By BassFan Staff
Bryan Thrift was in a back hallway this afternoon talking about his stellar day when the voice on the PA system inside the CenturyLink Center called out Randall Tharp's weight. Thrift paused for a second to hear the announcement.
"Eighteen pounds, eight ounces," the voice boomed through the arena. "You're the new leader!"
Thrift couldn't do anything but smile.
"He got me by an ounce," Thrift said through his grin, almost dumbfounded that someone else did what most thought wasn't possible – catch 18 pounds at the Red River in the middle of August.
Tharp's 18-08 stringer came after an extremely slow morning, while Thrift's 18-07 effort was anchored by a 7-09 brute that alone was bigger than the bags of nine other pros after day 1 of the Forrest Wood Cup. They are more than 5 pounds clear of Larry Nixon, who's in 3rd with 13-04. Adrian Avena was the only other angler to catch 13 pounds. He's 4th with 13-02.
At last year's Cup, Jacob Wheeler raced to a 5-plus pound advantage on day 1 and walked away with the trophy and the riches. This year, BassFans might be treated to a two-horse race between Tharp and Thrift, who are considered to be among the best anglers to have never won a Cup.
Here's a look at the Top 10 following the first day of competition, with deficit margin from Tharp indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. Randall Tharp: 18-08
2. Bryan Thrift: 18-07 (00-01)
3. Larry Nixon: 13-04 (5-04)
4. Adrian Avena: 13-02 (5-06)
5. Mark Rose: 12-15 (5-09)
6. Spencer Shuffield: 12-08 (6-00)
7. Ray Scheide: 12-07 (6-01)
8. Mark Daniels, Jr.: 11-12 (6-12)
9. Tom Monsoor: 11-08 (7-00)
10 (tie). Matt Arey: 11-06 (7-02)
10 (tie). David Fritts: 11-06 (7-02)
TBF champion Mark Daniels, Jr. had a strong start with 11-12 that has him in 8th. Wheeler is mired in 40th place after catching 7-05 while reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan is tied for 13th with 11-02. There were 21 bags that exceeded 10 pounds and 44 limits caught.
The cold snap that moved through Wednesday dropped water temps in some areas nearly 10 degrees and knocked the topwater bite out of the equation for some pros. It's still too early to tell which pool will hold up until the end, but Pool 5 got plenty of attention today with at least half of the field devoting a portion of their day there. Only Koby Kreiger (37th) and Jimmy Houston (46th) made the run to Pool 3.
The weather was overcast to start today, but the clouds moved out by mid morning and it turned into a pleasant day. The stable conditions should persist through the weekend with temperature reaching 90 tomorrow with breeze out of the northeast from 7 to 11 mph.
The field will be trimmed to 20 after tomorrow and then reduced to the Top 10 after Saturday before the Cup will be awarded Sunday to the angler with the highest cumulative weight.
Tharp Overcame Slow Morning
> Day 1: 5, 18-08
The first two spots Tharp went to this morning were covered up. It took him until 10:30 to finish his first limit. It wasn't exactly the morning he'd hoped for or planned on. The afternoon is when he did most of his damage.
"I didn't catch anything this morning and I'd been catching a limit in the first 20 minutes," he said. "It didn't matter where I went on the river. I was pretty disappointed and disgusted with the way things were going, but I didn't change my game plan. It finally just started working.
"I think I just got in a good rotation. I finally fished some areas that got to rest a bit and those big ones were positioning right where I could catch them."
He was boat 29 this morning, but Chris Brasher (boat 20) had already staked a claim to an area a stone's throw north of the launch ramp. The spot was a popular area during in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic and is a known big-fish haunt.
"I expected somebody to go to that particular place, but not out of the first 20 boats," he said. "I was really surprised. I wasn't sure if he was going to go in there. I watched him and went over and asked him if he was going in there and he said he was, so I went to my next spot and Larry Nixon was on that place. I'm going somewhere tomorrow where I can assure you I will not see another boat."
As that leader of the Forrest Wood Cup, that'll be easier said than done.
Bryan Thrift connected with a 7-09 kicker today that has him an ounce off the lead.
He said he's "fishing his strength" with a mix of baits around wood, pads, hydrilla and salvinia. His biggest was a 5 1/2-pounder and his smallest was just shy of 3.
