Reel Chat with RANDALL THARP - Major League Fishing

Reel Chat with RANDALL THARP

Tharp discusses his recent Forrest Wood Cup victory, tournament superstitions and some of his greatest fishing influences
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EverStart pro Randall Tharp of Port Saint Joe, Fla., maintained the overall lead at the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup for the second day in a row after posting a total catch weighing 29 pounds, 11 ounces. Photo by Gary Mortenson. Angler: Randall Tharp.
August 30, 2013 • MLF • Uncategorized

Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat. Today we’re joined by EverStart team pro Randall Tharp of Port Saint Joe, Fla., the winner of the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup on the Red River.

On Aug. 18, Tharp made history by capturing one of the sport’s most prestigious year-end championship titles. Tharp led the Forrest Wood Cup for the first two days, buoyed in part by a hefty 18-pound-plus stringer on day one. However, after a slight hiccup on day three, he managed to change things up, capitalize on a frog bite and ultimately cruise to victory by 4 full pounds.

For his efforts, Tharp walked away with the top prize of $500,000 and now boasts over $1.26 million in career FLW earnings. The Florida resident also has 38 top-10 finishes to his credit, including seven FLW Tour final-day appearances since 2011. In addition to the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup title, Tharp has six other victories including an FLW Tour win on Lake Okeechobee in 2012, an EverStart Series win on Lake Eufaula in 2008 and four BFL titles from 2003 to 2009.

Today, Tharp is here to take questions from you, the fans. So, without further delay, let’s get started.

Q: What did it feel like to win the Cup?
— Jon Pageler (New York, N.Y.)
A: It’s gratifying. That’s the word I would use. A lot of hard work went into it and after 2011, I felt like I was due.

Q: At what point in the tournament did you locate your winning fish – pre-practice, practice or during the tournament itself?
— Jim Interlandi (Chicago, Ill.)
A: I located the winning the fish during pre-practice on my final day. I’d fished that area in previous tournaments and it’s more or less a community hole. It’s no secret where I was. The only question for me was that I wasn’t sure how many people were going to fish it at the time. The (traffic) in that area was about what I expected. But it was a timing thing is well. I just wanted to make sure the fish had a chance to rest by the time I got there in the afternoon.

Q: When exactly did you realize you had the tournament in the bag and were going to be crowned Forrest Wood Cup champion?
— Jim Interlandi (Chicago, Ill.)
A: I felt really confident and really good after day three. Obviously I didn’t know I’d won until after I got off the water. The afternoon of day three was when I really knew it was mine.

Q: Before the start of the Forrest Wood Cup, most anglers predicted that 11 pounds a day would be enough to win. However, you seemed to know very early on that that wouldn’t be the case. What made you so confident the winning four-day weight was going to be a lot more than 44 pounds?
— Dave Perlman (Minneapolis, Minn.)
A: Based on my pre-practice. In that one area, I caught a 20-pound bag in like 30 minutes so I knew right there it would take more. I was actually surprised you didn’t see more 18-pound-plus bags over the course of four days.

Q: You said that you finally decided to throw a frog on the final day, but why didn’t you throw some other type of topwater like a buzzbait, soft plastic buzz frog or popper?
— Brandon (Muncie, Ind.)
A: My key lure throughout the event was the swim jig. The fish were not very aggressive. The reason I made the change on day four is that I’d lost a couple of good fish on the jig on day three. Overall, I got a lot more bites swimming the jig. On the final day, I knew the fish hadn’t seen a frog yet. The cover was so thick where I was fishing on the final day, I didn’t think I could fish that jig successfully. I just felt that the slow, floating frog presentation was going to work the best in those conditions.

Q: What type and size of line did you use when flipping?
— Robert (Jasper, Tenn.)
A: That varies because I’ll fish everything from 12- to 20-pound test line, Gamma fluorocarbon. When I’m flipping grass though, I’ll fish 70-pound Gamma Torque, a braided line.

Q: Do you have any superstitions when you are in a tournament?
— Beau (Minot, N.D.)
A: Not really. If I do have one, it’s if I have a good bag. I’ll try to do the same things I did the day before, like fill my truck up with gas at the same station or eat the exact same breakfast.

Q: Have you done any fishing (freshwater or saltwater) since the Red River?
— Brandon (Muncie, Ind.)
A: No.

Q: Who makes the swim jig you were using during the Cup?
— Dwayne Stephens (Canton, Ga.)
A: 4×4 Bass Jigs.

Q: Congratulations Randall! I was at the final weigh-in on Sunday and it was an exciting time! FLW Outdoors did a great job all week! During practice it was reported that the water temps were really high (101 degrees in one case). Then the weather changed and the temps dropped to way below normal for Shreveport/Bossier in August. What changes did you have to make from practice to stay on the bass – or were you able to stay with your original game plan?
— Bman (Little Rock, Ark.)
A: My original game plan pretty much stayed the same. But I was shocked by how much the bites dropped off because of the cooler weather. I talked to a lot of the guys and they all said the same thing that it seemed like the bass on the Red River liked the hotter weather. And when the weather did warm it, it did seem like the bites picked up as well.

Q: Randall, how would you answer Mark Rose’s question, “What would you do for 500,000 dollars?” I imagine most, if not all the pros, would have gotten wet too! Congrats on winning the Forrest Wood Cup!
— Bman (Little Rock, Ark.)
A: Without a doubt, I think everyone in the field would have done what Mark Rose did (dive almost completely underwater to free up a snagged fish). I’ve deposited the $500,000 in the bank so I can make sure I have enough to fish for a while. Every single cent of prize money I’ve won has gone right back into my fishing business – so hopefully I can fish a whole lot longer.

