year race. Headed into the third event of the season at the Harris Chain in Florida, Johnston was kind enough to let me hop in the boat with him on the first morning of practice to get a look at how the Canadian phenom goes about breaking down a lake.

 

The Harris Chain event, which is presented by Ranger Boats, takes off from Lake Harris in Leesburg, Fla., but that lake is only a small part of the playing field. In all, the pros have the run of 10 connected lakes this week. Johnston is beginning his practice at Lake Griffin, which has the second longest travel time from takeoff of all the lakes in the chain. Idling out in the near dark, it’s a little chilly for Florida, but still a blessedly warm beginning after the cold that anglers experienced at the first two events of the 2017 season.

 

Johnston runs out of the canal where the Griffin boat ramp is located and begins his day on the leading shoreline of a bay that’s rimmed with Kissimmee grass, which is broken up by the occasional dock.

“I stopped for a half day on my way to Okeechobee [for the Costa FLW Series event],” says Johnston, who has only been on one of the 10 lakes in play before. “I saw some beds in the canals, but I never went to this lake.”

Speaking of beds, Johnston is an expert sight-fisherman and certainly hopes to sample a few before the week is out.

“I think that’s going to be key on day one,” he says. “But I bet a lot of guys will bomb on that, too. So I want to find something else.”

 

Johnston is mostly fishing a Zoom Ultravibe Speed Worm as he trolls down the edge of the Kissimmee grass. He veers off a little into more open water with some scattered pads and catches his first fish. It’s not big, but it’s always nice to get the first fish in the boat.

After a few more casts, he pulls the trolling motor and decides to run up into the river at the north end of Griffin.

 

After a few minutes running, Johnston sets the boat down a couple hundred yards away from a local and begins working north along the shore, flipping a Yamamoto Senko at pads, little cuts on the bank and sparse patches of some kind of fluffy looking grass. Though he occasionally mixes in some casts with the Speed Worm, it’s pretty slow going as he catches a few fish – mostly from the pads – but doesn’t really uncover anything too substantial.

Johnston’s tackle selection is interesting for Florida. Every reel is spooled with fluorocarbon. There’s no braid.

“I heard they’re really line-sensitive here,” says Johnston. “Trust me, I’m the first guy to want to throw 65 [pound-test braid]. I hate flipping with fluoro.”

With three bites to his credit along the shoreline, Johnston hits a dead spell, cranks the motor and makes the short run to the other bank.

 

Here, the cover is more spread out, with cattails reaching out off some small islands and larger patches of pads. Unfortunately, it’s less productive, and Johnston fishes quite a ways without a bite.

 

Getting out more into the river and off the bank, Johnston rededicates himself to his Speed Worm. He’s throwing it with a 1/16-ounce weight and winding it back at a medium speed, not really popping or twitching it on the retrieve at all.

Just as Brian Latimer runs past, out toward the lake, Johnston hooks up, bringing another fish up out of the grass and into the boat. Unfortunately, like the others he’s caught so far today, it isn’t all that big. After a few more casts, he pulls up.

“All right, let’s find some hydrilla,” says Johnston. “Maybe get something bigger than a 2-pounder.”

 

Johnston runs out to the main lake until he sees the grass change on his graph. It turns out he’s stopped on a mix of grass that includes eelgrass, with the occasional clump of hydrilla thrown in for good measure. Slinging the Speed Worm into a patch of dollar pads, he quickly draws up another fish.

“Well, we’re on about the 7-pound pattern now,” he jokes.

 

As he continues on through the offshore grass, Johnston is joined nearby by Joseph Webster and Ramie Colson Jr. He encounters a few big mats of eelgrass that look like they’re uprooted from the bottom, and it takes a high drop to get a bait into them. Unfortunately, they don’t produce any bites. Moving on from the mats, Johnston picks up his phone when Josh Weaver calls with a breakdown of the action on Lake Harris. From the sounds of it, Weaver has had a more productive start to his day, but he’s also experienced some frustration.

“He says there are so many boats over there it’s stupid,” says Johnston when he hangs up. “Everything that looks good is just covered up.”

 

Moving again, Johnston heads back toward the back, this time on the lee shore. With the wind howling overhead through the short Florida swamp trees, Johnston patiently picks along with a Senko in a mix of pads and cattails. This particular section of Griffin offers some of the clearest water we’ve seen yet, and it could be perfect for sight-fishing if the bottom was sandy and hard instead of silted and covered with grass.

After mangling his bait on a pad stem, Johnston pauses to re-tie, makes a few more flips and then heads back offshore.

 

Johnston stops the boat a long way off the bank and begins fishing near the edge of a major grass flat that is mostly made up of eelgrass. It must be a good-looking spot. Scott Canterbury is a few hundred yards away, Clayton Batts is down the way a little, and Scott Martin and Brian Latimer round out the mix.

