By BassFan Staff

Bryan Thrift came into the 2014 season riding a streak of six straight finishes of 8th or better in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year (AOY) race. However, with a third of the current campaign in the books, he sat in 78th place on the points list, and a lackluster showing at Sam Rayburn Reservoir would've increased the likelihood that he'd miss the Forrest Wood Cup for the first time since turning pro in 2007.

He still has a long way to go to secure his eighth consecutive Cup berth, but his prospects are immeasurably brighter in the wake of his victory at "Big Sam." The 2010 AOY achieved that with a 17-pound sack on the final day that pushed him past Mark Rose, who'd led after the previous 2 days.

Thrift's 73-03 total for 4 days eclipsed Rose by a little more than 3 pounds. It was his third career Tour triumph and first since 2011.

Rose's 11-01 bag, easily his smallest of the week, left him with a 70-02 tally.

Greg Hackney, the 2005 AOY and '09 Cup champ who's again fishing the Tour this year after an 8-year hiatus, boxed a 14-09 final-day stringer to move up one place to 3rd with a 67-13 total. He was followed by Jason Meninger, who caught a day-best sack for the second time in 3 days (17-03 on day 4) en route to his best-ever tour-level finish with a 66-13 aggregate.

John Cox ended up 5th for the second straight event despite a three-fish, 10-07 bag day-4 bag for a 61-02 total. He too is back in the Cup chase after starting the season with a 175th-place showing at Okeechobee.

Here are the totals for the bottom half of the Top 10:

6. Steve Kennedy: 60-11
7. Jayme Rampey: 59-13
8. Andy Montgomery: 57-02
9. Tony Davis: 56-15
10. Rick Cotten: 56-11

With the season half over, California's Cody Meyer (who was 27th in this event) is the new leader in the AOY chase, with a 1-point lead over reigning title-holder Andy Morgan. Randall Tharp is a distant 3rd, trailing Meyer by 22 points.

FLW/Kyle Wood
Photo: FLW/Kyle Wood

Mark Rose's lone quality fish on day 4 was one he pulled off a bed late in the day.

The circuit takes a week off before making it's annual stop at Arkansas' Beaver Lake April 10-13. Beaver was the site of Thrift's most recent win prior to this one.

Thrift Relieved

> Day 4: 5, 17-00 (20, 73-03)

Thrift couldn't say whether this victory was any sweeter than his previous triumphs, but the timing of it was impeccable.

"It feels real good after that 107th at Hartwell," he said. "I'm going to fish a lot more relaxed now since we've got the bills paid for the rest of the year."

He caught a couple of 3-pounders within the first 20 minutes on the Damiki Knockout he flipped all week.

"I hadn't been catching much of anything before 9:30 or 10 o'clock, so those first two calmed me down and allowed me to fish slow. The rest of the day went good I never lost any fish."

He handled eight or nine keepers, including two in the 4-pound class. He had all of his weight by 12:30 and failed to upgrade over the final 2 1/2 hours of the day.

"Everything I was catching was 3 pounds or less and I didn't think that was going to be good enough. I thought I needed a 6- or 7-pounder to have a shot to win."

Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be published in the coming days.

2nd: Rose's Hole Ran Dry

> Day 4: 5, 11-01 (20, 70-02)

The big bites that had carried Rose throughout the event were nonexistent today except for a 5 1/2-pounder that he sight-fished late in the day. The other four fish he weighed averaged just a pound and change apiece.

"If you'd told me when I was leaving the house that I'd finish 2nd, I'd have taken it and never went," he said. "However, I'm still a competitor and when I put myself in that position, I want to get it done.

"I tried everything I knew to put together 15 pounds on backup stuff, but I couldn't do it. It was just Bryan's time he was the most consistent angler all week."

FLW/Kyle Wood
Photo: FLW/Kyle Wood

Jason Meninger's sack was the best in the field for the second time in 3 days.

He lost a good fish on his third cast of the day.

"I set the hook and it was solid. It could've been 10 pounds or it could've been 3, I'll never know. I just turned its head for a second before the hook came out. They were biting funny today."

4th: High-Water Mark for Meninger

> Day 4: 5, 17-03 (20, 66-13)

Meninger was pleased to set a new career-best finish, eclipsing the 9th he logged in the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup at his home lake (Lanier).

