WADDINGTON, N.Y. — The bad news was only one of Jody White’s spots produced.
The good news was that spot yielded a three-day total of 71 pounds, 15 ounces that won the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at St. Lawrence River.
“I wish I had more spots that produced,” he said. “I wish I did something cool. I wish I dodged and weaved. But I had one spot and it worked.”
Hailing from Shaftsbury, Vt., White notched his first Bassmaster professional win by catching daily limits of 25-11, 22-10 and 23-10. He took home the top prize of $49,700, plus the $500 Garmin Tournament Rewards bonus.
In 2016, the former collegiate angler won the co-angler division for the Bassmaster Open on Smith Lake. This week’s win, White said, tops his career achievements.
“This is No. 1, no question,” he said. “I’m really happy with this win.”
White said his win was sweetened by the fact that he edged Canadian Cory Johnston, the seasoned Bassmaster Elite Series pro who triumphed the last time the Bassmaster Opens visited the St. Lawrence in 2021. After leading Days 1 and 2, Johnston finished second with a three-day total of 70-1.
The first two days, White trailed the lead by 1-3 and 1-4. On Championship Saturday, he edged Johnston by 1-14.
White made a long upriver run nearly to the tournament’s western boundary and fished a familiar ledge near Clayton, N.Y. Describing his spot as a drop-off with fish-friendly structure on the edge and on the flat, he said he caught his fish in 30 to 45 feet.
“It’s a long ledge that faces the current and there’s a couple of sweet spots where two boulders break off from it,” White said. “On one of them, I’ve caught four bass over 5 pounds (during multiple tournaments). It’s good.
“On Day 2, I found another sweet spot back on the flat in 30 to 35 feet. There was a group of fish sitting there. I couldn’t see what they were sitting on; it could have been a little piece of rock, but I have no idea.”
White said that second spot is not one he has typically fished over the years, but it ended up producing three of his fish.
Thinking he needed to hit other spots, White made milk runs the first two days. The final round saw him focus most of his effort on the money spot.
“The first day, I didn’t catch that many; I probably caught 10, but I caught big ones right out of the gate,” he said. “The second day, I stayed longer and caught more. Then, today, I put it in park as soon as I got there and caught a lot of fish.”
White caught most of his fish on a drop shot with a 3/8-ounce weight and a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm on a No. 2 Gamakatsu split-shot/drop-shot hook. He alternated between brown back and green pumpkin.
White also caught fish on 3.3- and 3.8-inch Keitech Fat Swing Impact swimbaits. He rigged those baits on 3/8-ounce Queen Tackle Tungsten ball-head jigs for their clearer sonar image. Lastly, he threw a Carolina rig with a 3/4-ounce weight and a Zoom Speed Craw on a Gamakatsu hybrid worm hook.
“It’s been an incredible week,” White said. “I love this river. I never could have imagined I would catch them as good as I did. It’s been a pleasure.”
Hailing from Cavan, Ontario, Johnston took the Day 1 lead by catching a limit of 26-14 — the event’s heaviest bag. His second-round catch went 22-11 and he closed with a Day 3 limit of 20-8 that pushed his total to 70-1.
“Anytime you can make the Top 10 and fish the final day, it’s a great week,” Johnston said. “It’s been a frustrating week at the same time. This has been the worst practice I’ve ever had.
“This place is changing. It’s getting a ton of pressure and the fish are doing a lot of different things than they normally do. They’re getting really hard to catch, so I had to do some different stuff and find some new areas.”
Johnston tried multiple spots from the western boundary up to the Waddington area and ultimately ended up catching his fish by targeting deeper flats and looking for isolated rock. A drop shot with a prototype 6th Sense soft-plastic bait produced all of his fish.
Jamie Bruce of Kenora, Ontario, finished third with 69-12. After reaching the final round in third place with daily limits of 23-5 and 24-8, Bruce finished with a Day 3 bag that weighed 21-15.
Fishing upriver, Bruce did most of his work with a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce Smeltinator Underspin and a Z-Man swimbait. Later in the day, he moved shallow and caught a couple of keepers on a 1/16-ounce black marabou jig.
“This is my first time here and because I’m sitting pretty in the (Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers) points, I wanted to just lay up and fish near takeoff,” Bruce said. “My practice near Waddington didn’t work out, so I went upriver near Lake Ontario and had 24 pounds one day (in practice).
“I knew that was my best chance. I have a big (deep-v) Lund (aluminum boat), so I ran down there and kept expanding.”
Johnston won the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for the 6-11 he caught on Day 1.
Eighth-place finisher Rick Ortiz of Fort Ann, N.Y., earned an additional $500 as the highest-finishing registered pro fishing St. Croix rods thanks to the St. Croix Rod Rewards program.
South Carolina’s JT Thompkins leads the Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers standings with 1,087 points. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kenta Kimura of Hirakata Osaka, Japan, is second with 1,080, followed by John Garrett of Union City, Tenn., with 1,067, Trey McKinney of Carbondale, Ill., with 1,034, and Robert Gee of Knoxville, Tenn., with 1,018.
Only anglers who fish all nine Opens this season are eligible for the Elite Qualifiers Division. After the final three Opens of the year, the top nine eligible anglers will receive invitations to fish the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Complete standings are available at Bassmaster.com.
The 2023 event was hosted by the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Village of Waddington. It is part of a series of tournaments and is supported by a Market New York grant from I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative.
2023 Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: St. Croix
2023 Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting-edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Strike King Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship, Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX, Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota.
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