By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

It appears as if Bryan Thrifts slump is over. It lasted one tournament.

After a 130th-place finish at Lake Seminole earlier this month, Thrift seems convinced his chances to win a third career FLW Tour Angler of the Year title are toast. That remains to be seen.

Fresh off a runner-up showing at the Lake Chickamauga Southeastern FLW Series last week, he arrived at Grand Lake with the mindset to escape northeastern Oklahoma with a decent amount of points to stay in the hunt for a 13th straight Forrest Wood Cup berth. He may wind up leaving with a lot more.

Thrift, the only angler to catch 16-plus pounds on each of the first two days, blistered 19-03 today and took over the lead with 52-01, moving up four places from yesterday. It was an impressive haul considering just 10 of the 30 competitors recorded limits today and only two others cracked the 15-pound mark.

Today was a good day, Thrift said while noshing on a hamburger in his truck this afternoon. It feels good. My number one goal this week was to try to get some points. I think AOY is out of the question and I was kind of worried about making the Cup. I know its still too early to think about that, but I was third before Seminole and I went to 31st. This will get me back on track so I can have a cushion because I usually screw up two per year and Ive got one out of the way.

Jeremy Lawyer caught 17-09 today to jump from 11th to second with 48-14, giving himself a real shot at winning his first FLW Tour event.

Billy McCaghren also positioned himself for a run at the victory with a 14-10 limit that pushed him into third with 46-12, leaving a deficit of 5-05 to Thrift.

South Africa native and Tour rookie Michael Matthee moved up from 13th to fourth behind a 15-15 stringer today. Bradford Beavers caught 9-07 (four fish) and sits in fifth with 44-06, notching his second straight top-10 cut. Brian Latimer (6th, 43-04) and Sheldon Collings (10th, 39-09) also are making repeat appearances in the top 10 with Latimer looking for a second straight victory.

Collings, the lone Oklahoma pro left in the competition, said on stage this afternoon he fell out of his boat prior to his run back to the boat ramp.

Day-2 leader Bailey Boutries caught just one fish today for 4-04 and finished 11th, missing the cut by one ounce. Day-1 leader Kyle Weisenburger (20th) and AOY points leader Terry Bolton (27th) also slipped out of the top 10.

Competition was delayed 45 minutes this morning by weather as wind and rain pelted the Grove, Okla., area. Once action got under way, it was a slow go for just about everybody.

The wind is due to let up tomorrow and the sun will make a lengthy appearance, a combination that competitors havent seen yet. It might slow down the reaction-bait bite and force some to make changes.

Thrift wasnt able to define the source of his consistency this week. He said he hasnt gotten enough bites to truly feel like hes dialed in, but hes clearly around the right quality of fish to win.

Its been terribly challenging and just hard to get a bite, he said. Its not lights out, for sure. The biggest thing going right now is the fish are fat and healthy so when you do get a bite, theres a decent chance its a chunk.

He landed seven keepers for the second straight day and recycled some water that has been productive. After catching all of his fish on Thursday and Friday on a vibrating jig, he relied on a crankbait and jig today. His kicker fish today weighed close to 5 pounds. Thrift, who assured himself of his 13th top-10 finish, including Forrest Wood Cups, since the start of the 2016 season, will be chasing his seventh career Tour victory and second win in the last calendar year.

Im just covering water and trying to put a bait in front of five that want to bite, he said. I think Ill need 20 pounds tomorrow (to win). I dont think itll be guaranteed if I get there, but Ill feel good about it.



FLW/Jody White
Photo: FLW/Jody White

Jeremy Lawyer put together a late-day surge to move into 2nd place entering the final day.

Like anyone else, Lawyer would much prefer to have a 3-plus pound lead on Thrift than be trailing him by that amount, but hes more than happy with how his week has played out. Under the tough conditions, hes been able to trigger bites from areas that have produced for him in the past.

Hes caught every fish so far winding a reaction bait.

Ive keyed on places and areas Ive known for years and rely on to catch a few fish, he said. Thats allowed me to fish a little slower. Even with the conditions, it takes a couple good bites each day. On day 1, I didnt get one and the last two days Ive been fortunate to get a couple.