"These fish are grouped up in small areas," he said. "It doesn't matter if you find them on the river or in the backwaters. When you get boats that go in and out of places, it definitely scatters them out. You need to let a place for a while, but then you can slip in there and catch a few. That's the way this place is. It reminds a lot of fishing in Florida."
2nd: Dream Day for Thrift
> Day 1: 5, 18-07
Thrift was in the same boat with many of his competitors in that it was a struggle to coax bites from any bass in the 2-pound range during practice. Today, he couldn’t keep them off his hook.
"It's one of those days you dream about," he said. "I know it didn't look like it, but it's really hard to catch a fish over or 2 or 2 1/4 pounds. To be able to catch five of them today that were bigger than that, you can't ask for anything better than that. I caught a lot of fish in the 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound range. I could go out there tomorrow and come in with nothing or catch 7 1/2 pounds. You never know."
His day took a mighty turn at 9:30 when he connected with the 7 1/2-pounder on a shaky-head. He said he caught it out of a backwater and his co-angler caught a 6-pounder within a cast of the same spot.
"That made it easy," he said of his kicker. "That one fish, I knew that was going to make the day right there. Even if I caught four 12 1/2-inchers, I was going to have 12 or 13 pounds."
He caught the rest of his weigh fish on a hodge podge of baits, mostly in Pool 5.
"I ran a lot of different stuff," he said. "I caught a 3 pounder off stuff I hadn't even fished in practice. I have one other little deal that seems to be working good. If I can get a couple bites on it, I think I have a shot to catch a couple 2 1/2-pounders. It's so fickle out here. You can go out there one day and catch 6 pounds and then go out the next and catch 20."
3rd: Wind Altered Nixon's Plan
> Day 1: 5, 13-04
When the wind started blowing out of the north on Wednesday, Nixon figured it would impact some of the spots he intended to fish today. He wasn't sure until he got there today, but sure enough and as advertised, the Red was nearly that in a few places he looked at.
"With that north wind blowing today, it messed up some places," he said. "This place is real fickle and when the water gets silted up, they won't bite. I went where I knew it was clean. The wind definitely changed my game plan."
He struggled to get in a rhythm this morning, but kept it simple and slowed down in the hot, summer conditions.
"It was one of those days that started out tough and I wasn't getting any bites," he added. "I finally found the right little cast and I caught four and kept working around that area. Then I caught my biggest fish, a 4-pounder.
4th: 40 Keepers For Avena
> Day 1: 5, 13-02
Catching fish wasn’t a problem for Avena today. Neither was lucking into a few quality bites that helped him climb into the Top 5. He fished Pool 5 today, focusing mostly on the cuts that lead into the backwaters. At one particular spot, he worked the cut in the rocks while others fished in the backwater. Each time a boat would exit the backwater through the cut, he'd catch a fish within seconds of the other boat idling past him.
"A couple of guys who are in the Top 20 are fishing way back in there and I just got fortunate," he said. "I think a lot of these fish are coming in or coming out. I think it's an area where you have a little bit of current and that’s crucial in this river. Also, the structure down there is really good and there's a lot of bait in the area. I'm excited. I think I can catch them there again. I wouldn't say I can catch a 2-pound average, but I feel like it's possible to catch a limit there and scrounge around."
He's boat number 1 on day 2 and plans to return to that area right away with the hope the fish are still actively feeding. He estimated he got 50 bites there, including 40 keeper-quality fish. His best fish today was a 4-pounder and he added a late 3-pounder on a frog.
"There's quite a few big fish in this river," he said. "I might be behind by 5 pounds, but it is a 4-day deal and it's only the first quarter. There are four tournaments going on here and right now they're ahead after the first day."
Larry Nixon had to downsize baits and slow down today.
"I just went to hopping around and checked a couple of areas that I hadn't really practiced on much and they turned out to be no good. I found another little pattern to go with what I had and I culled three times this afternoon. I was excited about that."
5th: Slow and Steady for Rose
> Day 1: 5, 12-15
Mark Rose was among a throng of anglers that fished just outside the mouth of Port Lake near the launch ramp this morning, and he was able to get 8 1/2 pounds in the boat by 8 a.m.
From there, he moved around a bit, hunting for upgrades, and found several that have him in the Top 5.
