CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bryan Thrift barely qualified for the final three days of the Redcrest Bass Fishing Championship on Lake Norman, but then he held the lead for rest of the tournament to win $300,000.
Thrift, of Shelby, N.C., won the final Forrest Wood Cup tournament at Lake Hamilton in 2019 before the host organization, Fishing League Worldwide, merged with Major League Fishing. Winning the Redcrest Bass Fishing Championship makes Thrift one of only a few anglers to win more than one world championship.
"It feels great," Thrift said. "I haven't won an event since I won the last Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Hamilton in 2019. I've had a lot of seconds. To get a Redcrest win, to another major championship, especially on my home lake, it feels amazing."
Thrift said that the first professional fishing tournament he attended was the 2004 Bassmaster Classic, which Takahiro Omori won nearby on Lake Wylie. Thrift said that experience inspired him to fish professionally.
"That's something you can only dream of as a young angler," Thrift said. "My first event I ever went to was here in Charlotte in 2004. I got teared up then, and I knew then that this is what I wanted to do. It's been a great run."
A lifetime of experience on Lake Norman helped Thrift devise a strategy that would give him a good chance to win a grueling five-day event on a difficult lake.
First, Thrift had to fish for two days to qualify for the first knockout round. Only the top 20 anglers reached the first knockout round. Thrift qualified in 18th place. In the first knockout round he caught the heaviest limit registered in the tournament (17 pounds, 12 ounces) to give him an early lead. He never relinquished his lead despite three days of radical weather changes.
"I was worried all day today because I know the history of Lake Norman, and normally when you have a nasty weather day like we had today, there's some big bags to be caught," Thrift said. "For some reason they didn't bite today. I don't think we had quite enough wind with the rain and the cloud cover."
Fortunately, Thrift said he found a place I found two years ago that he knew would produce a five-bass limit. Thrift said his strategy was to hit that place place early to catch about 12 pounds. From there he would try to upgrade his weight with a couple of bigger fish.
"The bad weather didn't change the way I fish," Thrift said. "My first goal was just to make the cut and then survive. I saved two really good places for the last two days, but I went to them yesterday because I was struggling. Luckily there was enough there. I went there today and caught everything I got off of it. I knew could go there for a limit, but I had no idea I could go there for two 13-pound limits."
Thrift said he caught all of his "limit" fish with a 1/4-ounce Damiki Underspin with a 3-inch Damiki Armor Shad as a trailer. He also used his own signature series Damiki Micro Football Jig. He also used a swimbait around docks. He used a medium-heavy Fitzgerald rod and a Fitzgerald reel with a 6.5:1 retrieve ratio.