October 14, 2013 by Bryan Thrift
I know a lot of the more popular fishing blogs out there try and use controversy to get more views. Well, since this is my blog and we're doing things my way, we're not going that route. I'm going to shoot you straight and say what's on my mind. If that's appealing to you check back around the middle of each month for a new blog.
I just finished the 2013 tournament season and overall I'm pretty pleased with how it went. I've fished ever since I was a young boy and I love it as much now as I did back then. But my mentality has changed since fishing is how I provide for my family. From that financial perspective, 2013 was a good year; I can't complain. I've been fortunate enough to make a living professionally now for seven years.
I came close to winning the Forrest Wood Cup again this year, but I honestly didn't feel like I had found enough fish. Finishing third is not eating me up - especially since Randall went out and caught a big bag the final day. When I took third last year at Lanier I was probably on a stronger pattern and I didn't execute like I should have. As long as I can get a top-10 and make a big chunk of money at the end of the year I'm happy with it.
Looking back to day four, I simply ran out of fish. I kind of knew my best spot was running dry but I was too chicken to leave. If I could do it all over, I would have ran down to Pool 3. I had a good spot there - it was another little brush pile on a break. I'm not going to say it was enough to beat Randall but it was probably a better idea than beating a dead horse. If Randall would have caught only 9 or 10 pounds I would really be kicking myself. The bottom line is that it's hard to do well in a tournament when you're banking on just one spot.
Most of the top finishers were frog fishing in the pads. I love frog fishing, but I didn't do hardly any of it during this year's Cup. This may sound strange, but I've got this bad mental problem where I try and figure out what everyone else is going to do and then I try and do the complete opposite. If everyone else is sight-fishing, I'm going to try at least a dozen things before I sight-fish. At the Cup, I probably threw a frog for a total of 30 minutes in three days of practice. I've always been like this too. If everyone is fishing the same way, it's hard to separate yourself and I believe I'm better off looking for something that no one else is looking for. Sometimes it works and sometimes I get burned.
That's essentially what happened at the Cup. I love to fish fast and cover water, but that brush pile I found in Caspiana was loaded with big ones and they would only eat a shaky head. The first day I threw up on the drop and then worked the bait down towards the pile. But eventually I learned that the fish were biting on the initial fall. In fact, I never caught a big one while I was working the bait. I was using a 6 1/2-inch Finesse Miki on the shaky head. I like it because it has a big, cupped tail. Once the shaky head makes contact with the bottom it sticks straight up and has a lot of natural action. The plastic is so soft that the bait almost moves on its own. I'd fire right in there and they'd immediately swim off with it. I'd make the same cast 50 times and on the 51st time the bass would bite as soon as the shaky head hit the bottom. That was a neat deal. It goes to show that you never know what fish are going to do; I don't care who you are.
In mid-September, I had the chance to fish Clear Lake out in California as my tackle sponsor Damiki was doing their annual photoshoot. While I love fishing in the Carolinas, Clear Lake is just awesome. When you get a bite back home, you're hoping for a 3- or 4-pounder. When you get a bite on Clear Lake, you're hoping for a 6- or 7-pounder. The fishing is just incredible and the scenery is pretty cool too. I've never been anywhere like it. It's just full of 4- to 6-pounders. Everyone talks about how much pressure there is now on the California lakes, but I only saw like six boats all week.
I probably caught 40 or 50 bass a day for six straight days and 15 or 20 of those were over 5 pounds. The main goal of the shoot was to get some footage of the new Air Frog. But we caught them on everything - from the Mamba jig to the Rambler 120. Still, I was most impressed with the Air Frog. I saw this bait during the development stages and then again at ICAST in July. Now that everything is complete, I'm happy to say the bait performed with every expectation we had. It runs true and you can skip it like you wouldn't believe. There really isn't anything on the market like it.
After the photoshoot I fished the TTBC on Lake Conroe in Texas. It was a fun tournament and I took 10th. I caught a lot of fish on Damiki's new squarebill crankbait - the Brute 70. I threw it some at the Red River but I never really got a crankbait bite going. At Conroe I cranked brush in 4 to 6 feet of water and the bait really excelled. So I'm excited about that for next year.
Now that the season is over I've got about three months of downtime at the house. I'll fish some local stuff and spend a lot of time with my wife Allison and son Wylie. I'll also spend a lot of time at The Great Outdoors in Cherryville, N.C. The Great Outdoors is a local hunting and tackle shop that specializes in custom, homemade stuff. I've got nothing against the big-box stores, but the people at The Great Outdoors are cool and they've got a real good supply of hard-to-get Japanese tackle. I'll probably spend a couple days a week helping them out.
I hate not having major tournaments in the fall - but I'm not the one making the schedule. After a couple weeks off I get the itch to go fishing again. I can't help it, that's just who I am.