"It's a mental sport so getting 8 pounds in the livewell helps you feel more comfortable running around trying to catch a big fish," he said. "That's what I was able to do later on and it worked out. I caught a couple nice ones. I tried to stay off of some stuff, but that stuff you're staying off of might be the spots where 17 or 18 pounds are coming from. All you can do is try to do your best and make the best decisions you can."
"The fish bit good this morning. I think they enjoyed that surface temperature being a little bit cooler. These are river fish. It's so fertile and they always like just a little bit of flow."
He wasn't surprised at the weights posted by Tharp and Thrift, but he doesn't expect to see too many more stringers of that ilk.
"This river has got 'em," he said. "When you look at the springtime weights, there are so many 7- to 10-pounders weighed in here. I do feel like they had a very fortunate, above-average day. I think even they'd tell you it was a little better than expected. You don't see many of those 7-pounders that Thrift caught. That fish will ride him all the way to Sunday. That's a special fish. If he's to go out and do that 2 days in a row, I would shake his hand and tell him, 'Great job. You beat me.'"
He said he caught 15 keepers and could've swung more in the boat, but is looking at the big picture for now.
"I probably could've caught more keepers, but I'm trying to use the marathon approach to this event," he added. "I'm trying to get 11 to 13 pounds a day and hopefully that'll get you to Sunday and you never know when a 5-pounder might blow up on a pad and you can throw in there and catch him."
6th: Shuffield Lost a Couple
> Day 1: 5, 12-08
This is the seventh Forrest Wood Cup appearance for Spencer Shuffield, but the first he's fishing out of the front of the boat. He had a mixed bag of a day. Sure, he's in the Top 10, but he had opportunities to be closer to the top of the standings.
He lost a 4-pounder at 12:30, then had another good fish bounce off the carpet and out the other side later on. His co-angler today, Theo Corcoran, caught 14-13 and held a 4-13 lead on the amateur side.
"It was one of those days. I just had some bad luck," he said.
He's not discouraged, though, because he's confident he could bust a bag similar to Tharp's or Thrift's tomorrow.
"Anything can happen. They could catch 11 or 12 pounds tomorrow and I could have 16," he said. "If I could put together what my co-angler and what I had today, I'd have what they had or more."
Despite having fish found in pools 3 and 4, he opted to maximize his fishing time in Pool 5 today.
"I ran maybe 5 miles and put the trolling motor down and didn't pick it up but twice all day," he said. "The last day of practice I got a little bite and I just started there this morning. I didn't fish anything today that I'd already fished. I just kept on going. You might go 30 or 45 minutes without a bite sometimes, but you can get four or fives bites in the next 10 minutes. They're out there in wolf packs, but kind of spread out in that grass."
Adrian Avena had a field day in Pool 5 today.
13th: Morgan Sticking in 5
> Day 1: 5, 11-02
Nothing really surprised Morgan today, other than Tharp's and Thrift's stringers.
"It was what I expected," he said. "I knew if I could catch a limit for 12 pounds, I'd be pretty satisfied because I figured it would really have me right in the mix. Heck, it's got me way behind."
He's not going to stray from his game plan in hopes of catching up all in one day. He fished Pool 5 today and will stay there all day Friday.
"I can catch them all day long," he said. "There's no problem there. It's just catching good ones. That's the issue with everybody. You have to cull through a lot of fish."
15th: Morrow in the Mix
> Day 1: 5, 10-15
Troy Morrow fell short of his expectations, but he's not entirely out of contention after day 1.
"I didn't blow it. It's not where I wanted to be," he said. "I wanted to be at 12 or 13 (pounds). It's still doable."
He fished Pool 5 all day and moved to main-river stuff after starting the morning in some backwaters. He went through about 30 fish, including a number of non-keepers.
"That cool front dropped the water temperature quite a bit," he added. "The biggest problem today was lack of current. The current really slowed down today."
37th: Kreiger Ran to Pool 3
> Day 1: 5, 7-14
Kreiger didn't make his first cast until 9:25 this morning, long after several anglers had limits in their boats. That's because he opted to make the lengthy run to Pool 3.
"I figured I could catch 9 or 10 pounds down there," he said. "My best spot I never had a bite on down there. I fished around and caught what I caught there. I came back and broke a couple off flipping some trees in Pool 4. I didn't go as far today in Pool 3 as I went in practice because I didn't know what my gas situation was going to be.
