SPRING CITY, Tenn. – It was a fight to the finish on Sunday – with a mere 1-pound, 12-ounce separation between the top five pros as the competition day concluded – yet Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, persevered to grab the early lead for Group B on Day 2 of the General Tire Stage Five on Watts Bar Lake Presented by Covercraft in Spring City, Tennessee.
Thrift will bring a slim lead into Group B’s second day of competition on Tuesday, with a 6-ounce advantage over second-place pro Ish Monroe of Oakdale, California, who caught eight bass totaling 23-7. Power-Pole pro Chris Lane of Guntersville, Alabama, chased the mayfly hatch to end the day in third place, catching 10 bass weighing 23-6, while Toro pro Jeff Sprague of Wills Point, Texas, ended the day in fourth place with 11 bass totaling 22-2. Tennessee pro David Walker of Sevierville rounded out the top five with 10 bass weighing 22-1.
Water was pulled from the fishery late in the day, creating a stronger current that enhanced the afternoon bite and produced a third period flurry for several anglers. Favorite Fishing pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, made the biggest afternoon waves on SCORETRACKER®, starting the final period in 38th place before catching 10 bass weighing 19-13 in Period 3 to finish the day in sixth place.
The 40 anglers in Group B will now have an off day, while the 40 anglers competing in Group A will fish their second day of competition Monday, battling it out for the Top 20 spots. Group B will resume competition on Tuesday.
The fifth stop on the 2022 Bass Pro Tour features 80 of the top professional bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a total purse of $805,000, including a top cash prize of $100,000 to the winner. The six-day event, hosted by Fish Dayton, the Rhea County Economic Tourism Council and Spring City, Tennessee, is livestreamed each day at MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MOTV app and filmed for broadcast later this fall on Discovery Channel.
Thrift said he found his original starting point during the 30-minute ride through, not far from the takeoff ramp, and spent the day throwing a variety of baits to small, isolated targets – rock piles, brush piles and grass – where fish were set up and ready to bite.
“Today was a good day,” Thrift said. “Kind of tough fishing, but this is my favorite thing to do – fishing isolated targets like I’ve done all day today.
“My only worry is that I don’t have enough locations,” he continued. “I’ve only got about 15 to 20 spots and I probably need 50 to 60 to continue to compete with this field, so hopefully today bought us a little wiggle room and we can go find some more spots when we get back out there.”
Thrift was the leader going into the final period and held off several hard-charging anglers to maintain that lead going into the second day of competition for Group B anglers on Tuesday.
“I caught the majority of my fish on a shaky head and a Texas rig with some BaitFuel Fish Attractant Gel. I also caught two scorable bass on a crankbait today,” Thrift said. “I threw those baits on my signature series Fitzgerald Tournament Shaky Head Rod, with P-Line XTCB Braid and a 10-pound P-Line Spin-X Fluorocarbon Leader with a 1/8-ounce shaky head.
“I ended up catching 12 scorable bass today with that setup,” Thrift said. “That will be the plan going into Day 2 (Qualifying Round 2) and hopefully we make it on to the next round.”
The Top 20 pros in Group B after Day 2 on Watts Bar Lake are:
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 226 scorable bass weighing 460 pounds, 7 ounces caught by 40 pros Sunday.
Monroe caught a 4-pound, 5-ounce largemouth in the first period that earned him the second $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award of the event. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.
The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Saturday and Monday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the anglers that finish in second through 20th place from both groups advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round, while the winner of each group advances directly to Thursday’s Championship Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 38 anglers compete to finish in the top eight to advance to the Championship Round. In the final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.
Anglers will launch each day at 7:30 a.m. ET from the Spring City Boat Ramp, located at 417 Toestring Valley Road in Spring City, Tennessee. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the ramp, beginning at 4 p.m. Fans are welcome and encouraged to attend all launch and takeout events and to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW! live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The General Tire Stage Five on Watts Bar Lake Presented by Covercraft features anglers competing with a 1-pound, 8-ounce minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.
The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2023 championship.
The MLF NOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action on all six days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLF NOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the General Tire Stage Five on Watts Bar Lake Presented by Covercraft will premiere at 7 a.m. ET, Oct. 29 on Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on Outdoor Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition.
Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, BallyBet, Bass Cat, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Covercraft, Favorite Fishing, Garmin, General Tire, Googan Baits, Grundéns, Guaranteed Rate, Humminbird, Lowrance, Luminox, Mercury, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak, Nitro Performance Boats, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Power Stop, Rapala, Starbrite, Toro, Toyota, Wrangler, Yellowstone Bourbon and Zoom.
For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.