Thrift clips locals at Big O

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - This time last year, young Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., fished his first Stren Series event as a co-angler on Lake Okeechobee and finished 11th. Then he went to the next Stren Series (formerly EverStart Series) Southeast Division event on Santee Cooper in March and won it. Thrift traveled to the third event of the season at Lake Eufaula and won again, collecting unprecedented back-to-back co-angler wins in the Stren Series. He finished the season with a 69th-place finish at West Point and a second in the Southeast points race; Thrift decided it was time to step up to the pro side in 2006. Today, on the Stren Series stage in the Wal-Mart parking lot, Bryan Thrift, fishing his first event as a pro, found himself locked up squarely between the local Lane brothers - Bobby and Arnie. Arnie Lane had just weighed in an impressive 16 pounds, 14 ounces to take the lead.Pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., wins the Southeast Division Stren Series on Lake Okeechobee with a two-day total of 36-9. Whispers among locals in the crowd indicated that Bobby Lane had a big sack, too. It looked to be a showdown between the Lane brothers. But not before a shy Thrift took the stage and dropped 22 pounds, 7 ounces on the scales, anchored by two giant bass, both in the 8- to 9-pound class. Thrift knocked Arnie off the lead, and then Bobby mounted a crowd-rousing charge with 18 pounds, 9 ounces - but it wasn't enough. Bobby Lane came up just 5 ounces short of his first Stren Series win and Thrift won his third Stren Series title in just five tournaments. For the record, Thrift amassed a two-day total of 36 pounds, 9 ounces for the win. "I must be nervous or cold, because I can't quit shaking," Thrift told the crowd with a trembling voice after he was declared the winner. "I can't believe this is happening." Could the Chatterbait be the next hot item on Lake Okeechobee? HereFor four days, Thrift fished a 3/8-ounce Chatterbait (made by Rad Lures in South Carolina) in various colors in the Moonshine Bay area of Okeechobee. He fished the bait on 30-pound-test braided line. Thrift targeted a mix of hydrilla and reeds with the unique swimming jig that features a bill-like blade in the front, which produces an erratic action. "The best places were where the reed line and hydrilla created a seam," Thrift explained. "There were holes and gaps in the hydrilla where it met the reeds, and that's where all my big bites came from. I'd swim the Chatterbait over the holes, kind of slow-rolling it, ripping it and pausing it over each hole - that's when the big ones would crush it." Thrift also noted that all his big fish came first thing in the morning each day. "The big-fish bite was definitely early," he said. "Last night, I told my friends that if I didn't have a big one by 8:30, it would be over for me." This morning, Thrift did not have a big bite by 8:30. In fact, he didn't have any bites by 8:30. "By nine o' clock, I thought I was toast," he said. "Then I made a little move across the bay and caught both of my big ones within 10 minutes - those were my first two fish." Thrift collected a fully rigged Ranger Boat plus $10,000 for his win. Needless to say, it looks like FLW Outdoors has a new fishing phenom on its hands. Bobby Lane runner-up Thrift's win was Bobby Lane's dagger in the heart. After starting the day with a 2-Bryan Thrift looks on as Bobby Lane mounts his final charge. Lane finished second with a two-day total of 36-4pound lead, Lane had one of those flawless fishing days where everything comes together perfectly and points toward a win. "I thought it was my day, I really did," lamented Lane, who had a two-day total of 36 pounds, 4 ounces. "I'm happy for Bryan - that was an incredible stringer of fish. The frustrating part is not knowing what I could have done different." Lane fished in the Moonshine Bay area and caught most of the fish he weighed on Berkley Bungee Hogs, Sweet Beavers and Gambler B.B. Crickets. He flipped and pitched all the plastics on 20-pound-test Vanish and 65-pound-test SpiderWire with 1 1/2-ounce Tru-Tungsten weights. Lane used a two-pronged approached that involved flipping thick matted vegetation and fishing sparse, isolated cattail clumps. "When I flipped the thick, matted stuff, I used the 1 1/2-ounce weight, SpiderWire and the Crickets and Beavers," he said. "When I fished the isolated clumps, I made casts and long pitches with a lighter 3/8-ounce weight and Bungee Hog on the Vanish Fluorocarbon." Lane collected $10,000 for second place. Arnie Lane third Pro Arnie Lane of Lakeland, Fla., shows off his 8-5 bass. He finished third with a two-day total of 27-15Bobby's brother, Arnie Lane, also of Lakeland, Fla., proved that fishing talent runs in the Lane family. Arnie snuck up through the standings in Bobby's shadow this week and almost put a love-you-like-a-brother whooping on him at the very last minute. His weight of 16 pounds, 14 ounces was anchored by an 8-pound, 5-ounce bass. His two-day total of 27 pounds, 15 ounces put him third, worth $9,000. Arnie also spent the tournament in Moonshine Bay, alternating between flipping thick mats and casting worms to isolated cattail clumps. "I flipped a Gambler Ugly Otter under a 1-ouce Bass Pro XPS Tungsten weight in the mats," he said. "And I cast a 7-inch Gambler ribbon-tail worm to the isolated cattails." "The real key for me was the isolated stuff," he added. "The more isolated a mat or clump of cattails, the better." McMillan battles boat trouble for fourth After hitting a floating log and damaging his outboard motor Friday, Jimmy McMillanPro Jimmy McMillan of Belle Glade, Fla., finished fourth with a two-day total of 25-14. of Belle Glade, Fla., was forced to borrow a boat for today's competition. But McMillan's motor woes were not over as he had motor trouble again today, which cost him a majority of his fishing time. "We only got to fish about two and a half hours today," McMillan said. "I would have liked to try my flipping places for an hour or two today, but given all the motor trouble, I'm happy to have what I caught." Despite the complications, McMillan managed to catch 10 pounds, 4 ounces today for a two-day total of 25 pounds, 14 ounces worth $8,000. McMillan fished in South Bay using a 3/8-ounce Bass Pro Shops XPS rattling lipless crankbait in a gold color. "I was fishing around cattail clumps," he said. "It was basically a reaction bite. I'd cast past a clump and try to rip the bait into the clump to get the fish to react on it." McMillan also extended a personal thanks to fellow competitor and friend Carmen Patti (fifth) who gave McMillan and his co-angler a ride back in today. "Carmen spent a lot of his valuable tournament time helping us out, and I can't thank him enough for that," he added. Patti takes fifth Pro Carmen Patti of Davie, Fla., finished fifth with a two-day total of 20-14Carmen Patti of Davie, Fla., finished fifth with a two-day total of 20 pounds, 14 ounces worth $7,500. Patti also fished the South Bay area with a Bass Pro Shops XPS rattling lipless crankbait around isolated willow bushes and cattails to catch his bass. Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pros in the first Stren Series Southeast event of the season: 6th: Roger Crafton of Boca Grande, Fla., 20-0, $6,500 7th: Rick Ankenbauer of Clearwater, Fla., 19-8. $5,500 8th: Billy Bowen of Ocala, Fla., 15-2, $5,000 9th: Ronald Brown of Mount Pleasant, S.C., 15-0, $4,500 10: Kindle Nelms of Lake City, Fla., 9-1, $4,000

