Bolton Bearing Down on First Tour W - Major League Fishing

Bolton Bearing Down on First Tour W

LeBrun and Thrift are hot on his heels (updated)
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Terry Bolton Photo by Kyle Wood.
January 12, 2019 • Justin Onslow • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Terry Bolton has done a great many things in his professional fishing career. He has 46 top-10 finishes in FLW competition, 29 of which were also top fives. He has a Costa FLW Series victory and another in T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) competition. With over $1.1 million in career earnings and 13 FLW Cup appearances to his name, there’s not much Bolton can say he hasn’t done in the sport of bass fishing.

Save for a victory on the FLW Tour.

Luckily for Bolton and the fans watching him at Sam Rayburn this week, the Kentucky pro is just a day away from reaching that goal. With a total of 73 pounds, 13 ounces, he’s nearly 5 pounds ahead after weighing 19-10 on day three of the FLW Tour event presented by Polaris.

Still, don’t expect Bolton to put any pressure on himself to get his first win — or even to chase down the elusive century mark with a 26-plus-pound bag tomorrow. Both would be nice, he admits, but that’s not what it’s all about for the 23-year pro from Benton, Ky.

“If it’s your time to win, you cannot stop it,” Bolton says. “I’ve been in this position. If it’s your turn, it’s your turn. If it’s not, it’s not. You might as well go enjoy it. You’re going to get to fish the final day on a great fishery. Would I love to win? Sure. It would be big for me. Is it the end-all if I don’t win? No.”

That’s been Bolton’s approach all week, even on Friday when he walked onto the weigh-in stage with a megabag of bass good for 33 pounds and 9 ounces. On Saturday, when Big Sam was fishing a little tougher than it had the previous two days, Bolton took the same approach and landed enough big fish to retain the lead.

With any luck, that same laid-back approach will produce enough big bass to earn him a win.

Bolton has done many of the same things all week. He’s relied on a Rapala DT 14 and DT 16 for some deep fish at several of the same spots, though he did mix in a 3/4-ounce Accent spinnerbait — his favorite technique — to land one keeper that made his final five.

Tomorrow will be business as usual for Bolton. He’ll run some of the same spots and throw some of the same baits, but who knows? According to the crafty vet, he may try some new things if that’s what the lake is asking for. And he won’t feel one ounce of pressure while he’s out there.


Nick LeBrun – 69-1 (20-13 day three)

FLW Tour rookie Nick LeBrun went swinging for the fences Saturday and legged out a triple. He didn’t clear the fence, but he sure put a charge into one with a 20-pound, 13-ounce bag that was one of only two 20-plus-pound stringers on the day.

“I went swinging early,” he admits. “I thought, man, if I can get one of those big ones to bite… I caught one little spot on that deep stuff, and then I went to my third spot and jacked them.”

After a pleasant but foggy morning on Rayburn, the sun came out in the early afternoon and wind came with it. When the wind picked up the fish laid down, but LeBrun still made the most of his time on the water. And even if Sunday turns out to be another windy affair, LeBrun has some juice on standby.

“I have a little bit of fresh stuff on the other side of the lake,” he says. “I didn’t go to it today because of the wind. I’m going to do the same thing I did today. I’m going to go and try to get a limit and hopefully it’s a decent limit, and then go swinging the rest of the day for a decent bite.”


Bryan Thrift – 68-14 (24-15 day three)

With the largest stringer of day three on Rayburn, Bryan Thrift closed the gap and positioned himself less than five pounds off the lead and one day away from his seventh win on the FLW Tour. He also moved into sole possession of the record for most top-10 finishes on Tour (42) and extended his consecutive limits streak to 66 Tour competition days.

What Thrift is doing right now — and has been doing most of his career — is just unfair.

Bolton and LeBrun are excellent anglers who could very easily beat down Rayburn Sunday and take home the victory, but doubt certainly starts to creep in when the best bass angler on the planet is right on their heels.

On Saturday, Thrift repeated his spots and patterns from days one and two—mostly dragging a Carolina rig around – though he admits he caught his biggest fish of the day, a 7-pounder, on a football head with a Damiki Stinger.


