CHARLOTTE, N.C. – He was the favorite to win before the week began. He was the man to beat all week. He was the leader for the past two days. On Sunday, Bryan Thrift made the inevitable a reality. Thrift is the Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Presented by Shore Lunch Champion.
The North Carolina native proved to be too much for the pursuing Alton Jones Jr. and Edwin Evers to overcome. Thrift finished with five bass for 13 pounds, 10 ounces, pushing his three-day total to 46-12 and 4-6 clear of the second-place Jones.
Thrift becomes the first angler in history to win both a REDCREST and Forrest Wood Cup trophy as well as the fourth different pro to win the Bass Pro Tour championship since its inception.
The weights were indeed lower on Sunday just as Jones Jr. predicted on Saturday — the heaviest limit of the day belonged to Casey Ashley at just 15-11 — but that’s to be expected with the frigid and wet weather that rolled through the Lake Norman area. Thrift wasn’t immune to the struggles that the rest of the Top 10 faced. After two limits over 15 pounds before the final day, Thrift only managed 13-10 on Sunday.
Thrift didn’t have his limit until into the second period — a far cry from his game plan all week of quickly filling his limit with a Damiki underspin before the first period would end. But, Thrift made a move to a spot that proved to be the difference-maker around 1 p.m. ET.
Thrift ran all the way up the river and picked up a ½-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait. In the span of just 15 minutes, Thrift quickly caught six bass, four of which were upgrades which gave him an additional 6-5 to his total.
“That move was out of pure desperation,” Thrift admitted. “It was an area I’ve been saving all week and I was hoping I had enough in there to get me the win. Fortunately for me, I did.”
The Shelby, North Carolina, resident was the overwhelming favorite to win REDCREST not just this week, but since it was originally announced that Lake Norman would host the event in July of 2022. Seven and a half months later, expectations were fulfilled for Thrift.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this thing,” Thrift said. “When they announced we were coming here last year, all I’ve heard since then from all my buddies and every show I’ve worked is, ‘Oh you’re gonna win that REDCREST on Lake Norman.’ I really didn’t want to let everybody down. This lake has been so good to me and to win a tournament this big on your home lake is a special feeling.”
Alton Jones Jr. entered Sunday as basically the only contender with a chance at chasing down Thrift. Jones was 1-9 back of Thrift to begin the day and found himself 4-6 back as time expired. Jones was unable to find the quality that he had been able to find all week in both largemouth and spotted bass.
The weather obviously was a factor for Jones, as he ended his day with a limit of just 10-13, the third-lowest of the day. The General Tire pro stuck to his strategy of using a wacky-rigged worm around docks he would scan with his Garmin LiveScope. While it worked for him for the majority of the week, he thinks the weather did him in.
“The weather was a huge factor for me and I think I may have underestimated just how nasty it was,” Jones said. “My fish never positioned properly. I needed some sun and warmth – didn’t get any of it. I would do some stuff differently if I had to do it all over again, but I did what I thought gave me the best chance to win. Just couldn’t get it done today.”
There were 82 bass caught, weighed and immediately released on Sunday – 68 spotted bass and 14 largemouth. The Berkely Big Bass of the day belonged to Casey Ashley who caught a 5-pound largemouth in the third period. Ashley also had the biggest limit of the day with five fish weighing 15-11.
Only three pros didn’t catch a bass over 3 pounds on Sunday – Jacob Wheeler, Matt Lee and Ott DeFoe.
1. Bryan Thrift – 46-12 (15)
2. Alton Jones – 42-6 (15)
3. Edwin Evers – 41-14 (15)
4. Jacob Wheeler – 40-11 (15)
5. Matt Lee – 40-10 (15)
6. Casey Ashley – 40-4 (15)
7. Dustin Connell – 37-3 (15)
8. Adrian Avena – 36-13 (15)
9. Randy Howell – 35-5 (15)
10. Ott DeFoe – 34-14 (15)