Live now : Walmart FLW Tour 2016 Lake Okeechobee

Randall Tharp Q&A

Randall Tharp, the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup champion, balances bass fishing and redfishing in Florida's brackish bays.

Q: How has winning the Forrest Wood Cup changed your life?

A: There is no denying it, when you win that amount of money at one time, it does change your life to a certain degree. Even if you walked into a convenience store, bought a scratch-off ticket and won $500,000, it would change your life, unless you were already some kind of multimillionaire.

So to win that much money is sort of surreal. But one misconception I do want to clear up is that I did not take a half-million dollars and blow it on a beachfront mansion in Florida. [Laughing] I think some people might be under the impression that I took all my winnings and bought a giant house on the Gulf of Mexico like a rock star. That’s not true. I actually sold my home in Birmingham and bought a house in a coastal town in Florida long before I won the Cup. Now, it is true we were in the midst of moving from Alabama to Florida during the Cup last year, but the house was already purchased before I even finished the 2013 Tour season. The Cup winnings went straight to my fishing account, which is what has funded my fishing career since day one: tournament winnings. And in that regard, yes, it has given Sara and me quite a bit of breathing room in terms of the financial stresses that fishing for a living can cause.

Q: How has winning the Cup changed your career?

A: Following the Cup win, I did a lot of media in the form of radio, television, print, news interviews, personal appearances, speaking engagements, etc. Shortly after the Cup win I won a B.A.S.S. Open on Ross Barnett, which then qualified me for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and the 2014 Elite Series. And that only seemed to fuel the media storm even more. I spent a lot of the 2013-2014 off-season traveling for show appearances and for sponsors. It seems like the new benchmark to achieve in professional fishing these days is to win multiple events in a single season. Winning a single event, even a world championship, is certainly big. But what seems to really get the media’s attention is winning multiple events in a season. Look at what Jason Christie did last year with his three major wins and then Brett Hite this year and the buzz that created.

Most people might think that just because you have won a big championship event like the Cup, you can just sort of kick back and rest on your laurels. But that’s not the case at all. It has kind of an opposite effect, in that it pushes you even harder. It’s not like, "Hey, I just won $500,000 so I can sleep in for practice for the next tournament." It’s more like, "I just won a tournament, so I’ve got to get to the next one and practice even harder than I did for the one I just won." Winning gives you a first-hand perspective of where the winning bar is set. Once you know where that is, it causes you to push yourself harder to stay above it.

Success breeds success, and nothing could be truer in the sport of pro fishing. The success of winning the Forrest Wood Cup has certainly helped propel me to more tournament success.

Q: So you mean to tell me you won $500,000 in the Forrest Wood Cup and you didn't splurge on anything for yourself?

A: OK, I might have afforded myself a small luxury in the form of a new Ranger Phantom flats skiff with an Evinrude E-TEC. I love that little boat. It’s light and so fuel efficient; great for stalking fish in super-shallow bays here in Florida, which is what I love to do. I just feel invisible in that thing.

 

A fishy distraction: As Randall Tharp works on his bass fishing tackle, his Ranger Phantom flats skiff beckons for a trip to the bay.

Q: You just used the word “stalking.” If I were to describe your fishing style, I would say you are a stalker – in a good way. You tend to stalk, almost hunt fish down, in shallow water, until you make them bite. Would you agree with that?

A: I guess. I mean I don’t exactly rip down the banks with 15 rods like Bryan Thrift, and I don’t read a meter like Brent Ehrler. So, yeah, I guess I feel most comfortable when I find shallow fish that are reluctant to bite to a point where fishing is considered tough. I like areas or patterns where getting just five or six bites a day is at a premium. I like it when a “flurry” is catching two 3 1/2-pounders in a 15-minute window and then there might not be another “flurry” for three hours. That kind of fishing requires a lot of persistence, dedication and focus while the clock is ticking.

Q: So you have now lived on the coast for a year stalking saltwater fish in your Ranger Phantom. How has that changed you as a fisherman?

A: Living at the coast has been a doubled-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a distraction to my bass fishing. Let’s just say I spend far less time working on bass tackle these days because I’m out on the bay chasing something. But on the other hand, the ocean is just an awesome, unforgiving place with a lot of big stuff that swims in it. It’s constantly changing – wind, tides, clarities, currents. No two days are exactly alike. And in that respect, it’s a great place to practice the instinctual side of my fishing – sharpening that sixth sense of finding fish. To me the ultimate reward in fishing comes from that feeling you get when you know you are around fish based on current conditions – the here and now – and then having that feeling about a particular action, size or color a bait needs to have to get the fish to react. And when a fish eats your stuff, verifying those ideas, it’s a very strong, rewarding experience, no matter what species you’re after. So in that respect the coast is a fantastic environment for that kind of fishing exercise, so to speak.  

