EverStart pro Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., had endured three days of tough weather and wind and managed to lead the first three days of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee presented by Evinrude. All he needed was one more solid day’s weight to claim his first FLW Tour title.
Tharp caught a five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 2 ounces Sunday to win $125,000 with a four-day catch of 20 bass weighing 101-12. The catch gave him the win by a massive 23-pound, 9-ounce margin over John Cox of Debary, Fla., who caught a total of 20 bass weighing 78-3 and earned $35,000. Tharp’s margin of victory broke the FLW Tour record set by National Guard pro Brett Hite (20-4, Lake Toho, 2008).
â€œI felt like I could catch 30 pounds a day if I fished perfect,â€ said Tharp, who adds an FLW title to his four BFL wins and one EverStart Series victory. â€œI would have liked to have caught more, but I’m pretty tickled with the way things turned out.
â€œWhen I caught the first big one today and it put me at 19 pounds and I caught the second big one, I didn’t say anything, but when I caught the third one, I knew it was over.â€
Tharp said the one constant during the tournament was the wind. High winds wreaked havoc on anglers’ plans as water clarity went south. Many anglers struggled to adapt and catch fish.
â€œIt was not what you want in south Florida,â€ Tharp said. â€œWe had a wind chill of 27 degrees this morning. The winds were sustained 20 mph with gusts to 40. The style I was fishing is what you need to do under those conditions.â€
And Tharp’s style of fishing just happened to be what he loves to do â€“ use a big rod, heavy line and big weights to flip grass. Tharp fished the north end of the lake and threw a black with blue flake Bitters Baits B.F.M. paired with a 1 1/2-ounce pegged sinker. Tharp boated eight keepers during the course of the day.
â€œI’ve done pretty good on just about every type of body of water, but I prefer to fish a grass lake,â€ Tharp said. â€œAny grass lake is different when you go back. You never catch them in the same places because the grass is different. Okeechobee is a prime example of that.
â€œI’ve known for a long time that if I could win just one Tour-level event this is the lake I’d want it to happen on,â€ Tharp added. â€œSo now I’ve got that out of the way, and I can set my sights on other places.â€
The remaining top 10 pros finished the tournament in:
3rd: Jeremy York, Monroe, Ga., 20 bass, 74-2, $30,000
4th: Art Ferguson III, St. Clair Shores, Mich., 20 bass, 71-5, $25,000
5th: Brandon McMillan, Clewiston, Fla., 16 bass, 64-6, $20,000
6th: Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 16 bass, 61-12, $17,000
7th: Roland Martin, Naples, Fla., 15 bass, 59-6, $16,000
8th: National Guard pro Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 15 bass, 56-3, $15,000
9th: Steve Kennedy, Auburn, Ala., 16 bass, 55-8, $14,000
10th: Nick Gainey, Charleston, S.C., 15 bass, 54-5, $13,000
A complete list of results can be found at FLWOutdoors.com.
Overall there were 27 bass weighing 77 pounds, 12 ounces caught by pros Sunday. The catch included four five-bass limits.