Putting down the light Speed Worm, the young pro opts instead for a swim jig, and then, surprisingly, a shaky head worm.

“At least I’ll be able to cast it and feel the bottom,” says Johnston of the worm.

Even so, it’s tough going. The wind is howling, and Johnston has stopped getting bites.

Another 15 minutes or so of fruitless casting and it’s time to go. Johnston runs back toward the ramp, skimming along the lee shore and keeping his eyes peeled.

 

“These are the first buggy whips I’ve seen,” he says as he stops at a likely looking bank. “Those other reeds back there that guy was fishing looked good too.”

Despite the looks, he doesn’t stay long. So far, Griffin isn’t bowling Johnston over, that’s for sure.

 

Though the number of high-end Shimano and G. Loomis combos on his deck has grown as the day goes on, Johnston isn’t totally loading the deck. There’s probably a lot to be said for the simplicity of Florida fishing, but even so, he’s obviously got confidence in what he’s using. From the looks of it, Johnston could fish the entire tournament with a handful of rods and probably catch plenty of bass.

 

After picking up, Johnston points his Ranger toward the Lake Griffin State Park, crashing through 2-footers on the way before settling in a calmer pocket. Quickly, he starts flipping some more isolated pads and lands a skinny 2-pounder.

“I would think if you did it enough you could get a good one or two,” he says of the pad-flipping program, “like a 3- or 4-pounder eventually, if you had like 50 of these pad beds marked.”

Penetrating farther back into the Dead River, Johnston keeps on probing the pads. The farther back he goes, the less productive he is. Eventually, it’s time to head back to the ramp to shake me off.  

 

Along the way out, we spot a big ol’ alligator sunning for warmth. It’s hard to pass up the chance to get a photo of a big gator well out of the water.

 

At about 12:30, Johnston drops me back off at the ramp and heads out. He hasn’t pulled the plug on Griffin yet, but there are still two and a half days left to find something better than his parade of small fish from the morning. 

Tags: flw-tour  harris-chain  chris-johnston  jody-white  pre-tournament  2017-03-09-harris-chain 

Cox Joins the Outdoor Connection with Jerry Kripp

Cox Joins the Outdoor Connection with Jerry Kripp

FLW Tour pro John Cox of DeBary, Florida, joined the Outdoor Connection with Jerry Kripp, this past Sunday, May 19, to walk listeners through his win at the... READ MORE »

Upshaw Breaks Down Cherokee Lake on Bass Edge Radio

Upshaw Breaks Down Cherokee Lake on Bass Edge Radio

FLW Tour pro Andrew Upshaw of Tulsa, Oklahoma, appeared on the latest Bass Edge Radio podcast to discuss his recent win at the FLW Tour on Cherokee Lake... READ MORE »

South Laurel Wins KHSAA Championship on Kentucky

South Laurel Wins KHSAA Championship on Kentucky

The South Laurel High School team of Shawn Coots and Trent Keltner weighed 19 pounds, 9 ounces on day one and 13-4 on day two for a 32-13 total and the win in the 2019 Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) State Bass Fishing Championship on Kentucky Lake. READ MORE »

Cup Bubble Boys Before Champlain

Cup Bubble Boys Before Champlain

With just one event left in the FLW Tour season, time is almost out to qualify for the FLW Cup, which will be held August 9-11 on Lake Hamilton. The last event at Lake Chickamauga produced plenty of shakeup in the races for Angler of the Year and Polaris FLW Tour Rookie of the Year, and it also set everyone up for the final push to the Cup. READ MORE »

Latimer, Upshaw to Discuss Wins with Radio Host Jerry Kripp

Latimer, Upshaw to Discuss Wins with Radio Host Jerry Kripp

FLW Tour pros Brian Latimer of Belton, South Carolina, and Andrew Upshaw, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, are set to appear on the Outdoor Connection with Jerry Kripp, the evening of Sunday, May 12, to,,, READ MORE »

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 2

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 2

Fishing pressure and a cold front have shut down the bite at Table Rock Lake for stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Central Division season. The lake's largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass are not coming easy. READ MORE »

Spawn in Full Bloom on Table Rock

Spawn in Full Bloom on Table Rock

Stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Central Division should shape up to be quite the catchfest. Coming off of the division opener on Kentucky Lake, where pros were challenged with tough fishing, this week’s event, which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Explore Branson, should be stellar in terms of both numbers and quality of fish.  READ MORE »

ROY Update: Lake Chickamauga

ROY Update: Lake Chickamauga

We didn’t bother with an update on the Polaris FLW Tour Rookie of the Year race after the fifth stop of the FLW Tour season at Cherokee Lake. At that point, Miles Burghoff had the overall lead in the AOY standings and a 108-point lead for ROY. It looked like it was locked up. READ MORE »

