SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. – As if they were following a script on how to win the Forrest Wood Cup, pros Randall Tharp and Bryan Thrift followed up their giant opening-day bags with nearly identical 11-pound catches Friday. Tharp technically increased his lead from an ounce to 4 ounces, but Larry Nixon made the biggest move, catching a 14-pound, 5-ounce stringer to come within 2 pounds of the leaders.
Tharp started his second day in a different area, an area he has previous tournament experience with and was sure to receive some bites.
“I caught two decent fish right away and it really settled me down,” said the pro known as the honey badger. “It wasn’t fast and furious, but I had my limit today by 9:15 a.m., and it was pretty close to what I weighed in.
“I really struggled from 11:30 on,” Tharp added. “I culled twice this afternoon, but I only caught nine keepers throughout the day. I did see some good fish, though, and I had some good fish roll on my bait that I know will be there for me tomorrow.”
Tharp has two patterns going – one is flipping and the other he isn’t ready to divulge. Today, he weighed four fish from his undisclosed pattern and one from flipping. He sampled approximately 10 areas, including the spot he flurried on yesterday, all of which are located in Pool 5. He did lose a 2 1/2-pounder on a crankbait, but that’s not his “other” pattern.
What’s not a secret is that Tharp believes this tournament is going to be won in the backwaters. He feels the bigger bites that come from the main river are more random, whereas the backwater kickers, while extremely difficult, can be patterned. After catching 20 pounds in 30 minutes one day during practice, the EverStart pro knew big bags were possible. But he’s a little surprised he’s not getting as many bites as he was.
“I’ve still got a bunch of good areas that I have not fished in this tournament. But, a lot of them are on the river. Fishing the river is like rolling the dice. You can catch 50 bass and not get a big bite, and then pull up to a new spot and find a big one. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.”
Having taken second in the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup, Tharp keenly understands his position and what he’ll have to do in the coming days to win the $500,000 first-place purse.
“Today I had an average day on this river. Eleven pounds a day isn’t going to cut it. I feel like I need one more day in the teens to win this one.”
His official day-two weight was 11 pounds, 3 ounces, giving him an opening-round total of 29 pounds, 11 ounces. He’ll start day three in the same area he started today – and hopes to leave with another efficient limit.
“This tournament can’t be won in two days. My goal is to make it to day four and we’ll take it from there.”
Thrift gives 3 ounces to Tharp
“I caught everything but one off new stuff,” said the Shelby, N.C., native. “I caught that 4-pounder around 8:30 off my big-fish spot and then I had to run around.”
That big-fish spot is a point in a backwater located in Pool 5. Thrift puts the boat in 16 feet of water and casts up to 2 feet. This one spot accounted for three big fish yesterday (two from Thrift, one from co-angler Alan Woodford).
“I went back at 2:30 this afternoon and lost another big one, so I’ll be starting there again. That’s the only place out here where I’ve caught big ones.”
Thrift did sample Pool 4 this afternoon, but never caught anything that helped. His main pattern is fishing a shaky head with a Damiki Finesse Miki. At the big-fish spot, he makes repeated casts with the shaky head. In other areas, he’ll also mix in a hodgepodge of other baits, including a ChatterBait and a Trick Worm.
“On that big fish spot, it’s got to be slow and small. Sometimes it takes 40 casts there to get a bite.”
Thrift boated 10 or 12 keepers today, down from 13 or 14 on Thursday.
“Whoever wins this tournament is going to catch another 14-pound bag. I don’t really know what else to do to get a big bite. I do have one spot down in Pool 3 that I’m contemplating running to. I might throw a frog some too.”
Nixon retains third, gains ground
Like Thrift, Nixon has one big-fish area. He started there this morning and caught a 4-pounder. That fish had him hung and Nixon almost broke his line as he didn’t want to ruin the spot. He’s glad he didn’t because that fish anchored his limit, the heaviest of day two.
“At about 12:30 I went flipping and I’ll be darned if I didn’t get another good one,” said Nixon, who is also fishing Pool 5. “And later in the afternoon I culled three times flipping.”
Nixon wouldn’t say what he does at his big-fish spot, other than fish slowly.
“My morning deal is my main deal if they’ll ever bite. I’m starting there again. I think a local may have fished it, but you go back to where 4-pounders live and I’ve got one there each day. I’m slowly putting all the different pieces together. I have eliminated two or three things that I had on my mind.”
With 27 pounds, 9 ounces, Nixon is within striking distance of the leaders and his long-coveted Forrest Wood Cup.
“I’m ahead of schedule. I never thought I’d catch 13 and 14 pounds. I thought I’d be around 12 pounds a day.”
Scheide rises to fourth
Ray Scheide had a productive day on paper – catching another solid 12-pound, 12-ounce limit and moving up to fourth with a total weight of 25-3. But what the results sheet doesn’t say is that Scheide had over 20 pounds on the line today.
“I started the day flipping a Space Monkey,” recalled Scheide. “I caught probably 35 fish and left around 11 a.m. with a 10-pound limit.”
From there, Scheide went frogging and that’s when opportunity knocked. While he culled four times on frog fish, he also lost a legitimate 6-pounder and two 4-pounders.
“I’m fishing the thickest cover you can find and sometimes that happens. But the next two days ought to be good. I’m getting a little more figured out each day. Tomorrow if I figure it all out, I could blow the doors off this thing.”
Scheide also stayed exclusively in Pool 5. Both of his areas are backwaters and he’s considering flip-flopping the rotation due to the strength of today’s frog bite. While he was willing to name his flipping bait, he wants to keep the exact frog he’s throwing a secret.
“My partner today, who’s a good co-angler, only caught one and he tried just about every different frog.”
Rose retains fifth
Mark Rose weighed an 11-pound, 14-ounce stringer Friday and retained fifth with a two-day total of 24 pounds, 13 ounces. Rose has spent most of his time just outside the mouth of Port Lake that feeds into the main river, but he’s contemplating a change.
“The 12 pounds or so I’m doing now, it’s about over,” said Rose, who finished second on the Red in 2011. “I’ve milked it, but I just wanted to ride it and survive and I did that.”
Rose described his primary pattern as a little spot on the edge of a drop with a lily pad field right behind it. Once he’s fished that, he’ll flip the bank or cover it with a crankbait.
“I weighed two today flipping with the new 1/2-ounce Strike King Structure Jig, one on a Series 3 crankbait and two on a shaky head with a Fat Baby Finesse Worm.”
Rose was vague about the change he’s contemplating, but it’s clear he sees a window starting to open.
“I’ve been saving some areas. There’s something that I’m waiting for to happen. I’ll just say the river needs to change and it’s starting to.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Forrest Wood Cup after day two:
6th: Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., 24-11
7th: John Cox of Debary, Fla., 23-15
8th: Robbie Dodson of Harrison, Ark., 23-7
9th: Mark Daniels Jr. of Fairfield, Calif., 23-2
10th: Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., 23-0
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. Central time from Red River South Marina located at 250 Red River South Marina Road in Bossier City, La.
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