UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Tharp thrashes ‘em again

The two meet eye to eye.

CLEWISTON, Fla. - Randall Tharp has six consecutive top-10 finishes on south Florida's Lake Okeechobee, but no major wins. Although he considers Alabama home, it's always been a dream of his to win a tour event on the Big O. And it appears that Tharp is halfway from turning that dream into a reality.

Yesterday Tharp and reigning Okeechobee champion Brandon McMillan were engaged in a heated two-horse race. Tharp gained some serious separation today by catching his second-consecutive 30-pound stringer. Although his sack included no 9-pounders, each of his five fish was of the tournament-winning variety.
Pro leader Randall Tharp holds up part of his 30-pound, 4-ounce limit Friday afternoon.
"I went and got five squeakers so I could relax and fish for big fish," he said. "But my big bites don't come until later in the day. At about 10 this morning I pulled into an area and caught all five of my big ones on almost back to back casts. Fish on Okeechobee really get concentrated in small areas."

In less than a half hour, Tharp's day transformed from a struggle to a windfall as he found the magic stretch. He fished the rest of the day and caught two more 5-pounders, but they did not help him. His official weight registered 30 pounds, 4 ounces, giving him a two-day total of 63 pounds, 13 ounces. Like yesterday, he received about 20 bites, but only a third of those are quality fish. While he has several areas, there's company in some of the better ones.

"It's getting pretty crowded in there. A lot of those places are getting beat up. But for some of them it doesn't take long to replenish. That's all part of the game - figuring out which mats have been fished hard and which haven't. I really think some of those big-fish areas will reload now that the traffic is largely gone. And the ones I caught today came from a new area."

Tharp confirmed after weigh-in today that he's flipping as his sole technique. But any other pattern details were off limits for now. With an 11-pound lead, the EverStart pro is pleased with his progress. But don't expect the ultra-competitive fisherman to take his foot off the gas.

"There's two more days. I'm not going to look at the leaderboard because I know there are 40-pound bags out there. I feel like I need one more big stringer."

Cox up to second

Second-place pro John Cox caught a 25-pound, 4-ounce limit Friday.While many of the tournament leaders are crowded into specific areas, second-place pro John Cox has endless water all to himself. And his pattern isn't solely mats either.

"I came here to sight-fish, but I had to jump on the bandwagon and start flipping because they really aren't spawning," said the 2011 Red River champion. "It's awful, I hate it. I only had 10 bites all day."

While tedious, it's a productive postspawn pattern that resulted in 25 pounds, 4 ounces today and a total weight of 52-14.

"Basically I'm drifting over a big flat where the bass are coming in to eat bream. Yesterday with a north wind the water was almost 2 feet higher in there. So then I had some mats with fishable water to flip. But today they moved further out and I was able to pinpoint the holes where the bigger ones live. I missed a couple of those today, but maybe I can get them tomorrow. I think they were both at least 8 pounds; they just took off stripping drag. One of them pulled off and the other one bent the hook."

McMillan stumbles to third

A little birdie told me: Brandon McMillan hopes this bird on the mat has a secret to tell him.Despite catching less than half of his day-one weight today (14-5), Brandon McMillan fell only two places on the leaderboard. But he now has some serious ground to make up if he wants to catch his friend and defend his title.

"It was a weird today; when I got my big bites they would take off and run with it - almost like they were competing for the bait," he said. "I dumped two good ones that way because I wasn't really prepared for it."

Much of the day was a struggle as McMillan had only three fish at 2 p.m. He plans to flip more methodically and in general fish more thoroughly during the final round.

"I think I figured something out late in the day. We'll see. I was hoping some of my better areas would replenish, but I don't think they did."

By no means is McMillan conceding to Tharp.

"Give the man credit - he's on fire. He's making the right decisions about where and when to go. But if he messes up, we're all right back in the game. The way I look at it, I'm still fishing to win."

Ferguson retains fourth

Fourth-place pro Art Ferguson III holds up part of his 20-pound, 4-ounce catch.Art Ferguson III retained fourth place after catching a 20-pound, 4-ounce stringer Friday. Ferguson, a former guide on the Big O, has a two-day total of 47 pounds even.

