Winning a tournament is always pretty cool, but winning the way Anthony Sharp did in the second Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event in the Cowboy Division presented by A.R.E. is next-level. Weighing 40 pounds, 6 ounces of Sam Rayburn bass, the Village Mills, Texas, angler beat second place by more than 21 pounds. For the win, which was his first with FLW, Sharp took home a total of $7,000. Sharp's margin of victory is the largest in BFL history, and his limit is the third-largest ever.
"I’ll be honest, when he [the tournament director] sat the sack up there I was praying that I had maybe mid-30s,” says Sharp. “I’ve caught a couple 30-pound limits up here, but never in a tournament. When he said 40 pounds, I couldn’t hardly answer his questions. I kinda got flushed.”
Sharp is a pipeline worker and fishes in his spare time, which isn’t much.
“This past year, I spent from February to mid-October up in Colorado working,” says Sharp. “So, I try to fish anything that’s available when I’m available to fish it. This year I think I’ll be able to fish a few more, but the last lot of years I haven’t been able to buckle down. My wife and I have four kids, so we’re busy with football and baseball and life.”
Finding the spot
Sharp has recently been able to put quite a bit more time in on Rayburn than usual, spending a lot of it idling offshore, trying to get in tune with the movement of bass from their winter haunts to the spawning grounds. Last weekend, during a club tournament, Sharp finally found the winning fish.
“I was going in behind the spot to fish a drain that I generally catch a few fish in, but I marked a few fish on my graph,” says Sharp. “I saw probably 10 or 12 fish, so I stopped and got my boat positioned and made two or three casts and caught one that was almost 6, and that was it. I didn’t get bit again. Throughout that day, I went back there three different times, and I could see that the fish had moved off the side, on to the drop.”
The spot Sharp found was a pretty classic offshore area – a flat section topping out in about 20 feet, with a drop that went down to about 40 feet. It turned out that was all he’d need to find to have the tournament day of a lifetime.
“Yesterday [Friday], when we started practice, I ran right there and idled over the spot, and there were more fish,” says Sharp. “I idled over them four or five different times, just to make sure I was seeing fish, because they were stuck to the bottom. So, I backed off them and started easing up to them on the trolling motor, and I was still 100 yards from my waypoint and on my very first cast I caught an 8.06.”
Sharp found one other school of fish before the tournament, but they were just 2-pounders. However, they were in a similar location – out near the main lake – so, Sharp thought he might be on to something.
On tournament morning, Sharp ran right to his honey hole.
“We blasted off at about 7:15, and I made a 15-minute run up the lake,” says Sharp. “At 8:35, I called Mr. Callahan [the tournament director] and asked if I could use my co-angler’s livewell because I couldn’t fit all my fish in one livewell. So, in about an hour I was done.”
Deciding not to idle over his fish to check on them, Sharp simply eased up to where he thought they would be and tossed a Carolina rig with a 1-ounce weight and a Zoom Baby Brush Hog in green pumpkin magic with the tails dyed chartreuse.
“On my second cast I caught one that I told my co-angler was about 6 pounds,” says Sharp. “Then I fished a little while, and my next fish was about 5 pounds. I got a bite about every 10 or 12 minutes for the first three fish, and I was fan-casting around the bow of my boat, kinda in the middle of the flat spot.”
After catching a short and then a another 6-pounder, Sharp picked up a Strike King 8XD in chartreuse and blue.
“I probably threw it 15 or 20 minutes, and I caught one that was probably 8 pounds, and I caught one over 9. So I put my rod down and told my co-angler, ‘That’s it. I think I’ve got high 20s right there.’
“I don’t know what I was even thinking,” continues Sharp. “After I sat there about 10 minutes in the boat, letting him fish the area, I thought it would really be cool if I could cull that 5-pounder. I made three more casts with that crankbait and caught my biggest fish, and that was all before 8:45.”
And that was it. Though Sharp hung around the spot to try to give co-angler Antwon Harris a shot at some, neither caught anything else. Throughout the rest of the day, when Sharp bounced around for Harris, he says he only made about 50 casts. He knew he’d done something special already, even if it’d take the scale to tell him exactly how special it was.
“It’s incredibly special. I can’t even describe it,” says Sharp. “I was just praying I could catch one or two fish like that. I really had no idea that was going to happen.”