By BassFan Staff
Ask Bryan Thrift why he’s so good at what he does and he’ll just shrug his shoulders and mumble something to the effect of, “Man, I don’t know how to explain it.”
Nobody else seems able to either.
Maybe Thrift is better off avoiding the introspection it would require to diagnose (and diagram) his greatness. He’s having too much fun to be bothered with it anyway.
A week after capturing the Angler of the Year award in the competitive Southeastern Division of the triple-A level FLW Series, Thrift went back to his favorite pastime – toying with the FLW Tour field, this time at a flooded Lake Cumberland in southern Kentucky, just west of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
After starting the tournament in 13th place after day 1, he continued to zero in on smallmouth on the lower end of the lake, eventually vaulting past Andy Morgan and into the lead on day 3 with an 18-11 stringer. Under a steady rain and amidst a stiff wind today, he coaxed another 18-10 – his record 53rd consecutive limit in FLW Tour competition – to close out yet another triumph with a four-day total of 70-02, which was well beyond most pre-tournament guesses.
“Every win is special,” Thrift said. “I don’t know how to explain it. When you get in that positon – leading going into the last day – you want to win. It’s all you think about.”
It’s Thrift’s sixth career FLW Tour victory – only Scott Martin has more (seven) – and his latest win moved him to the top of the Angler of the Year points standings with three events remaining. By his recollection, it’s the first tournament he’s won by weighing nothing but smallmouth and he did it heaving a couple different small swimbaits on 8-pound line using baitcasting gear.
He held off a charge from Allen Boyd, who endured a boat swap this morning due to a mechanical issue and lost a couple hours of fishing. Boyd, the reigning TBF National Champion, sacked 18-02 and finished a career-high 2nd with 68-08.
Clent Davis finished the event as the only competitor to catch 16 or more pounds each day and he capped it off with 18-05 to close with 67-10 and wind up 3rd, matching his career-best finish.
Greg Bohannan held onto 4th with a 16-00 bag that pushed his total to 65-09 while Morgan slipped three spots to 5th after catching 14-03 to finish with 65-04. More importantly, Morgan improved 50 places in the AOY points, moving up to 59th and keeping his hopes alive for a 21st career Forrest Wood Cup appearance.
Here’s a look at how the balance of the top 10 finished up:
6. Chris Johnston: 63-01
7. Chris McCall: 62-11
8. James Watson: 62-02
9. Darrel Robertson: 61-14
10. Kerry Milner: 60-03
What was billed as a battle of the species wound up going the way of the smallmouth as three of the top 5 finishers had predominantly (or all) brown fish in their creels throughout the tournament.
The rain and cooler temperatures today didn’t seem to faze the fish, who were already en route to their pre-spawn hangouts or spawning haunts and they were more than willing to attack any type of reaction bait that whizzed by, be it a double-willow spinnerbait or some form of a paddletail swimbait.
The Tour will be off for a week before hitting Smith Lake in central Alabama for the fifth of its seven tournaments April 26-29, the same dates as the Grand Lake Elite Series.
Thrift hoists a keeper into the boat Sunday.
Thrift Capitalized When Wind Slacked Off
> Day 4: 5, 18-10 (20, 70-02)
Thrift said he started to get an inkling that he could win this tournament Saturday afternoon. That’s when he caught a 5-pound smallmouth off a place he’d never made a cast to before. He followed that up with several other 3-pound caliber fish.
“When I found that, I got a feeling it was possible .. that this could happen,” he said. “I’ve had that happen a few times before.”
Even so, it’s hard to forecast the outcome, especially when someone of Morgan’s ilk is just 7 ounces behind entering the final day.
“Everything is clicking right now,” Thrift said. “It’s not as easy as it looks. I don’t know how to explain it.”
He has fished in the rain before plenty of times, but he admittedly wasn’t prepared for the day-long deluge he endured today.
“It was challenging,” he said. “First off I wasn’t dressed for the day. I knew it would rain, but I didn’t have waterproof shoes on and my feet got soaked. By 12:30, I was so cold, I was shaking so bad.”
