By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Bryan Thrift doesn't evaluate his performance in a given year based on his finish on the Angler of the Year points list. His only measuring stick is the number of dollars that go into his bank account.
By that metric, 2023 was an extremely good campaign – one of the two best in his 17-year pro career. The biggest factor, of course, was his REDCREST Championship victory at Lake Norman – a venue that the North Carolinian knows extremely well.
He added four Top-10 showings in the seven MLF Bass Pro Tour regular-season events and ended up 8th in the final points. Without a couple of narrowly missed cuts prior to the Knockout Round, he would've been right in the AOY mix along with Alton Jones Jr., Ott DeFoe and eventual winner Matt Becker.
Sure, he'd like to add a BPT AOY trophy to the two he captured on the FLW Tour (2010 and 2017) and pocket the six-figure prize, but he doesn't obsess over it.
"I wouldn't say it's a real big goal," he said. "I don't put any thought into it – I just fish like I have for my whole career.
"I don't let that drive me. Maybe if we get down to the last two events and I'm right in it, I'll start thinking about it a little more, but I don't think about it at all coming out of the gate."
His 2023 season got off to a bit of a sluggish start with a 35th at the Kissimmee Chain in Florida. Then, after his triumph at Norman as an overwhelming hometown favorite, he missed the cut (49th) at Cherokee and Douglas Lakes in Tennessee.
He had a good stretch in April and May, posting an 8th at Lake Murray, a 7th in the Heavy Hitters all-star event in Louisiana and a 15th at Lake Guntersville to start his climb up the points list. He just missed another cut at Cayuga Lake in June (43rd), but finished with a 14th at Lake St. Clair and a 9th at Saginaw Bay.
He doesn't beat himself up over the two finishes that were outside the Top 40.
"It seems like I find myself having more and more hiccups every year," he said with a chuckle. "Both of them were just one of those deals where you don't find a lot in practice or you do the wrong thing. You get just enough bites to make you think it could work, but then it ends up being not as strong as you hoped it would be."
The BPT will go back to its original scoring format of counting all legal fish next year after a one-year experiment with the traditional heaviest-five method. He said that doesn't bother him much either, but last year's system was a little easier on his psyche.
"It really doesn't matter to me, but there was less pressure with the five-fish format, for sure," he said. "It wasn't as fast-paced and I wasn't feeling like I needed to catch them right now and all day long. With every-fish-counts, it's gotta be all day long.
"With five fish, if your first two or three stops don't work out, it's okay because you know you've still got most of the day to make it happen. When they all count, if you haven't caught anything at 10:30 and you check the ScoreTracker and 70 pounds is leading, you start to say 'well, I done screwed this one up.'''
As for the 2024 schedule, he likes some of the stops, but he's not looking forward to visiting two tidal rivers – the Chowan in North Carolina and the James in Virginia.
"I'd much rather go to a regular lake where the water doesn't move – I want it to be still," he said. "That's kind of selfish, though; I think it's a good twist to have different types of venues. We've got shallow water, grass, cold weather, pre-spawn, post-spawn, smallmouth and river events.
"Whoever wins the Angler of the Year, it's going to be well-earned."