UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Smoke on the water

Thrift pitched a jig to a dock and connected.

Here goes round No. 2 of my blog. Things are relatively quiet around the house as we enjoy the holidays. We had a good Halloween. I didn't dress up, but my son Wylie was a sushi roll and my wife Allison was what she called a "hot mess" where she wore a bunch of strangely mismatched clothes. Her costume was more of a last-minute deal, but she put a lot of effort into Wylie's sushi roll. She planned to save a bunch of money and make it herself, but after several trips to Walmart I don't think that happened. The costume turned out great though; Allison is really good at stuff like that.

Wylie Thrift sporting his Halloween costume. As a family, we're pretty traditional with our fall festivities. There's a pumpkin farm a couple miles up the road. We took Wylie there, went on a hay ride and picked out a few keeper pumpkins. On Halloween, we drove Wylie to the grandparents' house. They enjoyed seeing Wylie in his costume and he got to trick or treat at a few of the houses. Then we went to a few of the houses in our own neighborhood.

A friend of mine has a Halloween tradition where he has a campfire and cooks a stew in this big, cast-iron pot. We throw whatever we have sitting around in the kitchen in there, roast some marshmallows and have a big time. We also let Wylie hand out some candy to the other kids in the neighborhood. I think he had more fun seeing the other kids than getting the candy himself. Halloween was fun but now let's talk fishing.

Everyone is talking about Randall Tharp right now and rightfully so, he's an awesome angler. As I said in the last blog, I'm glad he went out and caught a big bag on the final day of the Forrest Wood Cup or I would be having some major regrets. Anyway, a few people have pointed out to me how different Randall and I are. Randall is a guy that is pretty outspoken with his confidence and I'm pretty reserved.

I get a lot of grief for this, but I rarely have a strong practice. That's the truth too. There are lots of tournaments where I really don't know what's going to happen. A prime example would be Eufaula this year. Before the tournament started, I knew what I was going to do and I knew I was only going to get a few bites doing it. It could have been an absolute bomb or a great tournament. It ended up being a great tournament, but on that third day I only got four bites, so you can see how fragile that pattern was.

It's hard for me to go out there and say I'm going to catch this or that many pounds because there are just too many variables in bass fishing. If that attitude works for you as a fisherman, then by all means go for it. It obviously works for Randall. But that's not me. As soon as I would say something like that it would come back and bite me in the rear.
Chevy team pro Bryan Thrift shows off his catch. Thrift heads into the finals on Grand Lake in sixth place.
I've had plenty of tournaments where I thought I was going to do well, but didn't. One that sticks out in my mind was an Okeechobee EverStart several years ago. Two days before the tournament started I found this giant wad of fish on bed. I literally thought I was going to catch like 30 pounds the first day of the tournament. I was going crazy I was so excited. So I finally get there and all the big girls had vacated. The only fish left were 12-inchers. As you can imagine, it was frustrating and disappointing.

My first couple years on tour I was kind of a feast or famine fisherman; I was either way up near the top or near the bottom. Then I kind of learned how to practice and this gets back to what I was talking about before - having "bad" practices. Now, just as soon as I figure something out, I stop and go find something else. I think in a four-day tournament you have to fish with the mentality that something out there is better. You've always got to be looking for stronger patterns and bigger fish.

I'm told I have a little reputation as a sandbagger, OK maybe a big reputation. I think I do it because I'm naturally paranoid. Let's say I catch a 5-pounder early in the morning. But as I'm thinking about it throughout the day, I convince myself that it was probably 4 pounds or maybe even 3 1/2. By the time we bag our fish and walk up to weigh in, that fish only weighs 3 pounds in mind. It's like I play mental games with myself - doubting I really have what I need. Maybe it makes me fish harder, I don't know.

I have started weighing some fish. But usually the only time I put them on the scale is in a culling situation. So that has taken some of the guesswork out of it. Still, I'd rather be guessing on the low side than on the high side.

