Winning Baits

How Chris Johnston won that Lanier no-FFS tourney

Waypoints cleared, no practice just a 4-hour ride-around, no FFS or 360 in practice or in the tourney, only down + side scan and maps, pay a $5K entry fee and just go fish. That’s basically the format of last weekend’s Touring Anglers Assn tournament.

The tourney was supposed to be 200 boats, then 100, then 50 – ultimately it was 47 guys, many of whom were guys you know.

The big winner of this bass poker game was Chris Johnston, who walked away with $70K – $65K for the win plus $5K for big fish. Here’s how it went down for him.

Going in and the ride-around

> “Before the ride-around I was thinking it’s spring, 75-80 degrees, the dogwoods are blooming – I’m going to find largemouth on beds. I had 4 hours to get on the trolling motor and look.

> “I found largemouth on beds and thought this is gonna be it. That was my plan. I love sight-fishing. I was really looking forward to it and was hoping the weather lined up. It wasn’t the peak by any means, but big females were moving up.

> “In the 4-hour ride around I found 2 I thought were 5-lbers marked on beds, and probably 10 in the 3-lb range. I was going to try to catch the 2 big females and then go looking for a couple [more]…4 hours you couldn’t cover much water.”

The tourney

> “The 1st one…I couldn’t catch her. The 2nd one took me almost 2 hours to catch. It was just under 6.

> “I went to another one I’d marked, a female just outside a bed. I thought maybe I’d pull up and it would be close to [the bed]. I caught it on my 1st cast on a wacky rig…6 lbs even. It was 10:30 in the morning and I had 2 bass in the boat that weighed almost 12 lbs.

> “I said, Alright I’m gonna get a couple of those 3-lbers. By 11:30 I had 2 good ones and some 3s. That took the pressure off and I just went looking for new fish, covering water. …caught a 4.75 and ended up with 24 lbs.

> “I was able to mark some more males, 3-lbers as back-up for the next day. I found another 5-lber I couldn’t catch. It nipped at my bait 2-3 times…marked her. So I had somewhere to start on day 2.

> “…went to a couple 3-lbers and caught them really quick. Alright let’s go to that 5-lber I couldn’t catch. I had a plan that I would sneak up behind a dock where she couldn’t see me. …wacky rig, the line started swimming out to the middle. I thought it was probably the male, but it ended up being a 5-lber.

> “In the first 2 hours I had 18 lbs so I got on the trolling motor again and started looking…females on the bed. One 4.5 took me an hour and a half to catch. I had a 5, a 4.5 and some 4s.

> “At 1:30 I came around the corner of a dock and said to my marshal, ‘Oh my God that is a giant.’ I could see the eyes bulging…a great big one.

> “I went by it, pretended I didn’t see her, then came back and found the bed. I couldn’t get the male to react to my bait, and the female would stay within 10 yards…every once in a while he was bumping her…they wouldn’t bite.

> “After half an hour I said to my marshal, ‘5 more minutes.’ My guy said, ‘Your 5 minutes is up.’ I said, ‘I need 1 more flip.’ I pitched it in there and all of a sudden she turned [and was on it]. I cracked her and chaos ensued. It was an 8-lber.

> “That finished off the day. I went looking and found one at 3.5 for the next day. I’d marked a 3.25 earlier in the day and a couple 3s…that would give me a good start. It was windy that day and the temp was dropping….

> “[Day 3] 2 were there, 2 were gone. I ended up catching 3 [then went] looking for some new ones. I never found a female locked on. The smallest was a 3 and the biggest was a 3.75. The weather knocked them back…they pulled off. The water temp dropped by 5 degrees.”

Day 3 he had 16.5, about 7.5 lbs less than he had the 1st 2 days. He won by about 3.5 lbs with 65.38.


Said he caught 90% of them flipping (bed-fishing):

> Nories Front Flapper (gp), #2 Gamakatsu Aaron Martens G-Finesse Heavy Cover Hook, 1/4-oz weight, 20-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro, Daiwa Pitch/Flip Reel (8:1), 7′ 5″ Daiwa Tatula Elite Stickbait Rod.

> Why that bait: “It’s a creature bait…has great action. Did it have to be that one? Nope but does it work? Yup.”

[He did say he caught a couple spots off beds, but they were basically largie buck size.]

He also caught a few on a wacky-rigged stick worm:

> 5″ Senko (gp), #2 Gamakatsu Straight Shank Stinger Hook, 15-lb Seaguar Smackdown Flash Green Braid to 8-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro, Daiwa Exist Spin Reel (2500), 7′ 1″ Daiwa Chris Johnston signature Tatula Elite Ned Rig Rod.


> “I did use my Garmin for the mapping which was important. I was looking for a certain type of pocket – with flats in the back instead of the really steep ones. For the largemouths. That is the extent of how I used my electronics. And looking at the map knowing the wind was blowing in a certain direction.”


> “Allen Brooks who ran the tournament for the TAA…put a lot of time, effort and money into it, and it was a really fun event. Everybody just showed up, it was laid back, everybody had fun….”

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