MONROE-WEST MONROE, La. – Caney Creek Reservoir has big fish in it, there’s no denying that fact. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to find.
The 15 anglers fishing the second day of Group A competition at General Tire Heavy Hitters Presented by Bass Pro Shops learned that the hard way. There were 48 scorable fish places on SCORETRACKER® on Wednesday – seven less the group’s first day of competition on Monday. However, while the numbers were down, the quality of the bass went up.
Four largemouth over 6 pounds, four over 7 pounds, two over 8 pounds and one 9-pounder highlighted the day. Bryan Thrift is heading straight to the Championship Round collecting a two-day total of 11 bass for 55 pounds, 13 ounces, making him the first qualifier for a shot at a $200,000 payday ($100,000 big bass award, $100,000 for winning the event). Dakota Ebare, meanwhile, locked up $25,000 after besting his 9-5 Berkley Big Bass on Monday with a 9-6 on Wednesday. Ebare also earned a spot in Friday’s Knockout Round.
The eight pros advancing to the next rounds of competition are:
1. Bryan Thrift – 55-13 (11)
2. Josh Bertrand – 48-0 (11)
3. Dakota Ebare – 39-11 (9)
4. Ryan Salzman – 36-12 (8)
5. Alton Jones Jr. – 36-1 (10)
6. Chris Lane – 30-4 (9)
7. Bradley Roy – 27-4 (7)
8. Kevin VanDam – 26-12 (9)
Heavy Hitters isn’t a five-fish event, but it would’ve been tough to beat the five Thrift weighed on Wednesday for 25-11. The five weighing in at 2-0, 2-9, 6-7, 7-5 and 7-6 send the reigning REDCREST 2023 Champion straight to the Championship Round on Bussey Brake.
“I really only got six scorable bites all day and I lost one of them that was a 3-pounder,” Thrift said. “I was targeting grass patches, mainly two in particular that were kind of out by themselves. That’s where I caught all my big bites.”
Thrift’s big bites came courtesy of a Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer in clearwater shad. Thrift paired thatwith his signature frog rod from Fitzgerald Fishing, a Fitzgerald VLD 10 reel and 17-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon.
Thrift had the option to forego his automatic bid and instead take his chances in the Knockout Round, where he would have the chance to catch a $50,000 big bass. But considering how stingy Caney has been this week, a chance at $50,000 doesn’t trump a guaranteed one-in-10 shot at $100,000 to the North Carolina pro.
“Caney Creek is a tough lake to fish and it’s hard to get a bite,” Thrift said. “It’ll have you beating your brains out trying to figure out how to get a bite. I was definitely not going to roll the dice on Caney again.”
Ebare’s only threat for knocking him out of the big bass lead for $25,000 ended up being himself. Sure, there were two 8-pounders caught courtesy of Gary Klein and Ryan Salzman, but the only two fish caught over 9 pounds this week belong to Ebare.
“They’re two completely different 9-pound fish,” Ebare said. “That 9-5 from Monday looked like it was prespawn just because it was so fat and healthy looking. The 9-6 today was just so long and had a big head, I didn’t think it was going to be bigger than the one I already had. Two beautiful fish for $25,000, not a bad week so far.”
Ebare doesn’t believe that he’s hunting just for big bites, however. The Texas angler is doing something he thinks will generate bites, they just happen to be bites from massive largemouth. Not a bad plan.
“I’m just targeting postspawn fish as well as fish that are spawning up shallow with my drop-shot,” Ebare said. “This place has some monster fish, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a 10-pounder caught yet. I feel like I have some areas that I can catch one bigger than the two I already have. I just need to make the right cast in the right place.”
Group B returns to Caney Creek for their second day of fishing. The 15 pros will carry over their weight from their first day of competition and fish for three periods to try and end the day inside the top eight. Only eight pros will advance with first place earning an automatic bid to fish the Championship Round. Andy Morgan currently leads Group B with 38-12, 13-3 ahead of second-place Jacob Wheeler. Dustin Connell will have the Berkley Big Bass lead with a 7-8. If Connell’s 7-8 holds, he will earn the $25,000 big bass bonus.
Coverage begins at 7:45 a.m. CT at MajorLeagueFishing.com.