August 17, 2013 by Brett Carlson
SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. - Thanks to a late-day kicker, Bryan Thrift and Randall Tharp swapped places at the top of the standings at the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup. Instead of Tharp leading by 4 ounces, Thrift sits perched at the top by the same margin with one day remaining on the Red River.
Coming in to the year-end championship, Thrift stated that he hated river systems and was apprehensive about his chances to succeed. But if he catches a good stringer tomorrow, he'll have $500,000 reasons to change his mind.
"It's still anybody's game," said Thrift, who officially weighed 9 pounds, 15 ounces Saturday. "Somebody in sixth or seventh could go out tomorrow and try something off the wall and catch 18 pounds like Randall and I did on the first day and win this thing. The river is capable of producing those type of weights, so I really don't believe that anybody is out of this."
Thrift said that despite taking the lead, most of the day was a struggle. He estimated that he caught only eight or nine keepers throughout the day, and four were barely over the 12-inch minimum length requirement.
"I tried to find places in practice where I could get multiple bites, but they're slowly fading away. The places where I was getting three or four bites each day are now only getting me one, sometimes none. Today I fished around 40 to 50 different places. I've been fishing wood, pads, rocks - anything that looks good. I've been up to the train trestle in Shreveport and I've been down as far as Pool 4. I'm just putting the trolling motor down and covering water."
While it's true that Thrift is running and gunning, he's also fishing incredibly slow at times. He spends nearly three hours of the day on his one big-fish spot, a point located in a backwater. Thrift puts the boat in 16 feet of water and throws up into 2 feet. Today, he visited it three times and his one quality bite came at 3:20 in the afternoon. That spot has produced four kickers this week and all have bit an 1/8-ounce Evercast Lures shaky head rigged with a 6 1/2-inch Damiki Finesse Miki. Occasionally, Thrift will also mix in a Trick Worm or a ChatterBait (Fluke trailer). Four of his weigh fish came from Pool 5, the other, a 2-pounder from Pool 4.
"I was only down there for 25 minutes. I caught that one and came right back up."
While he's sure to go back down tomorrow, he had completed running to Pool 3 earlier in the week. But that's too big of a risk now.
"Tomorrow I'm going to do the same deal. If it's not working, I'll do something else. I'm not going to get stale in my approach and go down dying with one thing. If I'm not getting bit, I'll change it up and try to make them bite something else. I think I'm most likely going to have to run some new water."
Tharp confident in second
Two years ago, Tharp got a taste of what it felt like to contend for a Forrest Wood Cup. He thinks he now knows what it takes to win one.
"Things got a little more clear for me today," said the EverStart pro. "I know exactly what I need to do win to this tournament and I know exactly where I'm going."
While Tharp weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces, he failed to capitalize on three "giant bites" this afternoon. That his him convinced he's on the right fish to win. To catch those fish, he throws a number of baits - from a swim jig to a squarebill crankbait to a frog. He also spends a good portion of the day flipping. Nearly all of Tharp's time is spent in Pool 5 backwater areas. Ironically, he started the tournament with the intention of fishing an area called the White House, south of the launch in Pool 5. But Larry Nixon was already on it.
While Tharp is confident in himself, he respects the talent and ability of Thrift and the others in contention.
"Four ounces? That's awful close - and Larry and Jacob aren't far behind either. Whoever goes out and catches a big bag is going to win this deal."
Tharp believes this tournament is going to be won in the backwaters and that looks closer and closer to a truth with each passing day.
"One of the guys I've been sharing my best water with got cut today so now I have it all to myself. I'm keeping it real simple. I'm rotating between two areas the whole day on Sunday. I'm still catching my biggest bass in the hottest part of the day."
Nixon still third
General Nixon sits in third place for the third consecutive day, but instead of gaining ground on the leaders like yesterday, he lost a bit as he weighed only 8 pounds, 5 ounces. Nixon started on his big-fish area, the same area that has delivered 4-pounders on each of the first two days, but caught nothing except drum.
"Boy, what a struggle," he said. "You don't how hard I worked for those five little fish. The boat traffic killed me today, because it made everything from the bank to 15 feet out really dirty. What I was looking for today was a very flat bank with a little undercut with the right kind of grass."
Nixon left the big fish spot, a shallow milfoil bed, at 10 a.m. From there, he put a flipping stick in his hand with a little Yamamoto bait and just grinded out what he could in Pool 5.
With a total weight of 35 pounds, 14 ounces, Nixon is still in contention for an overdue Forrest Wood Cup win.
Wheeler soars to fourth
After catching a measly 7 pounds, 4 ounces on day one, Jacob Wheeler's chances of repeating as Forrest Wood Cup champion looked bleak to say the least. But yesterday he snuck into the top 20 with a comeback sack of 13 pounds, 7 ounces.
Today, he rode a strong frog bite to a 14-pound, 4-ounce stringer, by far the heaviest of the day. He'll enter the final day with 34 pounds, 15 ounces and a deficit of just over 4 pounds.
"I started the day flipping a Trigger X Goo Bug in the main river," said Wheeler. "At about noon I switched up to the backwaters and put the frog in my hand."
The frog ended up culling three fish. Although they didn't make it to weigh-in today, Wheeler also caught several fish drop-shotting a Probe Worm around channel cuts. The Indiana pro started the tournament fishing backwaters, but was forced to the main river when the water temperature dropped 10 degrees or more in some of his areas. Now that the weather has stabilized, those backwaters are getting more and more productive.
"I need 17 pounds to win tomorrow, maybe 15 pounds realistically. If I can get a giant bite it's possible and they are back there. I'm excited to have a chance to be the first two-time Cup champion. I feel good about my chances now."
With his weights increasing each day, Wheeler will be one to watch - particularly around 1 p.m., the time his frog bite peaks.
Rose retains fifth
For the third consecutive day, Mark Rose holds down fifth place, even though his 9-pound, 9-ounce stringer was his lightest yet of the week. Rose made a quick stop at his primary area at the mouth of Port Lake and the main river channel, but as he suspected that area was milked dry.
He then completely scrapped his plan and ran towards the White House. Instead of fishing in it with Nixon and Matt Arey, Rose cranked a shallow flat on the outside. He had been contemplating the move for some time as the Walmart pro believes the water clarity is slowly improving. After he left the White House he fished other similar areas, all in Pool 5.
"I caught a 3-pounder late in the day that really saved me," said Rose, who finished second at the 2011 FLW Tour qualifier on the Red. "I have a lot of anticipation for tomorrow; I still don't think I'm out of it. I've said all along 12 pounds a day would win this thing so I need 15 pounds tomorrow."
Earlier in the week when he fished close he flipped with the new 1/2-ounce Strike King Structure Jig and used a shaky head with a Fat Baby Finesse Worm. He also occasionally mixed in the Strike King Series 3 crankbait.
Rose's total weight sits at 34 pounds, 6 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Forrest Wood Cup after day three:
6th: Robbie Dodson of Harrison, Ark., 33-5
7th: Kerry Milner of Bono, Ark., 32-13
8th: Troy Morrow of Eastanollee, Ga., 32-7
9th: Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., 32-4
10th: Michael Neal of Dayton, Tenn., 32-4
The final takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. Central time from Red River South Marina located at 250 Red River South Marina Road in Bossier City, La.
As a proud sponsor of FLW, Walmart offers one of the most comprehensive selections of fishing tackle and equipment in the industry. To find great deals on Walmart's entire collection of rods, reels, baits and electronics, click here.