Bryan Thrift described the third day of the Forrest Wood Cup as a grind. Bringing 10 pounds and 3 ounces of Red River bass to the scales, Bryan climbed 4 ounce above Randall Tharp who had lead the first two days. When Bryan was asked how it felt to take the lead, “It feels awesome, I’d rather be in the lead than be in second. I don’t care if it’s by one ounce or four ounces.”
Brian Thrift’s go to baits, a 1/8 ounce shakey head with a Damiki Finesse Miki, a zoom trick worm and a Zman Chatterbait with a fluke trailer, have produced just over 13 pounds a day. Bryan was asked how he planned to win the tournament, he gracefully replied, “I’m going to fish as hard as I can, catch everything that bites and see how it shakes down. I’m not going to change the way I’ve approached this tournament. It doesn’t matter if I have a one ounce lead or a ten pound lead; I’m not going to change what I’m doing.”
Bryan described his game plan coming into this tournament, “My goal in practice was to find places that I could get as many bites as I could in a day; I’d rather play the numbers game instead of fishing for two or three big bites.” Bryan followed up with, “It has been working well, but places that I was getting several bites, I am only getting one or two bites now. I’m going to have to try and run some new water tomorrow to try and keep pace with Randall.”
Jacob Wheeler has made a hard charge and has made the biggest jumps in the leader board. While Bryan’s and Randall’s weights are dropping each day, Jacob’s are climbing. Bryan talked some about who his competition was for the final day of the tournament, “You never know; if you get two good bites anyone can win. It’s anyone’s game tomorrow; the river is capable of producing heavy stingers.” Bryan was very honest as he continued, “Somebody in sixth or seventh could do something off the wall and catch a couple big fish and win this thing.”
After the second day’s weigh-in, Bryan mentioned that he was considering a long run to Pool 3, “… I’m going to have to catch a big stringer if I want to win.” I could tell he was really concerned about making such a bold move. Now that he had taken the lead, I asked him if Pool 3 was still a consideration to put this tournament away. Responding with insight on his time/risk management thinking, “Pool three is out now; it’s too big of a risk to go down there with the lead. If I was a couple pounds back I might go down to Pool 3. But with the lead, I’m not going to risk those fish not biting. I just don’t have time to make adjustments.”
Bryan how are you going to win this tournament? He humbly replied, “I’m going to have to get five quality bites tomorrow. I’ve weighed three bass over 4 pounds and they have all come on the Damiki Finesse Miki, I may have to stick to the finesse.” Bryan went on to tell us, “I’m catching my big fish on a little point in a back water area. But, I catch most of my fish by putting the trolling more down and covering water. I hit a bunch of places today and I’m going to do that tomorrow; I’m not going to die on one thing.” Bryan told reporters that rocks, pads, and wood have all produced keeper bass for him. Catching bass means covering as much water as he can in the time he has. An elated Bryan said, “I fished between 40-50 locations and even locked into Pool 4 for 30 minutes, heck, I even fished as far north as the train trestle in Shreveport. It was hard but it got me the lead.”
I asked Bryan if he would spend more time in the area that he is catching his big bass each day, he replied, “Day one I fished it once, yesterday I fished it twice, today I hit it three different times and it didn’t produce a bass until 3:20 P.M. That was my biggest fish of the day though. It’s hard to consume 3-4 hours for one bite. I’m going to start there. If I can catch two good fish first thing, then go catch 3 twelve inchers, I’ll go sit on that spot and try to cull to a winning stringer.”
The weights for the top ten are very close. While Bryan and Randall still maintain a strong lead, it’s not big enough. A five pound kicker bass in someone’s limit could win it all. If Jacob Wheeler continues to dial in his strategy and continue to improve his daily weight, he is definitely within striking distance of the top three. By no means can you count Randall Tharp or Larry Nixon out of this tournament. Both Larry and Randall weights dropped today and both complained about boat traffic muddying water and changing patterns. Tomorrow is truly anyone’s tournament to win or lose. With the three leaders against the wall in a tight race, they might get surprised by an angler that claws his way to a heavy limit on the last day.
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