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/news/2015-04-25-morgan-maintains-his-lead

Morgan Maintains His Lead

One of Andy Morgan’s fishing mottos is to make the best of what you have got “in front of you” to survive and fish another day. Beaver Lake doesn’t give much. So when an angler as resourceful as Morgan gets to a lake that doesn’t give out many resources, the two work well together. Instead of worrying about hitting it out of the park or putting immense pressure on himself to come up with a grand winning strategy, Morgan just scraps, scrapes and claws at the ground right in front of him, making the best of what he’s got. Morgan’s performance on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake was a prime example of his “make the best of it” attitude. After burning up the spawning fish he had located in practice during the first two days of the tournament, he was forced to fish by the seat of his pants today – something he thoroughly enjoys. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-beaver-lake-day-3-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-make-way-for-morgan

Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 2

At halftime of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five reads like a who’s who of Beaver Lake. Leader Andy Morgan is a former Beaver Lake champion. Behind him, Darrel Robertson has been very close to winning here with a runner-up finish in 2005. In third is 2014 Beaver Lake champion Matt Arey. Bryan Thrift, in fourth, has never won on Beaver Lake, but has led here before. And finally, fifth-place pro Stetson Blaylock knows his way around this lake pretty well, too, with a couple of top 10s. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-heckman-heads-up-tbf-championship-field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-beaver-lake-day-2-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-wheeler-with-a-slim-lead

Wheeler with a Slim Lead

Jacob Wheeler has a plan to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake this week. That plan involves primarily the largemouth species, a target weight of 14 pounds per day and a lot of fish management. Today, Wheeler surpassed his target by nearly 2 pounds with a 15-pound, 14-ounce catch that puts him in the driver’s seat at Beaver Lake, in the lead by just a scant 5 ounces over second-place pro Bryan Thrift. “Largemouths are the way to win here at Beaver Lake,” Wheeler says. “They are the fish to go the distance here, and that’s what I’m focusing on.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 1

Though there were plenty of fish caught off beds at Beaver Lake on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five is rounded out by a group of anglers who relied on sight-fishing very little. Opinions on where exactly bass are in the spawning cycle at Beaver Lake vary greatly from angler to angler, but a few common denominators did come to light on day one. For starters, most agree that one major spawning cycle has already occurred. Plenty of empty beds and a lot of gaunt, postspawn fish at the scale were evidence of that. Second, there are still some bass (of all species) trying to spawn, but the ones left on beds are extremely wary. Finally, the order of difficulty to catch each species ranks as follows: smallmouth bass – extremely easy; spotted bass – not as easy; largemouth bass – extremely difficult. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-griffith-grabs-tbf-lead-

Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-beaver-lake-day-1-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-tbf-championship-tips-off

TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-top-10-baits-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Baits from Lake Murray

Competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship mostly targeted bass feeding on spawning blueback herring on shallow points and main-lake pockets. Across the board, herring-imitating baits such as soft jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwaters, wake baits and umbrella rigs dominated the event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-jig-bite-carries-holmes-on-wateree

Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree

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/news/2015-04-20-bryan-slows-down-for-chickamauga-win

Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

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/news/2015-04-20-morfis-dominates-with-34-pound-limit

Morfis Dominates With 34-Pound Limit

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Joshua Morfis of Cape Coral, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 34 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Morfis earned $6,336. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-salzman-cracks-31-pounds-on-guntersville

Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

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/news/2015-04-20-lanter-wins-on-rend-lake

Lanter Wins on Rend Lake

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/news/2015-04-19-top-10-patterns-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Murray

As contestants in the FLW College Fishing National Championship on Lake Murray discovered last week, fishing the blueback herring spawn can be backbreaking work. All that stooping over to grab a different rig to cast at bass busting their favorite forage, and then quickly straightening, is hard on the old spinal column. Flexing up and down is what it took to contend in the championship, however, as bass couldn’t make up their minds whether they wanted their grub served on the surface or closer to the bottom. Typically, the collegians were fan-casting Carolina rigs, umbrella rigs, hard jerkbaits and even crankbaits to likely looking points and broad flats. Sometimes they caught fish with such random prospecting, but perhaps more bass were taken when anglers found themselves within casting distance of blowups and were quick enough to grab a soft jerkbait rig or topwater lure and virtually spoon-feed it to the fish. READ MORE »