"This was one where I really felt like I had a chance to win," he said. "I felt that way all through the tournament, even today. The one day (8-03 on day 3) cost me.

"That's what eats me up; I'm not a full-time tour pro (he's a partner in an advertising agency that has several clients in the industry) and I knew after the first day that I had a real opportunity."

He boated about 30 keepers today and six or seven were largemouths (the others were spotted bass). His best specimen weighed about 6 pounds.

"I fished pretty flawlessly today I lost a couple, but I'm pretty sure they were spots. I made good decisions and I knew if the conditions got right, I could catch another good bag."

5th: Cox Doing it His Way

> Day 4: 3, 10-07 (18, 61-02)

Cox has thoroughly enjoyed himself in the last two events.

"I'm going into the tournaments throwing what I want to throw, and it's working out," he said. "I've moved all the way up to 42nd (in the points), so I'm getting there. I'd really like to make the Cup because (South Carolina's Lake Murray) is only about a 6-hour drive for me. I could go up and practice on a Friday-through-Sunday if I wanted to."

He caught a 7-pounder in the first half-hour and thought he might be in or a big day since he'd been getting sparse action prior to 10 o'clock. He had numerous quality fish boil up on his swimjig throughout the remainder of the day, but he couldn't connect with any of them and eventually took a couple of 1 1/2-pounders to the scale along with his lone bruiser.

"When about the sixth 5-pounder came out of the water and didn't get (the bait), it didn't even phase me after that."

6th: Tough Night, Day for Kennedy

> Day 4: 3, 5-03 (18, 60-11)

Kennedy got little sleep on Saturday night due to a noisy disturbance at his hotel that he said resulted in the arrest of several people in the room next door. His ensuing day on the water wasn't much more enjoyable.

"It was the day I expected yesterday," he said. "It was post-frontal with bluebird skies and no new fish to pick off.

"It's not a good story, but I'm happy with where I ended up. I can't complain about that at all."

He caught a bunch of shorts in addition to his three keepers.

"I tried some new stuff early and saved my good stuff for later. At one of my better places, where I caught (a 5-pounder) yesterday, I caught at least 15 fish. I was calling my shots, but they were all 13-inchers.

"I'd like to say they just didn't bite, but that wasn't the case. I just ran out of fish."

Notable

> Day 4 stats 10 anglers, 5 limits, 2 fours, 2 threes, 1 one.

Final Standings

1. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 18-12 (5) -- 20-14 (5) -- 39-10 (10) -- 16-09 (5) -- 17-00 (5) -- 73-03 (20) -- $125,000

2. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 23-14 (5) -- 19-02 (5) -- 43-00 (10) -- 16-01 (5) -- 11-01 (5) -- 70-02 (20) -- $30,000

3. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, La -- 16-03 (5) -- 20-08 (5) -- 36-11 (10) -- 16-09 (5) -- 14-09 (5) -- 67-13 (20) -- $25,000

4. Jason Meninger -- Gainesville, Ga -- 17-05 (5) -- 24-02 (5) -- 41-07 (10) -- 8-03 (5) -- 17-03 (5) -- 66-13 (20) -- $20,000

5. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 14-12 (5) -- 21-14 (5) -- 36-10 (10) -- 14-01 (5) -- 10-07 (3) -- 61-02 (18) -- $19,000

6. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, Al -- 18-14 (5) -- 21-12 (5) -- 40-10 (10) -- 14-14 (5) -- 5-03 (3) -- 60-11 (18) -- $18,000

7. Jayme Rampey -- Liberty, SC -- 16-10 (5) -- 16-07 (5) -- 33-01 (10) -- 20-00 (5) -- 6-12 (4) -- 59-13 (19) -- $17,000

8. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 24-11 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 34-10 (10) -- 14-13 (5) -- 7-11 (5) -- 57-02 (20) -- $16,000

9. Tony Davis -- Williston, Fl -- 15-05 (5) -- 18-02 (4) -- 33-07 (9) -- 14-03 (5) -- 9-05 (2) -- 56-15 (16) -- $15,000

10. Rick Cotten -- Guntersville, Al -- 25-15 (5) -- 11-15 (5) -- 37-14 (10) -- 9-00 (5) -- 9-13 (5) -- 56-11 (20) -- $14,000