March 26, 2010 by Gary Mortenson
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Heading into the Lake Norman event, most pros predicted that it would take approximately 12 pounds a day to walk away with the tournament title. However, after the third day of competition, it appears that those initial assessments were woefully inaccurate as Bryan Thrift continues to turn in a performance for the ages. By the end of day-three weigh-in, Thrift had recorded a staggering 45-pound, 10-ounce total - arguably one of the greatest three-day tournament fishing efforts ever turned in on Lake Norman. And what's more frightening for his opponents is that he's not showing any signs of slowing down. "I've done everything I expected it would take to win this tournament but (Thrift) is really running away with this right now," said FLW Tour pro Andy Montgomery, who currently sits in third place with a 38-pound, 15-ounce total catch heading into the final day of competition. "It's absolutely amazing to me that having a 13-pound average isn't enough to win on this lake. Bryan's averaging more than 15 pounds a day right now. And that's just unheard of on this lake." Thrift says that even he's amazed by his dominating performance to date. "I honestly didn't think that it was even possible to have a 15-pound average on this lake," Thrift said. "I thought I could come in here and catch 9 pounds a day and was hoping to catch 12. But to do what I've done for three days is just ridiculous. One day this is going to end and I won't do as well. But hopefully it's not tomorrow." Like most of the field, Thrift said he's primarily targeting boat docks. However, the difference seems to be Thrift's intimate knowledge of the lake as well as his flawless execution. "I just keep fishing the high-percentage areas where I've caught big fish in the past," said Thrift, who hails from Shelby, N.C. "I'm targeting docks, brush piles and rocky banks. And I'm using shallow running crankbaits and 1/2-ounce jigs - but most of my bigger fish are coming on crankbaits. Everything is going really well for me right now. So far, I have missed a fish this entire tournament." Thrift said he was also pleased that Montgomery, his long-time friend and fishing partner, managed to make the top-five cut as well. "Andy and I have been friends for 10 years. We've spent so many hours on the lake together," said Thrift. "I'm glad to see that it's finally starting to pay off for us." With $125,000 on the line for first-place, Thrift acknowledged that it was finally starting to sink in that he had a real chance at capturing his very first FLW Tour title. "When I caught my last fish today, I kind of started getting nervous for the first time," he said. "But I don't want to get too excited because this lake can humble you in a hurry." Trancygier maintains grip on second place Rusty Trancygier of Hahira, Ga., used a three-day catch of 40 pounds, 8 ounces to qualify for today's top-five cut in second place. However, despite his stellar three-day outing, he knows that he's going to have to turn it up a notch to catch Thrift in the finals. "I caught three fish in the first 20 minutes and a ton of keepers today," said Trancygier. "But I kept pounding my area all day because I knew that (Thrift) would catch them and I wanted to stay as close as I could. Overall it was a great day. It went exactly as I had planned, but I just couldn't ever get that big bite." Trancygier said that's he's targeting backwater pockets and coves with a combination of Lucky Craft crankbaits and Mann's Baby 1-minus spinnerbaits. As for his prime fishing locations, he said that he's relying specifically on one productive area that he's known about for quite some time. "I fished this spot a few years ago and it worked out well," he said. "There are a lot of fish there and I know I can catch them. I'm going to do the same thing tomorrow - at this point, it's the only thing I got going." Montgomery ends day in third place Although Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C., knows he has an uphill road to the title after qualifying for the Lake Norman finals in third place, he said he is still enjoying every minute of the tournament. "Bryan and I have been fishing together for 10 years and we've probably spent 150 days on this lake fishing together as well," said Montgomery. "So it's pretty neat to go into the finals in first and third place. "Bryan knows every part of this lake that I know and I know exactly what he knows," Montgomery continued. "We're both fishing boat docks but he's fishing more of a pattern right now. It's just amazing what he's doing. I think right now the rest of us are basically fishing for second place." Montgomery said that his daily strategy includes fishing pole docks for spotted bass in the morning. Then later, when he nails down a limit, Montgomery then targets float docks to augment his sack with kicker largemouth bass. "I caught five largemouth bass the first day but only two on days two and three and that's the difference between bringing back a 12-pound stringer and a 14-pound stringer," said Montgomery. Montgomery said he continues to attack the lake fishing a 1/2-ounce Shooter Lures jig. Best of the rest Rusty Salewske of Alpine, Calif., qualified for the Lake Norman finals in fourth place, with a total catch of 36 pounds, 3 ounces. Meanwhile, Brian Travis of Conover, N.C., gained the fifth and last qualifying spot in the finals with a total three-day catch weighing 35 pounds, 6 ounces. Day four of FLW Tour Pro Division competition on Lake Norman resumes during tomorrow's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:15 a.m. at Blythe Landing, located at 15901 N.C. Highway 71 in Cornelius, N.C.