For Team Power-Pole pro angler Cory Johnston, the 50th annual Bassmaster Classic was quite the roller coaster. In his first-ever Classic, the Canadian pro was surrounded by friends and family, including his brother Chris Johnston who was also taking part in the event. Although it didn’t end how Cory envisioned it, the 2020 Classic will be an experience he will never forget.
“To think about my experience in the Bassmaster Classic has been pretty incredible,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about this moment and walking across that Bassmaster stage since I was a kid and to experience that was unbelievable.”
The Power-Pole media team followed Cory’s week in Alabama to document what it was like for the Team Power-Pole angler to take part in competitive bass fishing’s biggest event.
Cory, who finished third in the 2019 Elite Series Angler of the Year standings, ended up in 47th place overall for the tournament. He did not make the final day after a two-day total of 13-9.
“This week on Lake Guntersville was real tough for me,” he said. “I had an okay practice. I wasn’t getting a lot of bites but they were big ones. I was catching them out on the main river on the edge of some eel grass so I probably had about seven or eight spots.
“When the wind blew on that first day, it really threw a curveball because I couldn’t really fish those spots because we had three-footers rolling in. The wind blowing against the current created some big waves so it was tough.”
The long trips between Lake Guntersville and the tournament headquarters in Birmingham, which made for late nights and early mornings, took their toll. The outside demands from media and events during tournament time along with the general excitement of the event compounded the exhaustion.
“You are wore out,” Cory said. “You’re up at three in the morning and you’re tired. That was probably the biggest thing that I wasn’t expecting, just how busy you’d be.”
Despite the physical and emotional strain of the competition, Cory had an ample support system in the form of friends and family, many of whom drove down from Cory’s native Canada, there to support him. He also was joined by brother Chris’ family, making the week even more memorable.
All of that was evident when he walked across the stage for the first time on Friday.
“It hit me that ‘you’re here, you are at the Bassmaster Classic.’ This is where I’ve wanted to be my whole life,” Cory said. “To be able to look up into the crowd and see your family and friends, it was living a dream.”
While both brothers agreed it is nice to be able to experience such a momentous event together, they also relished the chance to beat the other on the biggest stage of competitive fishing.
“It just brings that much more rivalry to the competition between the two of us,” said Chris, who ended up in 34th place with 21-9. “We grew playing hockey against each other, baseball, lacrosse. It doesn’t matter if we are playing a friendly game of cards, we always want to beat each other.”
Cory is sure that this is just the first of many Classics to come. With his brother on a similar career path, the Johnston family should be a mainstay on the Classic stage for years, and perhaps even decades.
“My little guy is a year and a half old now and he is ate up with fishing,” Cory said. “Every time he sees a fishing rod he wants to be in the boat. There’s gonna be a day when Chris’ little guy and Jack will be on the Bassmaster stage for sure.”