Pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., caught a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win $127,500 at the FLW Tour event presented by National Guard on Lake Norman with a four-day catch of 20-bass weighing 58-5.
The catch gave him his first FLW Tour win by a huge 8-pound, 14-ounce margin over Rusty Salewske of Alpine, Calif., who caught a total of 20 bass weighing 49-7 and earned $38,879.
“This feels really good,” Thrift said. “It’s like I’ve got a big weight lifted off my shoulders. I’ve not been doing this a real long time, but I’ve had several opportunities at a win but I myself have done something wrong to beat myself. To finally pull it off is really nice.”
Thrift said he fished all over Lake Norman and burned almost two tanks of gas each day. He started the final day of competition on the south end of the lake and caught a quick fish on a crankbait and then two keepers on back-to-back casts off a jig on a brushpile.
“I knew then I had three pound-and-a-half fish, and if I could go up the river and get two big bites it would be game over,” Thrift said. “We ran up to a little place and pulled in there and the first one I caught was a big one. I put in the livewell and the very next cast I caught my fifth keeper. This was all before nine o’clock. I was thinking, ‘Hey, this is going to be a good day. We’re going to bust 16 pounds again.’ But after that, I think I had three bites all day long and they were short fish.”
Thrift said the bite was slower Saturday than the first three days of competition, but he stuck with what had gotten him to the final round.
“A big thing here for a pre-spawn deal is, of course, a crankbait and a jig,” Thrift said. “I caught a lot of my bigger fish on a crankbait.
“When I caught that big fish … I was still kind of hesitant because I thought I only had 10 1/2 pounds,” said Thrift. “I didn’t think it was that big, because I just threw it in the livewell. I knew the second-place guy’s going to need 15 (pounds), and the way they were biting today, that’s going to be hard to do.”
Thrift opened the tournament in ninth place Wednesday with five bass weighing 13-1. On Thursday he added another five bass weighing 16-9 to capture the lead. He then caught five bass weighing 16 pounds even Friday to make the crucial top-5 cut in first place.
“I was really only catching big ones in two areas,” Selewske said. “I struggled with which one to go to, but I must have made a decent choice, because on my fifth or sixth cast I caught what I thought was about a 3-pounder. That’s a good start, obviously, and the best part was that he had it choked. You couldn’t even see the crankbait. That’s when you know you’re doing the right thing.”
Salewske said he caught “15 or so” keepers Saturday but had fewer big bites than days two and three. Salewske said he caught the majority of his fish in two creeks in the dirtiest water he could find. Salewske’s go-to bait was a shallow-running shad-colored Lucky Craft crankbait.
“I didn’t catch too many after I reeled it too far,” Salewske said. “Most of them, it was two or three cranks and they ate it.”
The remaining top-5 pros finished the tournament in:
3rd: Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., 20 bass, 49-3, $29,146
4th: Brian Travis, Conover, N.C., 20 bass, 44-5, $19,413
5th: Rusty Trancygier, Hahira, Ga., 17 bass, 43-0, $17,466
A complete list of results can be found at FLWOutdoors.com
Overall there were 22 bass weighing 47 pounds, 10 ounces caught by pros Saturday. The catch included four five-bass limits.
Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, won the Co-angler Division and $20,000 with 14 bass weighing 27-15 followed by Jeff Freeman of Max Meadows, Va., in second place with 14 bass weighing 27-12. Freeman took home a total of $12,222 for his effort.
Thrift and Freeman each won a $2,500 gift card as part of the new Cabela’s Angler Cash program. In 2010, Cabela’s is offering pro and co-anglers the opportunity to register and win a $2,500 gift card for being the highest qualified finisher in each division at all FLW Tour events, making the stakes even higher in an already rich payout.
In FLW Tour competition, anglers and co-anglers are also vying for valuable points that could help them qualify for the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, where they could win up to $600,000 and $60,000 respectively.
The Lake Norman event, hosted by the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau, was the second of FLW Tour 2010 season. The next event will be April 21-24 on Fort Loudoun/Tellico Lakes in Knoxville, Tenn. The event will be hosted by the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation and boats will launch from Tellico Recreational Area Ramp in Lenoir City, Tenn.
The remaining tournaments are scheduled for: May 26-29 Lake Ouachita Hot Springs, Ark. June 23-26 Lake Guntersville Huntsville, Ala. 2010 Forrest Wood Cup Aug. 5-8 Lake Lanier Atlanta, Ga.
Coverage of the Lake Norman tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS. “FLW Outdoors,” will air May 2 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide.
ABOUT FLW OUTDOORS FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world offering anglers worldwide the opportunity to compete for millions over the course of 189 tournaments in 2010. FLW Outdoors has also taken fishing mainstream with FLW Fantasy Fishing awarding the largest prizes in the history of fantasy sports. FLW Outdoors memberships are available featuring numerous benefits including Player’s Advantage. For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing, visit FantasyFishing.com. FLWOutdoors.com