Thrift Eyes 7th Tour Title - Major League Fishing

Thrift Eyes 7th Tour Title

The best in the world catches 19-3 to move from fifth to first on day three (updated)
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Bryan Thrift Photo by Kyle Wood. Angler: Bryan Thrift.
March 30, 2019 • Sean Ostruszka • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Bryan Thrift has a pattern, and it looks like it may be happening again.

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Day three coverage blog

When Thrift wins FLW Tour events – something he has done six previous times – he tends to do it in back-to-back seasons. He won his first two in 2010 and 2011. His next two came in 2014 and 2015 (and then an FLW Tour Invitational win in 2016). He also won the Cumberland event in 2018. That means, if his pattern is to continue, he’s due for a victory this year.

Low and behold, he’s currently leading going into the final day of the Tour event of Grand Lake presented by Mercury. The two-time Angler of the Year caught the biggest bag of day three – 19 pounds, 3 ounces – to jump from fifth to first with 52-1 overall and take a 3-pound, 2-ounce lead over Ozark veteran Jeremy Lawyer.

“Today was a good day,” says Thrift of Saturday. “At least, it looked good on paper.”

It certainly didn’t look good to the eyes. Takeoff was bumped back 45 minutes to wait out a nasty storm front that passed over the area; a front that left in its wake a day of falling temperatures, misty rain and howling winds. “Miserable” was a word many pros uttered at weigh-in while hunkered in their trucks with the heat blasting in an attempt to warm up.

Yet, none felt warmer than Thrift. He was one of only 10 pros to catch limits on day three, and he only got eight bites all day. Yet, six were the right bites.

Bryan Thrift

“I actually lost my first fish of the day at around 9 a.m., and it was a good one,” Thrift laments. “So that started the day off on a sour note, but fortunately I was able to rebound.”

While he had been running throughout much of the lake the previous two days, the howling wind and rough water meant he hunkered down a bit more, hanging mainly in Honey Creek. There, he said he got a bite every 45 minutes or so, never having a flurry.

Along with the switch in strategy, he also had to switch from his vibrating jig that had produced the majority of his fish the first two days.

“I never got a bite on a vibrating jig today,” Thrift says. “I caught a couple on a jig and a couple on a crankbait.”

While the tournament has unfolded much to his liking thus far – he is in first, after all – he did mention the one thing he didn’t like was that he hasn’t been able to figure out a distinct pattern as to where the fish are located.

“I don’t like that I can’t look at an area and say, ‘I’m going to get bit here or there,’” Thrift explains. “It’s been so random. I’ve had to go into an area and fish everything.

“The ones I weighed in today, I caught two on bare banks, one on a dock, one off a tree and one off a rock. It’s just random.”

Still, one thing that isn’t random is Thrift once again finding himself in the top 10 with a chance at victory. This marks his 41st top 10 in his professional FLW Tour career, and he says it never gets old.

“It’s awesome,” says Thrift of leading. “This is why you fish. If you don’t get excited about having a chance to win, it’s time to quit.”


Jeremy Lawyer

2. Jeremy Lawyer – Sarcoxie, Mo. – 48-14 (15)

Sheldon Collings may be the true local of the top 10 anglers, but Lawyer is pretty darn close. He certainly put his extensive history and knowledge of Grand Lake to good use today.

He’s started every day thinking he had a solid pattern to begin with, and every day that pattern has disappeared, forcing him to refind his fish. Today, it took him until 1:35 p.m. before he caught his first keeper. Yet, once he found them, he was able to finish out a 17-pound, 9-ounce limit within 45 minutes.

Fortunately, today was the first day where there was a truly specific pattern.

“The first two days I was just fishing docks with a spinnerbait, going into an area and fishing all of them,” Lawyer says. “Today, they were on something really specific. I really had to look for it.

“History was everything for me today. It was key docks with specific stuff I only know because I’ve fished this lake for so many years and at so many levels.”

Lawyer is hoping this pattern holds up for tomorrow, but if it does what his previous patterns have done he’s still confident he can refind his fish one last time.


Billy McCaghren

3. Billy McCaghren – Mayflower, Ark. – 46-12 (15)

McCaghren apparently has flair for the dramatic.

At 2:15 p.m. he found himself all the way down at the dam with four fish in his livewell and a long, rough boat ride back to weigh-in. He admits now he didn’t know if he had enough time to make it back for check-in.

Yet, despite the tight window, he decided on his way back to make one last stop on a community hole. The result was a 6-10 kicker to cap off his 14-10 limit.