By then, he’d already done most of his damage, culling out the small limit he’d caught on a spinnerbait in the morning with fish that couldn’t resist a swimbait on a 1/8- to 3/8-oz. jighead. The key was the wind that accompanied the early-morning rain slacked off enough where Thrift could effectively fish the power-finesse presentation.
“With that light head on light line, the wind would move the bait instead of me when it was windy,” he said. “I really needed the wind to lay down to know where the bait was and what it was doing.”
Details about Thrift’s pattern and those of the rest of the top 5 finishers will be published in the coming days.
2nd: Boyd Overcame Morning Adversity
> Day 4: 5, 18-02 (20, 68-08)
Boyd said the mechanical issue that disrupted his morning was a significant hurdle to overcome, but once he got settled back in to his game plan, he was able to refocus on putting his spinnerbait where it needed to go.
Allen Boyd followed up his 19-09 bag from Saturday with 18-02 today.
Still, he fished most of the day shorthanded as he only took what rods were on his front deck along with a couple boxes of tackle, including a box of spinnerbaits fellow competitor Bradley Hallman had given him Saturday, when he restarted the day out of a friend’s boat.
“After I got the boat swapped, I was still pretty upset,” he said. “It messes with you. I ran 40 something miles and had a lot of time to think. I was bummed out and aggravated and looking at the clock, but I told myself I couldn’t think about it. I still had 5 hours. I didn’t want to rush because I knew they were going to bite.”
When he arrived, he quickly realized he’d left a couple valuable tools in his boat – his landing net and his buzzbait rod.
“I had one miss a spinnerbait on top,” he said. “I figured I’d wreck them on a buzzbait. Everything was prime for a buzzbait, but I didn’t have one to throw.”
He had a few instances where fish would follow or partially commit to his bait, but wouldn’t engulf it.
“When these fish get in that spawn mode – not necessarily that mode but it’s what they want to do – sometimes they’re swiping at your bait and just not eating it,” he said. “I had some really good fish that showed themselves and didn’t get it. It hurts when you see them do that. There were some I could come back and catch and some I couldn’t.”
He didn’t catch near the quantity of fish as he had on Saturday, but he was more than pleased with the outcome, all things considered.
“To take off behind Thrift and Morgan and compete with that talent, that’s unbelievable to me to be in that position,” he said. “I really liked this (tournament) because this is my cup of tea. I feel comfortable doing that. I feel comfortable if there’s enough shallow fish to have the chance to win.”
3rd: Afternoon Bite Key for Davis
> Day 4: 5, 18-05 (20, 67-10)
Davis says there’s nothing more he could’ve done this week that would’ve improved his finish. He fished almost flawlessly and was the only competitor to register 16 or more pounds each day. He also moved up to 25th in AOY points.
“I got closer this time and I didn’t lose any fish that cost me,” he said. “I fished to perfection other than one 3 1/2 or 4-pounder yesterday. I weighed in one close to 2 so I would’ve finished 2nd. You’re not going to beat Thrift when he gets going. He’s unbelievable.”
Today was much like Saturday in that he didn’t start catching better quality fish until the afternoon.
“I ran until I hit them and when I hit them I caught them all day,” he said. “Looking at the last two days, about 1 p.m. is when it caught fire for me.”
Clent Davis makes a cast in between the rain drops at Lake Cumberland on Sunday.
His key focus was suspended fish in 20 feet over water over the ends of points. He’d make long casts with a swimbait and tried to keep it in the 5- to 8-foot section of the water column beneath the surface.
“I did as well as I could possibly do,” he said. “That’s the one thing in fishing – you can’t decide if a 2- or 5-pounder bites.”
4th: Bohannan Made Switch to Smallmouth
> Day 4: 5, 16-00 (20, 65-09)
With his first top-5 finish since a runner-up showing at Lake Okeechobee in 2014, Bohannan jumped 39 spots in AOY points to 28th as he continues to recover from a 155th-place finish at Okeechobee in the season opener.
