Randall Tharp did not get off to the start that he, or many observers, thought he would at the Lake Okeechobee FLW Tour last week. His 10-07 day-1 weight had him mired in 81st place, nearly halfway down the 174-boat field.
To think, almost exactly a year ago on the same lake, he tattooed the field en route to catching 101 pounds and notching a 23-pound victory. Day 2 went a little more according to expectations fishing-wise, as he sacked 23-09 and rocketed up the standings 68 spots to make the Top-20 cut in 13th. The roller-coaster ride continued, though, on day 3 when he caught just 8-02 and dropped to 15th.
“The way practice started off for me was incredible,” Tharp said. “We had that cold front and the big ones were pulled up under the mats. I could’ve had somewhere in the mid-30s those days. I was getting a lot of bites and half of them were big fish, so I was pretty confident going in. It became pretty evident the first day things had changed."
The only bite he had early on day 1 never made it in the boat and he was still without a keeper at 11 a.m. He moved to an area where he’d caught some fish in practice and scratched out a limit there. Interestingly, he didn’t make any changes on day 2 – the key was executing on the three big bites he got.
“I had six keeper bites and three were big,” he added. “I had my weight by 11. I don’t think anything changed. I caught them on the same stretch where I’d lost a 10(-pounder) on day 1.”
But his day-2 rally would've been for naught without the help of close friend Brandon McMillan. Tharp had a mechanical issue while fishing the north side of the lake and he called to inform tournament director Bill Taylor, who granted Tharp permission to call McMillan, who was fishing a different section of the lake.
McMillan went and picked Tharp and his fish up and transported him back to the dock, sacrificing a good bit of his day in the process. McMillan, who won the Okeechobee Tour Open in 2011, finished 48th last week.
“I know I will have to return the favor one day,” Tharp said. “I was relieved he caught enough to get a check, but neither one of us are happy with where we finished this week.”
Heading back out Saturday, Tharp was confident he could keep the momentum going.
“I thought I was going to jack ‘em,” he said. “But I didn’t have any bites by 11 and the north wind was perfect. Flipping has been so good for me here. I was 100 percent committed to it. It’s just unfortunate my fish weren’t going. I’d probably do it the same way again if I had the chance.”
The Sunline Strong Performer, which focuses on the angler who makes the most significant single-day move in the standings at each tour-level event, is brought to you by the great people at Sunline.