"I don't need to go all the way to where the gas is at (in Pool 3). I was just feeling out what I could do and how far I could go. I have plenty of gas to go where I need to go tomorrow, plus I get an extra hour to fish. I figured I'd have about 8 pounds. I think I'll be all right tomorrow."
He's okay with sacrificing 5 hours of fishing time because he thinks the potential is there for him to get back in the tournament.
"Maybe tomorrow it will be worth it," he said. "I just wanted to get away from everybody. I probably caught around 35 keepers today. I just never caught any big ones. It's not a problem catching the fish. I just need to get a big bite. I learned a couple things today when I was fishing this one area. I saw a couple big ones blow up. I wasn't really ready for them when it happened."
> Day 1 stats – 46 anglers, 44 limits, 1 three, 1 two.
> FLW College champion Paul Clark, who attended the University of Louisiana-Monroe, caught 3-08 today and is 45th after day 1, a disappointing start for the only Louisianan fishing the pro side this week.
> Fri., Aug. 24 – Mostly sunny – 90°/67°
- Wind: From the NE at 7 to 11 mph
> Sat., Aug. 25 – Mostly sunny – 91°/73°
- Wind: From the NE at 6 to 10 mph
> Sun., Aug. 26 – Mostly sunny – 92°/68°
- Wind: From the NE at 5 to 9 mph
Day 1 Standings
1. Randall Tharp -- Port Saint Joe, Fl -- 18-8 (5)
2. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 18-7 (5)
3. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, Ar -- 13-4 (5)
4. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 13-2 (5)
5. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 12-15 (5)
6. Spencer Shuffield -- Bismarck, Ar -- 12-8 (5)
7. Ray Scheide -- Dover, Ar -- 12-7 (5)
8. Mark Daniels Jr -- Fairfield, Ca -- 11-12 (5)
9. Tom Monsoor -- La Crosse, Wi -- 11-8 (5)
10. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 11-6 (5)
10. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 11-6 (5)
12. Michael Neal -- Dayton, Tn -- 11-5 (5)
13. Jt Kenney -- Palm Bay, Fl -- 11-2 (5)
13. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 11-2 (5)
15. Robbie Dodson -- Harrison, Ar -- 10-15 (5)
15. Troy Morrow -- Eastanollee, Ga -- 10-15 (5)
17. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, Pa -- 10-13 (5)
18. Jay Yelas -- Corvallis, Or -- 10-11 (5)
19. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 10-10 (5)
20. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, Al -- 10-3 (5)
21. Jim Moynagh -- Carver, Mn -- 10-1 (5)
22. Casey Martin -- New Hope, Al -- 9-15 (5)
23. Bill Mcdonald -- Greenwood, In -- 9-12 (5)
24. James Watson -- Waynesville, Mo -- 9-11 (5)
25. Wesley Strader -- Spring City, Tn -- 9-7 (5)
25. Barry Wilson -- Birmingham, Al -- 9-7 (5)
27. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 9-5 (5)
28. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, Ok -- 9-3 (5)
29. Kerry Milner -- Bono, Ar -- 8-15 (5)
30. Zell Rowland -- Montgomery, Tx -- 8-13 (5)
31. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, Ca -- 8-12 (5)
31. Stacey King -- Reeds Spring, Mo -- 8-12 (5)
33. Luke Clausen -- Spokane, Wa -- 8-11 (5)
34. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 8-8 (5)
35. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 8-4 (5)
36. Scott Canterbury -- Springville, Al -- 8-3 (5)
37. Koby Kreiger -- Okeechobee, Fl -- 7-13 (5)
38. Ishama Monroe -- Hughson, Ca -- 7-7 (5)
39. Drew Benton -- Panama City, Fl -- 7-5 (5)
40. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, In -- 7-4 (5)
41. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, Ar -- 6-14 (5)
42. Jacob Powroznik -- Prince George, Va -- 6-12 (5)
43. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 6-9 (5)
44. Christopher Brasher -- Hallsville, Tx -- 5-14 (5)
45. Paul Clark -- Monroe, La -- 3-8 (3)
46. Jimmy Houston -- Cookson, Ok -- 2-2 (2)