Q: When going to a new lake that you are not totally familiar with, what are a few of the major things that you take into consideration when mapping out your plan for the week?
— Colton Blake (Kennesaw, Ga.)
A: The time of year, what type of lake it is and try to fish to my strengths. I think most of the FLW guys enjoy going to new lakes as opposed to visiting a lake for the second or third time. I just feel like I fish better on a new lake. I’m not fishing past history. And I really trust my judgement on new water and feel like I just fish better there. I delete my waypoints as soon as I leave a lake. I have zero waypoints in my GPS right now.

Q: How did you get your start in FLW?
— Damian (Marcellus, N.Y.)
A: I started fishing BFLs. Before that it was club-level tournaments. I fished until I dominated that level and kept moving up – first to the EverStart level and then to the Tour. I also worked long hours to be able to afford to buy a boat just to start fishing. And if I fished a tournament and didn’t win money, I’d go back to work again in order to make money to pay for the (next entry fee). So it provided good motivation and an incentive for me to do well.

Q: What’s your favorite lure/bait of all time?
— Ron Griffin (Garland, Texas)
A: I would have to say a jig. And the reason is that it’s just so versatile. Due to it’s versatility, you can catch bass flipping it, swimming it or fishing it on the bottom of 25 feet of water. The ways to fish that bait are almost endless.

Q: CONGRATS TO START!! What helps you determine on your swim jig size 3/8 or 1/2 ounce… Water color? Depth? Depth of available cover? Overall aggressiveness of the fish?
— JAY BOURGEOIS (Gautier, Miss.)
A: I think it’s a little bit of each one of those things. If I want to fish deeper, I’ll go with a heavier jig. If I’m in a foot of water or less on Lake Okeechobee, I’ll fish a 1/4-ounce jig.

Q: What is your favorite rod for flippin’ heavy cover, like matted milfoil or tules?
— Carl (Mound, Minn.)
A: Without a doubt it’s a Halo 7-11, extra-heavy action. That’s the rod I won the Lake Okeechobee tournament on in 2012. I’ll change to a Halo 7-11 heavy if the cover is not quite as thick or the fish aren’t quite as big.

Q: Being from Florida, what techniques do you use when fishing places you’ve never fished before?
— James Cox (Tallahassee, FL)
A: Basically, I try to just fish techniques I feel like I’m best at. So it doesn’t matter if I fish a lake down the street from my house or go to Lake Champlain. I have an arsenal of techniques but I’ll always just try to fish to my strengths. That being said, you also have to learn new techniques in order to improve. Right now, I’m not even close to the same type of fisherman I was five years ago. When I started I was just an Alabama flipper. But what makes it fun for me is learning new techniques. For example, I’ve really learned a lot about how to fish a square-bill crankbait over the last few years. I’ve also recently learned a lot about throwing a ChatterBait. So there is always room to improve.

Q: Did you know going into the Cup that you would stick to Pool 5 or did you sample Pools 3 and 4 and eliminate water?
— Brady (St. Mary, Mo.)
A: I spent one day in Pool 4 in pre-practice but during official practice I spent all of my time in Pool 5. I just didn’t think you could win the tournament fishing Pool 3.

Q: Congrats Honey Badger!! Do you snell your hooks when you flip? I have gone back and forth about it but can’t decide if it makes a difference.
— Carl (Mound, Minn.)
A: I always snell my hook when flipping one hundred percent of the time. For me, a Reins Tungsten sinker paired with a straight-shank flipping hook is what works best.

Q: Mississippi State or Oklahoma State this weekend.. who is going to win?
— Taylor Odom (Meridian, Miss.)
A: Oh wow… Alabama. I actually don’t know who is going to win. I’m not really that familiar with those teams.

Q: Have you bought yourself any gifts yet to congratulate yourself on the win? Maybe a trip to Disney World?
— Andy (Fairfield, Iowa)
A: My wife and I had an agreement before the tournament. If I won I could get a golf cart and a flats boat. Those were things I was going to get anyway, but now I can get them a little bit sooner.

Q: What are your two favorite frog baits and why?
— Matt (Sanford, N.C.)
A: My No. 1 frog bait is a Bobby’s Perfect Frog and it’s made by Snag Proof. I prefer that frog when I’m fishing on top of mats of hydrilla and milfoil. The other frog I use is a Spro Bronzeye 65 and I prefer that one in open water or around lily pads like you’d find on the Red River.

Q: How would you fish Bull Shoals, and how would you fish really thick hydrilla?
— Bryce (Morrison, Okla.)
A: I’d fish Bull Shoals like a typical Ozark Mountain lake. I’d approach it the same way I’d fish Beaver Lake or Table Rock. It’d also depend on the time of the year, whether the fish were in prespawn, spawn or post-spawn. As far as fishing hydrilla, there are a lot of different ways to fish it. When I fish thick hydrilla, I like to fish with a big weight. Basically, punching mats is the way I like to go.

Q: Who was your greatest influence and/or mentor coming up through the ranks?
— Joshua Pullins (Mineral Point, Mo.)
A: I looked up to a lot of guys when I first started tournament fishing, guys like Hank Parker and Larry Nixon. But one of the guys who really made me want to fish the FLW Tour was Andy Morgan. He fished against me at Lake Guntersville back in the day and beat me. So I wanted to get him back. Guys like Kevin VanDam and Jason Christie have also influenced me as well.

Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have to chat with Randall Tharp today. Thanks, once again, to all the fans who participated in today’s Reel Chat. And a special thanks to Randall Tharp, the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup champion, for giving us his time and insights.