CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The leaderboard shifted Saturday except for first place, which Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., retained in the second knockout round of the Redcrest Bass Fishing Championship at Lake Norman.
Entering the second knockout round, Thrift led Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tenn., by 2 pounds, 8 ounces.
In the second knockout round on Saturday, Thrift registered five bass that weighed 15-6 to boost his two-day cumulative total weight to 33-2. His biggest bass of the day weighed 4-10.
The field for today's championship round was cut to the top 10 after Saturday's knockout round. The angler that records the heaviest three-day cumulative weight will win $300,000.
Alton Jones Jr., who started the day in third place, replaced Wheeler in second place by registering five bass weighing 17-0 for a two-day total of 31-9, reducing Thrift's hold on first place to 1 pound, 9 ounces. Jones's biggest bass weighed 4-5.
In third place was Matt Lee of Cullman, Ala. (5/17-7; 31-9), followed by Wheeler (5/13-10; 28-13), Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla. (5/14-15; 27-2), Randy Howell of Guntersville, Ala. (5/13-6; 25-9), Dustin Connell of Clanton, Ala. (5/13-12; 25-7), Adrian Avena of Vineland, N.J. (5/10-13; 25-1), Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C. (5/12-6; 24-9), and Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Tenn. (5/13-1; 24-2).
Thrift, who won the final Forrest Wood Cup in 2019 on Lake Hamilton, struggled on Saturday to find the size fish necessary to win a championship event. The average weight of his first four bass was only 2-2, but he caught his big bass late in the day to salvage his hold on the lead.
"Today was a struggle," Thrift said. "I caught four little guys in the first place I went, and then I caught a decent one in the next place [I] went after that. It was a struggle after that. I kind of went into panic mode and ran some stuff I was hoping to save for the final day. I caught a big one that saved the day."
Thrift said he is fishing a number of places that he said can produce one big fish. He said he won't change his strategy, but he acknowledged that a forecast of rain today could help him replicate his performance on Friday that catapulted him into the lead.
Jones, son of Bassmaster Classic Alton Jones, said he doesn't dwell on the previous day's fishing conditions, but he said that cloudy weather doesn't favor him.
Jones said that he does feel pressure to win a championship. His father won a world championship, as did Thrift, Wheeler and Evers.
"To win a title like Redcrest would mean a lot," Jones said. "It solidifies your name in history of bass fishing. My dad won a Classic. To have something comparable would be special."
Lee, who won the Bassmaster College National Championship on Beaverfork Lake near Conway, said he slipped in the first knockout round on Friday, but he made up for it on Saturday by catching a big largemouth bass and a big spotted bass. He said he will "wing it" today to catch a championship limit in what are expected to be dreary conditions.