Bryan Thrift works an area over hard looking for another quality bite.My mind has already started thinking about next year. In addition to travel reservations and that kind of planning, I've started to think about the lakes. The first one of the year is on Okeechobee, a place that's special to me because that's where it all started. I won an EverStart there back in 2006. I had won a few EverStarts before that as a co-angler, but that first pro win was huge. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a full-time pro. I was right out of college and that kind of got me a little more financially secure.

I can't get too sentimental though. I mainly view it as a good place to fish - you know there's the potential to catch a 10-pounder. For me, Okeechobee has been a feast or famine type lake where I've either done really good or really bad. The last couple years I've been fortunate enough to find that little 100-yard stretch where the bigger fish are at. It kind of suits me in that I like to run around and look at the whole lake to find where those bigger fish are hiding.

Just the thought of a 10-pounder right now is enticing, but practice itself at Okeechobee is grueling. It sounds strange to say it because we're fishing, but practice at Okeechobee is awful. I compare it to a ledge-fishing tournament, except you can't idle. You've got to fish your way through all these spots. It's hours and hours of monotonous casting.

I will say I'm excited about trying a new prototype swimbait from Damiki. They already have the 4-inch Anchovy Shad, which is great on rigs, but they're tinkering with a new 6-inch Anchovy Shad. I should have my hands on it by the time Okeechobee rolls around. The Air Frog will be fun to experiment with too. Damiki plastics are so soft you can wind the Air Frog slowly and the tails still kick like crazy. At Okeechobee, these fish a lot of times will wake behind your bait. So naturally you stop it to try and get the fish to commit. But just about every buzzing bait out there sinks when you stop it. The Air Frog stays up and floats like a pontoon - allowing them to get it better. So I'm pretty excited about that and hoping it can be a difference maker.

Overall, the whole deal at Okeechobee is those big bites and sometimes they come when you least expect them. That's where a lot of people miss out. They're just going through the motions. You've got to have the mental focus to make yourself slow down and get the right bites. If you're not focused, you won't get that big fish out of the grass; they're too strong, too mean and there's just too much cover.

Tags: bryan-thrift  blog 

/tips/2016-07-23-1000-islands-day-3-midday-update

1000 Islands Day 3 Midday Update

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-22-1000-islands-midday-update-day-2

1000 Islands Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands got started on a slightly different note this morning when FLW’s tournament directors declared Lake Ontario off limits due to hazardous conditions. The change threw a few of the top pros off their primary plans, but regardless the 137-boat field will be cut down to the top 10 after today, so adjustments need to be made in order to qualify to fish the weekend. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-19-flw-podcast-126-icast

FLW Podcast 126 - ICAST

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-14-2017-walmart-flw-tour-schedule

2017 Walmart FLW Tour Schedule

In what has become an annual tradition at FLW, the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour schedule was announced at a press conference and industry gathering held Thursday on the show floor at ICAST in Orlando, Fla. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-12-si-se-puede-yes-we-can

Si Se Puede ... Yes We Can

Mexico’s Lake Zimapan is different in many ways from the lakes to the north such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and California’s Clear Lake, but one element it has in common with those famous fisheries is big bass. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-5-rookie-lessons-learned

5 Rookie Lessons Learned

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-flw-podcast-125-scott-martin

FLW Podcast 125 - Scott Martin

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-review-lew-s-custom-speed-stick-lite

Review: Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Lite

Recently I had the opportunity to try one model in particular – the 7-foot, 4-inch Magnum Pitchin’ rod. After fishing with it several times, I’ve concluded that it performs as advertised, is sensitive and lightweight, and is well worth the money. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-reunited-and-it-feels-so-good

Reunited, and it Feels so Good

This year I really had a reunion with finesse fishing. Most of my better tournaments came from fishing some type of finesse presentation. Finesse tactics seemed to always give me a certain confidence about the day. While finesse tactics are nothing new to the game of bass fishing, this year I regained the confidence and joy of catching bass on smaller offerings. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-2016-icast-preview