Jim Tutt – 62-13 (17-9 day three)

In his decades fishing Rayburn, 58-year-old Jim Tutt has learned a lot. Even with the lake flooded sky high, he’s been able to put that knowledge to work for what is guaranteed to be his best finish on Tour since at least 2008.

“I fished the same stuff [today],” he says. “My two best areas didn’t produce today. I only caught one fish off one of them; it’s getting muddied up right now [from steady winds]. But I’ve got two others and one I could catch 20 pounds off of.”

Tutt just kept cranking most of the day Saturday, which certainly produced for the Longview, Texas pro on days one and two. He bagged 17-9, and his focus now is on finding the winning spots, which could be few and far between given the fact that his best ones didn’t quite produce today.

“You hate to go hunting on the last day, but I’m not afraid to do that,” he adds.

Asked what his mindset is heading into Sunday, Tutt was quick to quip, “I hope the wind doesn’t blow.”


Chad Warren – 60-11 (16-5 day three)

Chad Warren is still chasing his first Tour victory, but he isn’t a stranger to top fives. He has a second-place finish at the Tour’s 2017 stop at the Potomac River to his name, and he also has a fair shot at topping that Sunday.

Sure, besting Bolton and LeBrun and Thrift and Tutt sounds like a tall order, but everything has been falling in place for Warren this week. Even after missing part of the official practice period due to illness, the Sand Springs, Okla., pro is right in the thick of it. And worst-case scenario, he’s looking at a mighty fine payday.

“I feel good,” he says. “I’m hoping some big fish move into my area [Sunday]. Every fish is more money.”


News and notes

Mother Nature fighting back

When winds between 10 and 15 miles per hour rolled in Saturday afternoon, Big Sam went quiet. Anglers still caught their share of fish, but the bounty Rayburn had been providing up to that point seemed to dry up a bit.

“The wind seemed like it turned them off,” says Thrift.

“I hope the wind doesn’t blow like it did today,” adds Tutt.

Bolton and LeBrun each admitted the wind had a big impact on fishing Saturday as well, and all signs indicate that Rayburn could produce significantly smaller limits on day four if winds decide to pick up early in the day.

“I had issues,” Bolton admits. “I think I culled once during the wind. That was it. I couldn’t make the right cast. The wind was a factor and I thought they’d bite better once the sun came out.

In addition, choppy water churned up by winds on Rayburn force anglers to take their time running to and from the takeoff ramp and between spots, which might mean less time to bulk up limits on Sunday.


The rooks

Five FLW Tour rookies made the top-30 cut at Rayburn this week, led by LeBrun and Athens, Ala., pro Sam George, both of whom made the top-10 cut and will fish on Sunday.

Miles Burghoff (12th), Derek Fulps (23rd) and Jon Englund (29th) joined them in fishing on Saturday, and all five will come away with a payday and valuable points in the Angler of the Year standings.


Monsoor’s big catch

La Crosse, Wis., pro Tom Monsoor was praying for a big fish Saturday. After turning in a huge 26-4 bag on day two, he was in position to make a run at a top-10 finish, or perhaps more.

He got that big fish, but it wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

“I needed one big bite,” he explains. “All the sudden I feel something in the weeds. I felt the tug. I knew I had a good one. I fight it and fight it and out comes a 15-pound carp.”

Monsoor, as it turns out, didn’t need as big a bite as he expected. He finished just 11 ounces from making the top-10 cut and fishing on Sunday, which has to make catching that carp sting just a bit more. He finished 11th and walks away from Rayburn with a $12,000 payday.


Top 10 pros

1. Terry Bolton –Benton, Ky. – 73-13 (15)

2. Nick LeBrun – Bossier City, La. – 69-1 (15)

3. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 68-14 (15)

4. Jim Tutt – Longview, Texas – 62-13 (15)

5. Chad Warren – Sand Springs, Okla. – 60-11 (15)

6. Jordan Osborne – Longview, Texas – 56-12 (15)

7. Tom Redington – Royse City, Texas – 54-13 (15)

8. Sam George – Athens, Ala. – 54-3 (15)

9. Colby Schrumpf – Highland, Ill. – 52-9 (15)

10. Charles Sim – Nepean, Ontario – 52-3 (15)

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