February 20, 2014 by Bryan Thrift
As I sit down to write this blog we're in the middle of a rare North Carolina snowstorm. It's kind of fun to watch it from the warmth of home, but it also makes me want to head right back to Florida where it's warm. I finished 59th at the Walmart FLW Tour season opener on Lake Okeechobee. I'm happy to get one of the last big $10,000 checks, but I'm not happy with how I fished - not happy at all. I thought I had learned a lot about the lake over the years, but I could never find that one area I could call "home." At Okeechobee, running all over the lake is usually a recipe for disaster. You need that one area where you can grind it out for eight hours and then get one or two really big bites. The first day of the tournament I started down south kind of between Clewiston and Ritta Island. I went in with full intentions of throwing the new Damiki Air Frog, but they wouldn't commit. Instead of really eating it, they would just roll behind it. I think I caught only two of my first seven bites. So I eventually switched up to a 3/8-ounce swim jig with a 6-inch Damiki Anchovy Shad as a trailer. I would trim about an inch off the head of the Anchovy Shad and then it fit just right. The second day I started back in that same area and never got a bite in the morning. At that point I'm thinking, "Here we go, this could be disastrous." So I left, scrambled around and got a small limit that weighed about 10 pounds. I went back to where I started and culled everything out and caught the 16 pounds I weighed. The place I was fishing was fairly open water for Okeechobee. There were some scattered reeds, but most of the fish were actually relating to lily pads. In hindsight, that fog delay we had on day one might have been what screwed me up initially on day two. We didn't start fishing the first day until 9 a.m. It's likely that those fish in my area just didn't start biting until later in the day. That's not where I really went wrong though. The first day of practice I saw two 6-pounders and a 5-pounder on bed. When I saw those big females, I was close to 100 percent sure a big wave was coming up to spawn. So I spent the next two days looking and it never did materialize. I just misread the situation and it cost me. Come tournament time it was mainly empty beds and those that had fish on them were all 13-inch bucks. I pretty much knew most of the field would be fishing up around the Monkey Box and the North Shore. I just like to figure out what everyone else is going to do and then do the exact opposite. This time that did not work. Overall, I'd say the tournament was kind of bittersweet. It's my first paycheck since the Cup, but I felt like I had a better grasp on Okeechobee than what I finished. After taking 59th, you can pretty much throw Angler of the Year out. I guess it's not completely out of the question, but I'd have to make the cut five times in a row or something. The good news is that it shouldn't hurt me too bad for the Forrest Wood Cup. That's my biggest concern; I want to make the championship. I love those summertime tournaments where it's tougher fishing. It's like a mind game to me. It's only a few hours from the house and with $500,000 on the line for first place I need to be there. Hartwell will be coming up pretty quick. It's close to the house too, but I really haven't fished there that much. The water is up like when Christie won, but it should be colder like when Ehrler won. If it does warm up, they could come to the bank pretty quick. It should still be prespawn and that's probably my favorite time of year to fish. I guess the biggest thing I like about it is that the fish are constantly moving. Things change that fast - hour to hour instead of day to day. I'll probably start by trying to catch them on a jerkabit and if that doesn't work I'll try and find a reaction bite. I don't really like to fish 60 feet deep like Ehrler, but I'm not ruling anything out at this point. Hartwell can be tricky. Lastly, I can finally talk about the new Chevy commercial my family and I filmed back in November. When I was told they were coming out to the house to shoot, I figured it would be a group of three or four people. When they showed up there was like 20 people running all over with cameras everywhere. It was pretty awesome. My son Wylie could hardly contain himself; he was showing everybody his toys. It was hard to get him to lie in his bed and pretend to go to sleep. He was just too excited. Other than that, it went great. My wife claims the video was our two minutes of fame. The whole idea behind the commercial was to feature Chevy's MyLink system, which lets me stay connected to my family while I'm at a tournament. You can keep your eyes on the road and still safely use your toys and devices. It's accessibility without being a danger to yourself or the people around you. If you haven't seen the video, check it out.