By MLF Communications Staff

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Bryan Thrift caught a five-bass limit Friday weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces – the largest limit of the tournament thus far – to grab the early Knockout Round lead after Day 3 of the Major League Fishing REDCREST 2023, the Bass Pro Tour championship. The field is now trimmed to 15 and competition resumes Saturday as the anglers compete to get inside the Top 10 to advance to Championship Sunday.

“I started the first period on the same place I’ve been starting every day, and I caught a pretty good limit on a little 1/4-ounce Damiki Underspin with a 3-inch (Damiki) Armor Shad,” said Thrift, a resident of nearby Shelby, N.C.. “I came out of there with almost 12 pounds, and that gave me the confidence to go and run my big-fish pattern – throwing a bigger swimbait around docks.

“I ended up getting four bites on it and they were all 3-pounders, which is a very good day on Lake Norman. I’m looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow. If they keep biting that swimbait and I can keep catching them on this underspin, we might have a chance at this one.”

In 2nd place is reigning BPT of the Year Jacob Wheeler, who boated five bass weighing 15-04.

“I had a solid day out on Norman and survived Day 1,” Wheeler said in his post-game interview. “We have our work cut out for us. I’ve got to catch a big bag tomorrow to sort of make up that margin on Thrift.

“The thing about Lake Norman is it’s really easy to slip up here,” Wheeler continued. “If someone catches 12 pounds and you can catch 16, you can make up that weight margin quickly. But we at least survived and made it to where we have a chance going into the next couple of days. I think I figured something out today, so hopefully we can put that in our hand and go out here and try to reel a couple of bass in again tomorrow.”

Alton Jones Jr. earned Friday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with a stout 5-07 spotted bass that he caught during Period 1. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the biggest bass each day and a $1,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the largest bass of the tournament.

The take-off ceremony will begin at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday and 7:15 a.m. on Sunday at Blythe Landing Park, located at 15901 N.C. 73 HY in Huntersville, N.C. Anglers will depart at 7 a.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday, and return after competition ends at 4 p.m. on Day 4 and 5 p.m. on Day 5. Fans are welcome to attend all launch events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW! livestream and ScoreTracker coverage at

The MLF NOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney break down the extended action from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the first four days of competition, and from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Championship Sunday. MLF NOW! is livestreamed on and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Knockout Round 1

1. Bryan Thrift -- 17-12 (5)

2. Jacob Wheeler -- 15-04 (5)

3. Alton Jones Jr. -- 14-09 (5)

4. Adrian Avena -- 14-04 (5)

5. Jonathon VanDam -- 14-02 (5)

6. Casey Ashley -- 12-03 (5)

7. Edwin Evers -- 12-03 (5)

8. Randy Howell -- 12-03 (5)

9. Jesse Wiggins -- 12-00 (5)

10. Dakota Ebare -- 11-15 (5)

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not advance to the Championship Rounds

11. Dustin Connell -- 11-11 (5)

12. Matt Lee -- 11-09 (5)

13. Cody Meyer -- 11-07 (5)

14. Ott DeFoe -- 11-01 (5)

15. Anthony Gagliardi -- 10-15 (5)