2016 ICAST Preview

The doors to ICAST don’t open until next week, when everyone gets out on the showroom floor in Orlando, Fla., but there are already plenty of snippets of information available. FLW’s media crew will be there in full force to bring you coverage of the hottest new products, as well as the annual New Product Showcase awards. For now, take a gander at some of the early birds. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-07-flw-canada-kicks-off-at-tri-lakes

FLW Canada Kicks Off at Tri-Lakes

Among these Canadian all-stars was the eventual winning team of Chris Vandermeer of Peterborough and Jeff Slute of Millbrook. Capitalizing on a strong day one shallow-water smallmouth pattern, the duo took advantage of the slick-calm conditions using a silver-hued topwater popping plug to agitate the lake’s bronzebacks into attack. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-tour-pro-cooksey-recovering-after-accident

FLW Tour Pro Cooksey Recovering After Accident

Walmart FLW Tour sophomore Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Ky., is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee following a single-car accident that took place Wednesday afternoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-podcast-124-jeremy-lawyer

FLW Podcast 124 - Jeremy Lawyer

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-29-stetson-blaylock-s-recipe-for-a-wacky-rig

Stetson Blaylock’s Recipe for a Wacky Rig

From March until the end of the fishing season I’m going to have a wacky rig on deck. It’s a really effective way to fish anytime the fishing is tough, or if the fish are up cruising banks. Anytime fish are about 5 feet deep or less, I can catch them on the wacky rig. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-28-morgan-claims-third-flw-tour-angler-of-the-year-title

Morgan Claims third FLW Tour Angler of the Year Title

MINNEAPOLIS – Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, added to his incredible fishing resume by winning his third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title Saturday at the FLW Tour's final 2016 regular-season event on Lake Champlain.... READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-24-three-things-by-dd-kentucky-lake

Three Things by DD: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake did not go the way I intended. I was pumped and ready to rock out a top-20 finish. I had great expectations of myself, but nothing seemed to come together. Practice was dicey, but I thought for sure I could put something together to make the cut. That was until day one came, and the whole vibe of my day instantly went from eager to agitated. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-23-how-to-catch-smallmouths-with-hair-jigs

How to Catch Smallmouths with Hair Jigs

The “right” hair jig for smallmouths is a small 1/16- to 1/8-ounce marabou jig with a round or mushroom-shaped head. The jig is similar to marabou jigs used by crappie fishermen, but bass models will often have a larger, stronger hook and possibly a longer or thicker skirt. Naturally, anglers have their favorites, and there are subtle differences in jigs that make some better than others. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-22-two-exciting-events-to-look-forward-to

Two Exciting Events to Look Forward To

We are in the last stretch of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour. Awaiting us is the Lake Champlain tournament in just a few days. A couple of things will be settled there: the pro field for the Forrest Wood Cup and the Angler of the Year. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-21-tagging-along-with-sprague-in-kentucky

Tagging Along with Sprague in Kentucky

Through the first four events of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season, Jeff Sprague finished inside the top 20 every time and challenged for the win at Beaver Lake. After stop No. 4 on Pickwick, Sprague took over the lead in the Angler of the Year race. This is the story of his first tournament as the AOY leader – stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake. Currently, Sprague is preparing for the finale on Lake Champlain. He’s in second place in the AOY standings. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-19-waunakee-hs-wins-wi-title

Waunakee HS Wins WI Title

The Waunakee High School duo of Colin Steck and Nathan Lorenz brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 13 pounds, 3 ounces, to win the 2016 TBF/FLW High School Fishing Wisconsin State Championship on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes. The win earned the team trophies, the title of state champions and advanced the team to the High School Fishing Central Conference championship on the Ohio River in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on September 23-24. READ MORE »