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Canadian Cory Johnston registers first career Elite Series victory in Florida

Canadian Cory Johnston holds the trophy up after winning his first-ever Elite Series title in St. Johns River, Fla., in a Sunday, April 21, 2024, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, Seigo Saito, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

PALATKA, Fla. — Cory Johnston finally has his first Elite Series victory.

Johnston, of Cavan, Ont., emphatically captured the circuit event on the St. Johns River on Sunday. Johnston's final five-fish limit weighed 19 pounds nine ounces, giving him 93 pounds six ounces overall to finish over 21 pounds ahead of runner-up Brad Whatley of the U.S.

Johnston went into Sunday's final round with a solid 14-pound advantage over Whatley. And the Canadian wasted no time putting his stamp on the victory, boating a seven-pound, 12-ounce largemouth flipping pads early Sunday morning that was the day's biggest catch.

But Johnston didn't need it as at the final weigh-in, none of the nine other competitors surpassed his third-day total of 73 pounds 13 ounces. So Johnston had the tournament won before stepping on to the stage and would've still secured his first Elite Series title even had he not boated a fish Sunday.

"I don't even know what to say," said Johnston, who was joined onstage by his wife, Kerrilee, and their two young sons, Jack and Luke. "It's been one of those weeks that's just been absolutely incredible.

"People say when it's your time it's your time and this week I couldn't do anything wrong."

In 2021, Johnston won a Bassmaster Open tournament in Clayton, N.Y. But three times he'd been forced to settle for second in Elite Series competitions.

Johnston becomes the third Canadian to win on the Elite Series after his brother, Chris, of Peterborough, Ont., and Jeff Gustafson, of Kenora, Ont. With his win, Cory Johnston not only earned his own blue championship trophy but also the US$100,000 winner's share.

And almost as important, he reclaimed family bragging rights.

"Every time I walk into his house I'll see it (Chris Johnston's Series trophy) and never touch it," Cory Johnston said. "So, (now) I get my own.

"I just managed my fish good and made the right decisions. Like (on Sunday) I went flipping pads and that was probably the biggest decision, in my mind, that I could've made to do what I did."

Chris Johnston finished fifth overall at 70 pounds. His five-fish limit Sunday weighed 13 pounds two ounces.

"In hindsight, maybe I should've flipped pads more today," he said. "I spent a lot of time driving . . . but, still, a great tournament."

In 2019, Chris Johnston finished second on the St. Johns River in his first-ever Elite Series event.

Cooper Gallant of Bowmanville, Ont., was 31st while Gustafson finished 101st.

The '24 season resumes May 9-12 at South Carolina's Lake Murray.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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