North Carolina’s own Bryan Thrift caught a five-bass limit Sunday weighing 13 pounds, 10 ounces, to win the Major League Fishing (MLF) REDCREST 2023 presented by Shore Lunch at Lake Norman , the Bass Pro Tour championship, and earn the top prize of $300,000. Thrift’s three-day cumulative total of 46 pounds, 12 ounces garnered him the win by a 4-pound, 6-ounce margin over second-place finisher Alton Jones, Jr. of Waco, Texas, who earned $50,000 for his runner-up finish.
“Oh my god, this feels so good,” said an emotional Thrift in his post-game interview. “Two years ago, at Lake Eufaula (in Alabama) I was leading REDCREST going into the final day, and I thought for sure that I had a really, really good chance to win. Then I ended up barely catching a fish the last day… I’ve thought about that tournament for two years.
“This week has been great, but it’s been a tough, trying last two days,” Thrift continued. “Luckily, I had one spot that I saved in case I got in a pinch today and it worked out.”
Thrift’s history and experience on Lake Norman played a huge role this week, but Thrift also seemed to be the only angler that “cracked the code” up the river. Numerous anglers would try to go up the river each day to target bass, and each day they would come back down unsuccessful. On Sunday Thrift went to his spot up the river and that produced four of the five fish in his limit Sunday, likely saving his tournament.
“I never was able to get the big bites that I needed, but the place I was saving up in the river came through for me with the (Z-Man Jack Hammer) ChatterBait,” Thrift said.
Key baits throughout the week for Thrift was the Jack Hammer, a Damiki Underspin with a Damiki Armor Shad, a Fitzgerald Football jig, and an unnamed 5.8-inch swimbait.
“Everything worked as planned,” Thrift said. “I planned to find a place where I could start and catch a decent limit every day, then I’d go run and throw a swimbait and a jig to try to get a couple of big bites.
“I’m just so happy to get this win, on my home lake, in front of all of my friends and family,” Thrift went on to say as he wiped tears from his eyes. “Lake Norman has been awfully good to me over the years.”
The top 10 pros at REDCREST 2023 on Lake Norman finished:
- Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 15 bass, 46-12, $300,000
- Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 15 bass, 42-6, $50,000
- Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., 15 bass, 41-14, $40,000
- Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 15 bass, 40-11, $28,000
- Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., 15 bass, 40-10, $25,000
- Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 15 bass, 40-4, $20,000
- Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 15 bass, 37-3, $18,000
- Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 15 bass, 36-13, $16,000
- Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 35-5, $14,500
- Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 15 bass, 34-14, $12,500
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall there were 82 scorable bass weighing 175 pounds, 10 ounces caught by the final 10 pros Sunday. Throughout the entire five-day event, the 40 Bass Pro Tour REDCREST 2023 competitors caught a total of 1,105 scorable bass weighing 2,321 pounds, 4 ounces.
Pro Casey Ashley of Donalds, South Carolina, earned Sunday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with a 5-pound largemouth that he caught on a jig in Period 3. Edwin Evers earned the $3,000 Berkley Big Bass Bonus for weighing in the heaviest bass of the event – a 6-pound largemouth that he caught on the very first day of competition.