"I thought it was going to be better today with more sunshine and less wind, but it wasn't; I only caught eight or nine keepers," he said. "There were a lot more boats in there - both shiner fishermen and tournament anglers and it's a small area."

Ferguson found the school blowing up shiners one day in practice. They've stayed put, but he can't catch them on top so he uses a variety of "old-style Florida fishing techniques," which basically entails making long casts and slowly reeling in plastic baits such as worms, lizards and Senkos.

"I spent three hours casting at the same thing so I've beat up this area pretty bad."

Kennedy fifth

Kennedy pulls in his first quality fish of the day. Steve Kennedy made his first trip down to Okeechobee back in 2002 for the EverStart Series event and blanked. He came back the next year, struggled again and vowed not to leave until he learned to flip Florida vegetation.

"I learned from Billy Bowen and mat flipping is now one of my favorite ways to fish," he said.

Since then, he's finished second twice on the Big O. This year, he sits in fifth place after catching an opening-round total of 44 pounds, 4 ounces.

"This morning I ran up the main lake and saw some fish schooling so we stopped. My partner caught a limit and I caught three and then we went to my big-fish areas. By the time I arrived, Randall Tharp was already sitting there. Later in the day, I came back to a different area I had been wanting to fish and Tharp was already there again."

Kennedy was never able to sample the one stretch he caught all his big fish on yesterday. A late-day rally saved him though as he changed baits and caught two good ones between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2.

"It doesn't seem like more fish are moving back in there. Hopefully this bait change makes a difference."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros on Lake Okeechobee after day two:

6th: Jeremy York of Monroe, Ga., 10 bass, 43-5
7th: J Todd Tucker of Moultrie, Ga., 10 bass, 40-8
8th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 10 bass, 39-14
9th: Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., 10 bass, 39-9
10th: Nick Gainey of Charleston, S.C., 10 bass, 38-12

Agouros widens co-angler lead

Spiro Agouros of Peterborough, Ontario, leads the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 32 pounds, 15 ounces. Fishing with pro Bryan Thrift Friday, Agouros managed a limit worth 12 pounds, 13 ounces.

"Today was different, I definitely had to change it up," said the third-year co-angler. "All we were catching was small ones. Then we went back to flipping and did much better."

Agouros said his key bait this week is the new Trigger X Flappin' Bug. He rigs the bait on a 1/2-ounce Rein's tungsten weight and uses 65-pound Sufix 832 braid.

"I got seven bites and I lost one at the end. Overall, I think I was sharper yesterday than today. This morning kind of threw me for a loop. I got more comfortable as the day went on."

With a 6-pound lead, Agouros will fish with Tharp tomorrow.

"I really want to win this thing. I'm just focused on fishing - concentrating on every single flip."

Wilcox rallies to second

Aymon Wilcox, the defending co-angler champion, rallied to second today after catching a 10-pound, 8-ounce limit. Wilcox has a total weight of 26 pounds, 13 ounces.

The 33-year-old man, known as DJ Willie, has been fishing the Big O since he was 13.
Fourth-place co-angler Timothy Dearing holds up his biggest bass from day two on Lake Okeechobee.
Mulleins, Dearing, Crowder round out top five

Ralph Mulleins of Cumberland, Va., caught a 12-pound, 10-ounce limit to bring his total weight 26-7. Mulleins will start the final day of co-angler competition in third place.

Timothy Dearing of Loudon, Tenn., finished the opening fourth among the co-anglers with 25 pounds, 14 ounces. Dearing's limit Friday weighed 14 pounds even.

Marlon Crowder of Tampa, Fla., rounds out the top five with 25 pounds, 2 ounces.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on Lake Okeechobee after day two:

6th: Rod Lambirth of Odessa, Texas, 24-1
7th: Ralph Myhlhousen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, 24-0
8th: Jason Counsil of Casselberry, Fla., 23-8
9th: Dererk of Port St. Lucie, Fla., 23-5
10th: Larry Hostetler of Floyds Knobs, Ind., 22-15

Day three of the FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee will begin Saturday at 7:30 a.m. from the Clewiston Boat Basin.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2012-02-09-lake-okeechobee 

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