By MLF Communications Staff

The bite improved over the previous day, but it was still not an easy day for tournament competitors on Alabama's Lake Eufaula. Unless your name was Bryan Thrift.

Thrift caught 14 scorable bass (2 pounds or heavier) totaling 40-08 to easily cruise to the win in the Knockout Round (Group B) on day 4 at REDCREST 2021, the Bass Pro Tour championship.

Thrift, along with fellow Group B competitors Ott DeFoe, Michael Neal, Takahiro Omori and Anthony Gagliardi, now advance to the Championship Round. They'll be joined by Group A qualifiers Zack Birge, Dustin Connell, Mark Davis, David Dudley and Jacob Wheeler for the one-day shootout, with the winner earning $300,000.

“I’ve made it to the Championship Round of my very first REDCREST and I am beyond excited,” Thrift said. “I feel like I’m on enough fish right now to at least have a chance. I am a little nervous – a lot of people watched me catch them this morning off of my one place, and that’s where I’ve caught most of my fish this week. So, I’m really hoping that I can still get on it tomorrow. Hopefully there are still a few there, and if they are then I think we have a chance.”

Despite four straight days of sunny skies and warmer temperatures that had many predicting the fish would be heading to the bank, Thrift has done the majority of his fishing offshore with a swimbait and a shaky-head rig.

“I know they’re headed to the bank anytime now,” Thrift said. “I went in one pocket today and saw six or seven bass cruising around – no big ones yet – but buck bass up there looking. So, I definitely think they’re coming to the bank soon, but they’re still not quite right yet.

"I’ll probably look again tomorrow and see what happens. I have a lot of stuff to run tomorrow. I have some stuff left that I didn’t fish today that hopefully could be good, but you never know.”

Michael Neal continued his last-minute REDCREST heroics Thursday, matching what he started earlier this week. After catching a 4-pounder with just 50 seconds left in the final period to advance from Tuesday’s Qualifying Round, Neal caught two 3 1/2-pounders in the final six minutes Thursday to jump from 6th place to 3rd and advance to the final day.

“What a day. I don’t know how I keep putting myself in this position – right on the cutline, every time,” Neal said. “It’s getting kind of old. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. But I’d like to have a strong start for once. Who knows, maybe tomorrow will be the day.

“I think I stuck with the spinnerbait a little too long today,” Neal continued. “This morning they were biting it really good and then the sun got up and it was slick calm. I should have went to the jerkbait a lot earlier. It’s a lesson learned for tomorrow, and I’m very fortunate to make it. Everything goes back to zero and now it’s anyone’s ballgame.”

Group B Knockout Round

(Figure at far right indicates weight of angler's heaviest fish)

1. Bryan Thrift -- 40-08 (14) -- 5-08

2. Ott DeFoe -- 23-14 (7) -- 5-08

3. Michael Neal -- 20-09 (7) -- 3-11

4. Takahiro Omori -- 19-10 (7) -- 4-01

5. Anthony Gagliardi -- 18-06 (5) -- 4-13

6. Edwin Evers -- 15-14 (6) -- 4-03

7. Jordan Lee -- 15-08 (5) -- 4-06

8. Alton Jones Jr. -- 11-11 (4) -- 4-06

9. Brent Chapman -- 6-14 (2) -- 3-13

10. Randall Tharp -- 6-05 (2) -- 3-14