AOY Update: Lake Chickamauga

AOY Update: Lake Chickamauga

There’s usually some drama at the end of the FLW Tour Angler of the Year race, but often the leading pro has managed to accumulate a pretty good cushion by the final event. This year the cushion is virtually nonexistent. After they booked a win and a fifth-place finish at Lake Chickamauga, respectively, John Cox leads David Dudley by just one point heading into the finale on Lake Champlain. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Chickamauga

Top 10 Baits from Lake Chickamauga

Most people probably don’t equate Lake Chickamauga to spinning rods and finesse techniques, but both were prevalent during the FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Chick. Plenty of pros threw swimbaits, jigs and crankbaits, but the common thread among most of the top 10 is the use of a stick bait (usually wacky- or Texas-rigged) to target bedding or postspawn fish still hanging in the shallows.  READ MORE »

John Cox Wins FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

John Cox Wins FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

DAYTON, Tenn. – Berkley pro John Cox of DeBary, Florida, won $100,000 at the FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude Sunday with a four-day total of 83 pounds, 9 ounces. The victory was the fourth FLW Tour win of Cox’s career – moving him to a tie at No. 7 for the most Tour wins all-time... READ MORE »

Michigan's Nelson Moves Into Lead at FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

Michigan's Nelson Moves Into Lead at FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

DAYTON, Tenn. – FLW Tour rookie Ron Nelson of Berrien Springs, Michigan, caught four big largemouth late in the day Saturday to anchor his 25-pound, 15-ounce limit and jump to the top of the leaderboard after Day Three of the FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude in Dayton, Tennessee. Nelson’s five-bass limit was one of just four brought to the scale Saturday... READ MORE »

Florida's Greenblatt Takes Lead on Day Two of FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

Florida's Greenblatt Takes Lead on Day Two of FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

DAYTON, Tenn. – Yamamoto Baits pro Matt Greenblatt of Port St. Lucie, Florida, brought a five-bass limit of largemouth to the Dayton Boat Dock scale Friday weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces, to vault into the lead after Day Two of the FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude in Dayton, Tennessee. Greenblatt’s two-day total of 10 bass weighing 43 pounds, 2 ounces gives... READ MORE »

Cox Grabs Lead at Day One of FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

Cox Grabs Lead at Day One of FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude

DAYTON, Tenn. – A field of 165 of the best bass-fishing professionals in the world began their four-day competition for a top award of $125,000 at the FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Evinrude Thursday in Dayton, Tennessee... READ MORE »

Going Shallow with Lawyer

Going Shallow with Lawyer

Heading into the sixth stop of the year on Chickamauga, which is presented by Evinrude, Lawyer says he’s looking to go easy and make sure he’s on the road to Hot Springs this August for his third shot at a Cup title. With that in mind, I was happy to hop aboard and see the shallow side of Chickamauga. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for Chickamauga

FLW Live Schedule for Chickamauga

FLW Live is back for 2019 FLW Tour stop No. 6 on the big-fish waters of Lake Chickamauga. The event, which is presented by Evinrude and hosted by Fish Dayton and the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council, runs Thursday, May 2 through Sunday, May 5. READ MORE »

Get to Know Lake Chickamauga

Get to Know Lake Chickamauga

The 2019 FLW Tour event at Lake Chickamauga, which is presented by Evinrude, is hitting the lake before the primary offshore migration has occurred, which means that some ledge fishing will take place, but a whole mess of other patterns should play as well. Here’s a look at where the anglers will be competing this week. READ MORE »

By the Numbers: Lake Chickamauga

By the Numbers: Lake Chickamauga

The FLW Tour’s sixth stop of the season is Lake Chickamauga in east Tennessee. One of the gems of the South for hunting monster bass, the Lake of the Giants promises big fish – and lots of them – and perhaps the best chance of seeing the century mark broken this season. READ MORE »

Hunting Offshore With Setzer

Hunting Offshore With Setzer

If Braxton Setzer wins the FLW Tour’s sixth stop of the season fishing offshore, he has a faulty trolling motor to thank for it. READ MORE »

FLW Tour Rookie Ryan Salzman Featured on latest episode of Anglers Channel Rookie Podcast

FLW Tour Rookie Ryan Salzman Featured on latest episode of Anglers Channel Rookie Podcast

FLW Tour Rookie Ryan Salzman is the featured guest on this week's episode of the Anglers Channel Rookie podcast. Salzman talks about his career from College Fishing to being a full time guide on the TN River to now a FLW Tour Rookie trying to qualify for the 2019 FLW Cup... READ MORE »