COUNCE, Tenn. – A tournament field of 198 boats – each featuring a pro and a co-angler – began their three-day, no-entry-fee competition for a top cash award of up to $235,000 at the Toyota Series Championship Presented by Guaranteed Rate at Pickwick Lake in Counce, Tennessee Thursday. The bass-fishing championship, hosted by the Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the culmination of the 2021 Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. season.
Pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 15 ounces to take the early lead after Day One of the three-day event. Thrift holds a 1-pound, 7-ounce lead over pro Chris Digino of Dallas, Texas, who caught five bass weighing 18 pounds, 8 ounces, securing his position in second place.
“Today went a little better than I thought it would go, seeing as I didn’t catch any big ones in practice,” said Thrift. “I thought a good day would be 10 to 12 pounds on six keeper bites and I think I ended up catching seven keepers today, but that was pretty much it. It definitely wasn’t an easy day.
“I started in a spot where I thought I could catch a couple early, and I did, but after that it was a struggle. I ran 40 miles up and fished my way back – I burned a lot of gas today.”
Thrift said he has seen Pickwick plenty of times in the spring and summer over the years, and though he’s had success on other parts of the Tennessee River in the fall, Pickwick in the fall was all new to him.
“This is my first time being here this time of year and it’s really not as good as I thought it would be,” said Thrift. “I thought it would be easier to get bites, but it isn’t. I don’t know if it’s pressure on the fishery, the weather or what’s going on. My day looks good on paper, but I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Despite his lack of experience on the fishery this time of year, Thrift is a quick study. With a couple big bites today, there’s a good possibility he can repeat his good day tomorrow.
“I was shocked at the two 6½-pounders I caught today,” said Thrift. “I didn’t expect that at all, but it gave me some ideas for tomorrow.”
Although Thrift has a stellar record in bass-fishing, with many big wins, he has yet to win a Toyota Series Championship in his career and said he is looking forward to the opportunity this week.
“I would love to win,” said Thrift. “That’s $200,000, and the Toyota Series is the best deal in bass fishing. Paying less than $6,000 in entry fees for a chance to fish for a $200,000 championship is an amazing opportunity and literally the best deal out there – I’d love to win it.”
The top 20 pros after Day One on Pickwick Lake are:
1st: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., five bass, 19-15
2nd: Chris Digino of Dallas, Texas, five bass, 18-8
3rd: Mikey Keyso of North Port, Fla., five bass, 17-10
4th: James Watson of Lampe, Mo., five bass, 17-2
5th: Aaron Johnson of Shreveport, La., five bass, 16-8
6th: Cody Nichols of Fayette, Ala., four bass, 16-1
7th: Dakota Ebare of Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 15-11
7th: Terry Fisher of Decatur, Ala., five bass, 15-11
9th: Todd Castledine of Nacogdoches, Texas, five bass, 15-9
10th: Colby Miller of Elmer, La., five bass, 15-7
11th: Brent Anderson of Kingston Springs, Tenn., five bass, 15-2
11th: Todd Kline of San Clemente, Calif., five bass, 15-2
13th: Harbor Lovin of Fayetteville, Ohio, five bass, 14-14
13th: Kyle Weisenburger of Columbus Grove, Ohio, five bass, 14-14
15th: Derik Hudson of Concord, Va., five bass, 14-13
16th: Nathan Thomas of Weirsdale, Fla. five bass, 14-10
17th: Kevin Drake of Cleveland, Tenn., five bass, 14-9
18th: Rick Harris of Del Rio, Texas, five bass, 14-8
19th: Wyatt Frankens of Corrigan, Texas, five bass, 14-5
20th: Scout Echols of Monticello, Ark., five bass, 14-2
For a full list of results visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 568 bass weighing 1,476 pounds, 15 ounces caught by 174 pros Thursday. The catch included 60 five-bass limits.
Rod Mackinnon, III of Middletown, New York, leads the Strike King co-angler division with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 15 ounces, followed by Fisher Cusic of Lakeland, Florida, who weighed five bass totaling 14-13, securing his second-place position. Co-anglers are competing for a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The top 20 Strike King co-anglers after Day One on Pickwick Lake are:
1st: Rod Mackinnon, III of Middletown, N.Y., five bass, 16-15
2nd: Fisher Cusic of Lakeland, Fla., five bass, 14-13
3rd: Scott Parsons of Rogers, Ark., five bass, 13-12
4th: Bill Bean of Eufaula, Okla., five bass, 12-14
5th: Hayden O’Barr of Scottsboro, Ala., five bass, 12-12
6th: Jason Sandidge of Centerton, Ark., five bass, 12-10
7th: Nycholas Swanson of Waterloo, Iowa, three bass, 12-4
8th: Tristan Riddle of Nacogdoches, Texas, four bass, 11-13
9th: Charles Dubroc of Hessmer, La., two bass, 11-9
10th: Ray de Jong of Herare, Zimbabwe, four bass, 10-8
11th: Mike Power of Conroe, Texas, five bass, 10-3
12th: Mason Chambers of Galena, Mo., five bass, 10-1
13th: Larry Mullikin of Jacksonville, Fla., four bass, 10-0
14th: Daniel Buswell, Jr. of Fayetteville, Ga., five bass, 9-13
15th: Gerald Brumbaugh of Martinsburg, Pa., four bass, 9-12
16th: J.D. Blackamore of Yorba Linda, Calif., four bass, 9-9
16th: Jeff Moss of Oronogo, Mo., three bass, 9-9
18th: Lonnie Miller of Broken Arrow, Okla., five bass, 9-7
19th: Casey Dunn of North Highlands, Calif., three bass, 9-6
20th: Jack Farage of Discovery Bay, Calif., five bass, 9-4
20th: Allen Neal of Whitley City, Ky., three bass, 9-4
Anglers will take off daily at 7 a.m. CT from Pickwick Landing State Park, located at 120 Playground Loop, in Counce. Weigh-ins will also be held at the park and will begin at 3:15 p.m. Outdoor vendors will be onsite prior to weigh-in on Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fans are welcome to attend the event or follow the action online through the “MLF Live” weigh-in broadcasts and daily coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com. The 2021 Toyota Series Championship Presented by Guaranteed Rate will premiere on the Outdoor Channel at 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 15, 2022, with additional airings to follow on the Sportsman Channel.
The full field of anglers compete on Days 1 and 2 of the event, with the top 10 pros and top 10 Strike King co-anglers based on cumulative weight from the first two days continuing to the third and final day. The 2021 Toyota Series champions will be determined by the heaviest three-day total weight.
Pros and co-anglers can qualify for multiple contingency awards based on final standings in the championship, including the lucrative $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus for pros. The winning Strike King co-angler will earn a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.
The 2021 Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. consisted of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and Western – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division. The highest finishing pro from each division at the championship will claim a $10,000 bonus.
The 2021 Toyota Series Championship features the top 25 pros, top 25 Strike King co-anglers and tournament winners from each of the six divisions; the top 12 pros and 12 co-anglers from the Wild Card division; the highest finishing boater and co-angler from each of the six Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Regionals and the Wild Card at the All-American; the top three teams from the College Fishing National Championship; High School Fishing National Champions; TBF National Champions; and MLF International champions from Canada, Italy, Korea, Mexico and Zimbabwe.
For complete details and updated information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. via social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.