Q: What does it mean to you to come into the Lake Murray event as the reigning Forrest Wood Cup Champion?

A: I mean, on one hand, it’s great. I’m the reigning champ. But once the green flag drops on Murray, it’s not like I get a head start or a few extra pounds in my livewell because I’m the previous champion. It all starts from zero, and being the previous champ offers no advantage. In those other guys' eyes, I’m just another guy they want to beat. Trust me, no one is going to get out of my way on the first day at Lake Murray just because I am the previous champion.

Q: Do you think you can win again and be the first back-to-back Forrest Wood Cup champion?

A: That’s kind of a tricky question. I’ve been down this road before, and it’s a slippery slope. Personally, I know exactly how I feel about the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray. But if I were to publicly say it and explain why I feel that way, I’d get called cocky and arrogant or whatever. It’s happened to me in other interviews, so there is no need to go there again.

Along those same lines, I will say this sport does fascinate me in that we have these things called tournaments, which are, by definition, a competition where there is only one winner – and I emphasize one winner. And we all enter these tournaments because each and every one of us thinks he can win. But if we publicly say we think we can win, then we are somehow cocky. I don’t really understand it. Maybe we should have a tournament where everyone is a winner, and then no one would run the risk of being cocky [laughing].

Q: I see on your refrigerator a quote from University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban that reads, “Mediocre people don’t like high achievers, and high achievers don’t like mediocre people.” Do you consider yourself a high achiever?

A: I simply like the way Nick Saban runs his football program. It’s a quote I heard him say on a national interview on 60 Minutes; that’s all it is. His quest for perfection is tireless, and as a competitor in bass tournaments I understand that.

Q: On your fence is a stuffed honey badger guarding a sign that reads "Jackals and Birds prohibited!!" Once and for all, can you please clarify the whole honey badger thing?

A: It was just a hilarious viral video on YouTube several years ago. The whole premise wasRandall Tharp having fun with his fishing moniker: The Honeybadger. this animal lives in the desert, one of the most hostile environments on Earth, and he is pretty much immune to all the adversity he encounters all day long. He almost welcomes adversity because, as the saying goes, "The honey badger don’t care." If he can only find some nasty larva to eat, he don’t care; the jackals and birds come around and try to steal his scraps, he don’t care; he gets bitten by a cobra, he don’t care. And basically the whole thing reminded me of fishing tournaments because so much of it is dealing with adversity. The wind is going to blow 25 mph, the water temperature is going to drop 15 degrees, a big bass is going to come off, there are going to be other people on your best spot when you get there, and I became immune to it all after watching that video like 100 times.

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being the Forrest Wood Cup champion and having a bird’s eye view of the sport from atop?

A: Well, probably it’s that tournament bass fishing is not exactly the center of the universe. In fact, it’s not even the center of the fishing universe. Don’t get me wrong, tournament bass fishing is my passion, my living, and I love it, like a lot of people who fish FLW. But I can tell you this: I’m a Forrest Wood Cup champion, and in the town I live in, the guy who brings in the biggest kingfish or cobia for the week is a bigger fishing hero than I am. Heck, in my mind, the guy who brings in a boatload of fresh oysters for the local oyster bar is the real fishing hero! Down here there are commercial fishermen, offshore fishermen, inshore fishermen, kayak fishermen, guys who only fish for tarpon with a fly rod – so many different versions of fishing that are just as important to those guys as bass fishing is to me. Being a Forrest Wood Cup champion and living in a fishing town on the coast of Florida have both given me a lot of perspective of where our sport falls in the bigger picture of fishing itself. And at the end of the day, fishing is what you want it to be. It’s how you want to pursue it. It’s what you make of it. No matter if you’re catching bream on crickets, fishing in a $500,000 championship or tonging up a bushel of oysters – being on the water pursuing something that totally fires you up is what it’s all about. And that’s going to be happening in just a few days on Lake Murray, and I can’t wait.

 

Tags: rob-newell  article 

/tips/2016-02-05-an-ill-wind-at-okeechobee-

An Ill Wind at Okeechobee?