“That saved my day,” McCaghren says.

The Arkansas pro has been on a similar dock pattern as Lawyer, just with different lures. Yes, he’s mixing in a Talon ¾-ounce spinnerbait with a Zoom Swimmin Super Fluke trailer, but he’s also tossing a ½-ounce Talon Billy Mac jig of his own design with a Zoom Big Salty Chunk trailer. And his ace in the hole has been a homemade flat-sided balsa crankbait.

The trio of baits have been put to work all over the lower end, from Drowning Creek to the dam. McCaghren says he had to jump around even more today than normal, hitting close to 20 spots, as he figures he and Lawyer have beaten up the best area pretty well.


Michael Matthee

4. Michael Matthee – Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa. – 44-15 (13)

On a day when bites were at a premium, Matthee seemingly made it look easy.

The rookie from South Africa had a limit by 9 a.m. and says he caught a number of short fish throughout the day.

“I just never got a kicker,” says Matthee, who weighed in 14-10. “I caught a lot of fish, especially early. Then it died down.”

The bite dying has been quite the issue for him, more so because of the fish constantly repositioning on him in Horse Creek. On day one, Matthee says he caught all his fish off wood. Day two it was docks. Today, it was rocks.

Fortunately, he’s been consistently doing something he loves: throwing a spinnerbait, which is something he grew up doing.

“The first day, my biggest bite came on a spinnerbait, and she had it all the way back in her throat,” Matthee says. “After that, I said I was going to stick with it, and I have.”


Bradford Beavers

5. Bradford Beavers – Summerville, S.C. – 44-6 (14)

To say Beavers is fishing painfully slow is an understatement.

He’s been hunkered in a mile stretch of the Elk River, where he’s been making repeated casts to isolated pieces of wood. And by “repeated,” we mean as many as 50 casts at a time to each piece.

“It’s so boring it makes me want to quit doing it,” Beavers says.

That said, it’s been incredibly effective. Yet, his bite has gotten tougher every day, as the falling water he felt was helping him earlier in the derby may finally be hurting his shallow wood.

“I don’t think any new fish showed up,” Beavers says. “The falling water and the cold nights might be killing my pattern.”

Case in point: He only brought in four fish today (for 9 pounds, 7 ounces), and two of them came on a spinnerbait in spots where he “could make it work.” He says he caught his last fish at 2 p.m. and only had five bites total.

As for tomorrow, he figures he’ll start by hitting his high-percentage pieces of wood – he has one piece that he’s gotten two bites from every day – and then may have to scramble from there.


News and Notes


Jeremy Lawyer

“Miserable” conditions

The storms on day two helped ignite the bite for many pros. Not so much on day three.

The massive cold front left downright awful conditions to be outside in, let alone to fish. For most, the conditions meant hunkering in areas because the main lake was a dishwasher. Even then, the wind was so bad it actually hurt some pros’ spinnerbait bites.

It also hurt pros in other ways. John Cox missed multiple bites today that could’ve had him contending for the lead because his hands were so cold from the rain, wind and temperatures he couldn’t truly tell if it was a bite or a piece of cover until it was so late.


Bailey Boutries

Falling leaders

First it was Kyle Weisenburger. Then Bailey Boutries. Will Thrift be next?

So far, the leaders on each day have failed to bring in a limit the next day, with both not making it into the top 10. In fact, it’s not just the leaders. The guys in second haven’t fared any better, as neither Todd Castledine or Cox were able to bring in limits the day after holding down the No. 2 position.


Fog delay?

The final day on Grand is supposed to be sunny, but it also figures to be even colder than today. So cold, in fact, that some pros were worried we’d once again have a delayed takeoff due to fog.

Lawyer, in particular, felt fog was a real possibility, having a lot of experience on Ozark lakes in the spring.


Top 10 pros

1. Bryan Thrift – Shelbyville, N.C. – 52-1 (15)

2. Jeremy Lawyer – Sarcoxie, Mo. – 48-14 (15)

3. Billy McCaghren – Mayflower, Ark. – 46-12 (15)

4. Michael Matthee – Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa – 44-15 (13)

5. Bradford Beavers – Summerville, S.C. – 44-6 (14)

6. Brian Latimer – Belton, S.C. – 43-4 (11)

7. Miles Burghoff – Hixson, Tenn. – 42-7 (13)

8. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 42-4 (12)

9. Jamie Horton – Centerville, Ala. – 41-10 (13)

10. Sheldon Collings – Grove, Okla. – 39-9 (15)

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