By Todd Ceisner
Andy Morgan has witnessed a lot over his 20-plus years as a professional angler. He’s seen sponsors come and go, prize purses swell and shrink, interest in the sport ebb and flow.
He’s accomplished plenty as well, but the three-time FLW Tour Angler of the Year who has more Forrest Wood Cup appearances than anyone can’t recall another angler being on a run similar to the one Bryan Thrift is on right now.
On his drive home Sunday night after finishing 5th at the Lake Cumberland FLW Tour, an event he led the first two days, Morgan said it’s time BassFans begin to truly appreciate the level at which Thrift is performing because he’s not sure when it’ll happen again.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Morgan said. “I’ve never seen anybody as dominant. (Kevin) VanDam and Skeet (Reese) went on unbelievable rolls back in the day, but that was back when swimbaits came out and Senkos and all that stuff was new. There is nothing new now and Thrift is still putting it together, sometimes hodgepodge, and he wins.”
Thrift’s win at Cumberland is the latest turn in a blistering run that goes back to 2012 when he captured the Toyota Texas Bass Classic at Lake Conroe. By then, he’d already posted two FLW Tour victories and won an AOY title, but in the years since he’s elevated his game to a higher level.
In 36 Tour events since the start of 2013, he’s won four times and his average finish is 28th with 20 day-2 cuts made and 10 top-5s. When he misses, it’s not by much either. He has missed the money cut just seven times over the same span.
“Look at what he’s won over the last five years – holy (expletive),” Morgan said. “Even when he misses, he still makes the top 10.”
Over the same span, Morgan has missed the money just five times and has 22 day-2 cuts to his credit. He has eight top-5 finishes, but no wins and no top-10 finishes in the Cup.
What’s been just as impressive to Morgan is the variety of ways Thrift has won tournaments. Last week, it was with a pre-spawn finesse swimbait presentation amidst falling water. He’s won events junk-fishing as well. He rarely gets pigeon-holed as a specialist with one technique or another.
“I was talking to Ramie (Colson) about how many different ways he’s won – it’s always different,” Morgan said. “He’s unbelievable and he’s a friend of mine. I’ve watched him a lot. He’s good at everything. He has no weaknesses.
“I’ve said it for a long time, but nobody realizes how good he is. His track record for the last 4 or 5 years it’s hard to not put him at No. 1. Bryan is such a cool cat and he’s in it for the long haul. He’s a tackle junkie and when you talk about the full-time fisherman, he’s had all the good characteristics for a long time.”
In nine of the last 10 seasons, Thrift has finished amongst the top 10 in AOY points and is the points leader after four events this season.
He also shines in the biggest events. In 11 career Cup appearances, he’s finished outside the top 15 just once and has logged a top-10 result in the last six in a row. He won the TTBC in 2012 and was 2nd in 2016 at Ray Roberts, the last time the event pitted the best of the Elite Series against the best of the FLW Tour.
The only gap on his resume, it seems, is a Cup victory. That would surely cement his place as one of the top competitors of this era, but he says it’s not something he worries about.
“Obviously, yeah, I want to win the Cup, but I don’t dwell on it,” Thrift said. “It seems like you more dwell on it the harder it is to obtain. It has to appear out of nowhere – like a surprise.”