“I’m excited about a top 5, especially after my start at Okeechobee – it puts me back in good shape,” he said. “Cumberland is a fun lake. It’s an Ozark-style lake.”
After catching nearly 19 pounds worth of largemouth in the backs of pockets on Saturday, he had to tweak his game plan today to adjust to the new water flowing into the lake.
“We got a bunch of rain and it blew a lot of those pockets out,” he said. “I caught a small limit doing that and about 11 (o'clock), I scrapped that and went smallmouth fishing. I’m glad I did, but I wish I’d done it earlier.”
Bohannan was 27th after day 1, when he didn’t catch a keeper until noon. He said had he been able to get off to a better start, he might’ve been able to gain some ground on Davis, Boyd and Thrift.
“I started behind the 8-ball,” he said. “I wish I’d gotten keyed in on the shallow stuff in the backs of pockets sooner.”
5th: Good Vibes for Morgan
> Day 4: 5, 14-03 (20, 65-04)
Morgan had not an ounce of regret or disappointment about how his week went. He said it felt good to get back into the swing of catching fish again and building some momentum as the schedule enters the stretch drive.
“The fishing was fun (today), but the weather sucked,” he said. “I was just glad to catch some. Heck, if I’d finished 50th I’d have felt good about it. I got to fish how I like to fish and catch some, so I have no regrets.”
Even though he led after the first two days, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to hold off everybody, including Thrift.
“After leading a couple days, I started to think there’s no way in hell I can pull this out,” he said “It was just too easy. You never really know, though. I was just fishing, but the fishing was too good for everybody.”
Still, he knows he was around the fish to get it done.
“If I land the fish that bite I win, hands down,” he said. “I lost the fish to put me over 70 pounds, but when you’re catching 25 to 40 a day you’re going to lose some.”
He says this was a good tournament to use as a springboard into Smith Lake in a couple weeks.
“I call this a casting contest,” he added. “You can keep the pedal to the floor and make good casts and you will get your chances, especially where I was fishing. You had to lay it in there where it needed to go. I like that. That’s fun.”
> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 10 limits.
1. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 15-9 (5) -- 17-4 (5) -- 32-13 (10) -- 18-11 (5) -- 18-10 (5) -- 70-02 (20) -- $125,200
2. Allen Boyd -- Salem, In -- 16-5 (5) -- 14-8 (5) -- 30-13 (10) -- 19-09 (5) -- 18-02 (5) -- 68-08 (20) -- $30,100
3. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, Al -- 16-2 (5) -- 16-13 (5) -- 32-15 (10) -- 16-06 (5) -- 18-05 (5) -- 67-10 (20) -- $25,000
4. Greg Bohannan -- Bentonville, Ar -- 14-2 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 30-14 (10) -- 18-11 (5) -- 16-00 (5) -- 65-09 (20) -- $20,000
5. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 18-15 (5) -- 15-12 (5) -- 34-11 (10) -- 16-06 (5) -- 14-03 (5) -- 65-04 (20) -- $19,000
6. Chris Johnston -- Peterborough, On -- 11-15 (5) -- 16-8 (5) -- 28-7 (10) -- 17-01 (5) -- 17-09 (5) -- 63-01 (20) -- $18,000
7. Chris McCall -- Palmer, Tx -- 14-14 (5) -- 15-13 (5) -- 30-11 (10) -- 15-04 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 62-11 (20) -- $17,000
8. James Watson -- Lampe, Mo -- 12-7 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 29-3 (10) -- 16-07 (5) -- 16-08 (5) -- 62-02 (20) -- $16,000
9. Darrel Robertson -- Jay, Ok -- 15-15 (5) -- 17-6 (5) -- 33-5 (10) -- 13-13 (5) -- 14-12 (5) -- 61-14 (20) -- $15,000
10. Kerry Milner -- Bono, Ar -- 13-10 (5) -- 17-12 (5) -- 31-6 (10) -- 16-11 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 60-03 (20) -- $14,000