The wind can be a bass fisherman’s best friend or worst enemy. On its best behavior, it creates a temporary current, positions baitfish and helps an angler move around more stealthily in shallow water. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-04-aquatic-plant-id

Aquatic Plant ID

Val Osinski, the owner of Gambler Lures and winner of the 2015 Costa FLW Series event on the lake, knows as much about the Big O as anyone and is an expert on finding and targeting bass in its various grasses. When we had the opportunity to ride along with him for a tour of the lake and to learn to identify some of the grasses, it was a no-brainer to accept. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-poche-services-set

Poche Services Set

Funeral services for Dylan Poche, the 18-year-old Bass Fishing League angler who was stabbed to death Saturday night, are scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Freedom Life Church in Natchitoches, La. Visitation will take place at Freedom Life beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-time-to-shine-for-setzer

Time to Shine for Setzer

With three years on Tour and a Co-angler of the Year (COY) award under his belt, Braxton Setzer believes now is his time to start casting from the front. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-01-ambassador

Ambassador

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-29-glenn-browne-s-timeout-is-over-

Glenn Browne’s Timeout is Over

By his own admission, Glenn Browne isn’t the most organized guy. After the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee, he spent hours returning stuff to its proper place and tossing out the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in a bass boat during a tournament. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-flw-podcast-109-mike-surman

FLW Podcast 109 - Mike Surman

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-john-cox-gives-himself-a-makeover

John Cox Gives Himself a Makeover

Last fall there was a rumor going around that John Cox was entering the electronics age and souping up his boat with sonar gear. Just to clear the air, the Florida pro reports that though he did flirt with the notion of incorporating an offshore strategy centered on depth finders into his act, he eventually abandoned the idea. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-austin-felix-is-ready-for-the-big-time

Austin Felix is Ready for the Big Time

Back in the spring of 2014, Austin Felix and his University of Minnesota teammate Chris Burgan were on the top of the FLW College Fishing world. With a win in the National Championship on Lake Keowee, Felix was headed to the Forrest Wood Cup as a pro. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-flw-canada-sets-tournament-sites-dates

FLW Canada Sets Tournament Sites, Dates

FLW Canada, one of four partners in FLW’s International Division of the Costa FLW Series, recently released its 2016 tournament schedule. The season includes three two-day regular-season qualifying events and a three-day championship. Anglers fish as two-person teams. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-26-jigging-spoons-for-winter-bass

Jigging Spoons for Winter Bass

Of course, the application of the spoon hinges on finding bass in the first place, which is the biggest challenge. Walmart FLW Tour pros Jason Johnson and Clark Reehm are experts at finding winter bass in their respective regions of the country and offer FLW readers some advice on where to look and how to get them to bite the spoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-24-how-bryan-thrift-got-to-be-so-good

How Bryan Thrift Got to be so Good

My No. 1 focus out here is to support my family and make a living. Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m going to make a valiant effort. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-high-school-fishing-makes-the-grade

High School Fishing Makes the Grade

Jacob Smith and Daniel Clark are typical teenagers, at least in everything except bass fishing. In that, they are above average, as the two juniors from Travelers Rest High School in South Carolina proved in the TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open held Jan. 17 on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-flw-mexico-at-the-starting-gate

FLW Mexico at the Starting Gate

Our excitement is so great that we wanted to share this important news with all of you. Believe me, fishermen in Mexico are talking it up as if it were dock talk surrounding the Forrest Wood Cup. What really matters at the end of the line is knowing that FLW is showing its true devotion to promoting bass fishing and making it a truly international sport. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-making-the-case-for-haynes-as-aoy

Making the Case for Haynes as AOY

As many have noted, the Walmart FLW Tour schedule for this season looks a lot like it did in 2014. Back then, in his sophomore year on Tour, Randy Haynes had one of the strangest seasons you’ll ever see. He finished 104th at Okeechobee, 149th at Sam Rayburn (ouch) and cranked out top-30 finishes everywhere else. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-21-flw-podcast-108-jason-lambert

FLW Podcast 108 - Jason Lambert

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-bfl-choo-choo-division-postponed

BFL Choo Choo Division Postponed

The FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Choo Choo Division tournament on Lake Guntersville originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 23 has been postponed due to impending inclement weather. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-tigerodz-aligns-with-auburn-team

TIGERODZ Aligns With Auburn Team

Custom fishing rod manufacturer TIGERODZ of Scottsboro, Ala., has signed an agreement to become the official rod brand for the Auburn University Bass Sports Club. Scott Dobbins, president of TIGERODZ, is an Auburn alum, and he says the pairing involved a natural progression of involvement. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-becoming-aware-of-your-angler-strengths

Becoming Aware of Your Angler Strengths

The ongoing sentiment among fishermen is that versatility is the key to becoming a successful professional angler. While I’m certain that statement holds some weight, I think there is an alternate perspective that is worth entertaining. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-18-pundits-picks-for-aoy

Pundits Picks for AOY

Winning the Angler of the Year title is a tremendous feat. It can solidify a budding career or affirm a veteran’s status among the best. It also comes with a hefty reward – $100,000 and early entry into the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup. READ MORE »