Fifty-two of the best bass anglers in the world began their three-day competition for a top cash award of $300,000 at the 24th annual FLW Cup, the world championship of professional bass fishing, on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Friday.
FLW Tour stalwart Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 15 pounds, 3 ounces to take the early lead after Day One of the three day event. Thrift now holds a slim 3-ounce lead over pro Nick LeBrun of Bossier City, Louisiana, who caught five bass weighing 15 pounds even, good for second place.
"One of the cool things about having the Cup in August every year is that you never know what's going to happen, and you can usually throw practice out the window. That's what I did today and I caught fish off of stuff that I had never even fished in practice," said Thrift, who has never won an FLW Cup but has 9 top-10 finishes in FLW Cup competition – most in Tour history. "I think I ended up catching 20 to 25 fish, steady all day – one bite here, one bite there – on around 10 different baits."
Thrift declined to mention any bait specifics at this point of the event, but did mention throwing a buzzbait – as did the majority of competitors. Of the five bass that Thrift brought to the stage, he said that three came shallow and two came from brush piles offshore.
"I'm flying by the seat of my pants, doing a little of everything," Thrift said. "I've got 20 different Fitzgerald rods rigged up on my deck and I'm throwing at everything that I see."
Although an early lead is certainly favorable, Thrift acknowledged the fact that he still has work left to do in order to make the final-day top-10 cut.
"I'm not going to count my chickens before they're hatched, and I expect the fishing to get tougher tomorrow," Thrift went on to say. "I'm hoping to go out tomorrow and catch 10 pounds. That was my goal for today – a 10-pound bag – and I'd be happy with that tomorrow."
The top 20 pros after Day One on Lake Hamilton are:
1st: Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., five bass, 15-3
2nd: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., five bass, 15-0
3rd: Kyle Walters, Grant Valkaria, Fla., five bass, 13-13
4th: Jordan Osborne, Longview, Texas, five bass, 13-11
5th: Lowrance pro Austin Felix, Eden Prairie, Minn., five bass, 13-5
6th: Bryan Schmitt, Deale, Md., five bass, 12-15
7th: Joel Willert, Prior Lake, Minn., five bass, 12-13
8th: Billy McCaghren, Mayflower, Ark., five bass, 12-4
9th: Bass Pro Shops' pro Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., five bass, 12-1
10th: J. Todd Tucker, Moultrie, Ga., five bass, 11-14
11th: Erik Luzak, Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada, five bass, 11-12
12th: Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., five bass, 11-9
13th: Matt Becker, Finleyville, Pa., five bass, 11-7
13th: Cory Johnston, Cavan, Ontario, Canada, five bass, 11-7
15th: Matt Reed, Madisonville, Texas, five bass, 11-3
16th: Kurt Dove, Del Rio, Texas, five bass, 11-0
17th: Yamamoto Baits pro Larry Nixon, Quitman, Arkansas, five bass, 10-9
18th: Bradford Beavers, Summerville, S.C., five bass, 10-4
18th: Costa pro Todd Castledine, Nacogdoches, Texas, five bass, 10-4
20th: Dakota Ebare, Denham Springs, La., five bass, 9-8
20th: Matthew Stefan, Junction City, Wis., five bass, 9-8
For a full list of results visit FLWFishing.com.
Overall there were 246 bass weighing 473 pounds, 7 ounces caught by 52 pros Friday. The catch included 45 five-bass limits.