Tharp embraces new format and new tech for 2023 Bass Pro Tour season - Major League Fishing
Tharp embraces new format and new tech for 2023 Bass Pro Tour season
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Tharp embraces new format and new tech for 2023 Bass Pro Tour season

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Tharp is looking forward to a return to his five-biggest-fish tournament roots. Photo by Garrick Dixon. Angler: Randall Tharp.
January 11, 2023 • Dave Landahl • Bass Pro Tour

Fans of the Bass Pro Tour are well aware of the frantic pace of the “every scorable fish counts” format the BPT operated under from 2019 through 2022. What fans may not be aware of is how challenging the transition was from the five-fish-limit format to every scorable bass.

Thirteen-year tour-level pro Randall Tharp has always considered himself better at five-fish events, primarily because that’s how he’s fished the majority of his professional career (and life). Tharp nonetheless qualified for REDCREST in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023. In fact, the Florida pro was fifth in Angler of the Year standings heading into the last event of the 2022 regular season at Mille Lacs, and ended up 15th – Tharp’s best year to date on the BPT.

“When you’re fishing against this stacked field, you can’t afford to lose a fish, period,” Tharp said. “I really upped my game (in 2022) and worked on little things to become more competitive (in the format), and hopefully be in a position to win tournaments and to qualify for Heavy Hitters and REDCREST.

However, with the BPT’s switch to the five-biggest-fish scoring format in 2023, Tharp is excited to settle back into his comfort zone again while maintaining the dynamic movement of SCORETRACKER®’s live-scoring element.

“With our format switching to the best five fish, I like my odds,” Tharp said. “I believe the five-fish weight will allow for opening up a bag of tricks that we are all good at using. The tournaments will be more dynamic. I think the five-fish approach is the best way to emphasize the big fish we catch. I feel like we’re getting closer to being exactly where we need to be as a sport with the BPT.”

Small changes atop SCORETRACKER®

Some pundits and fans have opined that the shift to a five-fish scoring structure will change who’s on top of SCORETRACKER® in 2023. Tharp isn’t one of them. 

“I still believe the guys who’ve been at the top will still be at the top of SCORETRACKER®,” Tharp said. “A guy like Jacob Wheeler puts in so much hard work. It’s tough to beat someone who puts in the time on the water to figure things out.

“Some guys may see their standing improve, though. Someone like Tommy Biffle, for example; he has a mantle full of trophies fishing a five-fish format. I think you’ll see guys like that place higher at certain events that fit their strengths.”

Tharp investing time in forward-facing sonar

Even though he’s not a devotee of forward-facing sonar, Tharp has added it to his shallow-water toolbox. Photo by Garrick Dixon.

Tharp admits that forward-facing sonar has changed his game quite a bit, but he certainly isn’t hooked on it yet.

“The first year forward-facing sonar was out, I was stubborn; I didn’t really change,” Tharp said. “In 2022, I evolved into ‘hunting’ bass more efficiently. I’m still not a forward-facing sonar junkie, but this was my first year really using it, and it made a big difference. There were a lot of fish I caught this year I wouldn’t have without it.”

Don’t expect to see Tharp using a spinning rod in deep water, though. He’s using the new tech, but still prefers fishing how he likes to fish.

“I’m just not a guy fishing 25 feet deep using a drop-shot,” Tharp said. “The first day I really used forward-facing sonar, I searched under a dock and caught a 4-pounder. I would never have done it without the sonar. Some of those guys who fish offshore are so far ahead with forward-facing sonar; Wheeler, Connell, Neal, they’re just so good with it. I still like to fish shallower and can use the technology. Looking under docks is a prime example of using the tech to your advantage.”

Still, with Tharp evolving and improving his skills at finding large groups of quality fish, will he shift to utilizing forward-facing sonar even more? Well, to some extent.

“You have to change with the fast-evolving technology,” Tharp said. “It’s so fascinating to see how things evolve. I prefer the instinctual events, but we don’t see as many of those anymore. The advancing technology is here and you have to change with it if you want to be successful. I’m not saying I like all the changes, but they help you get paid more. I’m mentally in a good place. I feel good, I’m fishing good, and I hate losing, but at the end of the day, I want to get paid.”