The action today didnt pick up until the afternoon, though. Without a fish until 1:30, Lawyer loaded the boat with 17 1/2 pounds in the matter of 45 minutes.

I jumped between three areas and keyed on history, just brush around docks, he said. I knew it was there. I moved as fast as I could, but Ill tell you what, I was pretty darn lucky.

Hes interested to see how things change with less wind and a lot more sunshine on Sunday.

That might make it harder on Bryan and slow him down, but Im not betting on that, Lawyer said. Im tickled to make the top 10. Im going home with some money. Its been exciting to this point. Im really looking forward to fishing tomorrow.

McCaghren is on one of the best runs of his career right now this event will give him four straight top-30 finishes and he wouldnt mind capping it off in style tomorrow with a win.

Im fishing really good right now and the decisions I make seem to be the right ones, he said. To me, main thing is confidence and when youre confident you can fish slow. Im just covering a lot of water as slow as I can.

With time winding down today, he had four keepers in the boat one 3-pounder and three barely keepers, he said when he pulled into a place hed fished in the past but hadnt caught much of anything there. In fact, its a spot where he lost a good fish on Friday.

I go back to fish for the fish I lost and its a had a long idle in and the waves were pretty big, and I didnt think Id get in there, fish it and get out and make it back in time for weigh-in, he said.

Somehow he did and he hooked into a 6-10 kicker that capped off a strong day and put him in the hunt.

Its just a place that looks good, he said. Ive fished it in the past, but never caught anything like that off of it. Its more of a community spot. Im not sure how nobody else was there.

When he hooked it, he was just hoping it was a keeper. When it swam up close to the boat, he knew it was more than just a keeper. With his net already stowed for the ride back to the ramp, he played it out and landed it with five minutes left before heading in.

I dont know if I can catch another one, but you cant win if youre not fishing on Sunday, he quipped. Im in a really good area of the lake, but Im not the only one fishing tomorrow in the same area. I have an idea of where theres a few fish at. I just have to grind on em.

While Collings will face a 12 1/2-pound deficit on the final day, hes just happy he made it back to the ramp this afternoon. After catching 14-13 by pulling up on the right banks at the right time, he slipped off the front of his boat and into Grands 48-degree waters while relieving himself.

He was standing on the bow of his boat and after noticing a car driving by, he turned the to face the other direction and while doing so slipped into the lake. Wearing multiple layers of clothing along with rain suit bibs and heavy boots, he struggled to get back in his boat. With the help of his marshal, he finally did, but his fishing day was over.

Thankfully, it happened after Id caught my limit, he said. I was at my last spot before I was going to head back in.

It took an hour and 20 minutes to get back to Wolf Creek Park, where the tournament is based, and he checked in more than an hour early. His parents met him at the ramp with dry clothes and a towel.

Between the delay this morning and that, I lost close to 3 1/2 hours of my day today, he said.

He knows he has nothing to lose tomorrow and is anxious to see how the lake reacts to the change in conditions.

Ill have an open mind about it, he said. You could pull up at any spot and catch 19 or 20 pounds. If I can get the right five bites, I can be right up there.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., March 31 Mostly Sunny 52/32
- Wind: From the N at 5 to 10 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 16-12 (5) -- 16-2 (5) -- 32-14 (10) -- 19-3 (5) -- 52-1 (15)

2. Jeremy Lawyer -- Sarcoxie, Mo -- 12-8 (5) -- 18-13 (5) -- 31-5 (10) -- 17-9 (5) -- 48-14 (15)

3. Billy McCaghren -- Mayflower, Ar -- 19-9 (5) -- 12-9 (5) -- 32-2 (10) -- 14-10 (5) -- 46-12 (15)

4. Michael Matthee -- Centurion, South Africa -- 9-3 (3) -- 19-13 (5) -- 29-0 (8) -- 15-15 (5) -- 44-15 (13)

5. Bradford Beavers -- Summerville, SC -- 19-0 (5) -- 15-15 (5) -- 34-15 (10) -- 9-7 (4) -- 44-6 (14)

6. Brian Latimer -- Belton, SC -- 11-6 (3) -- 21-5 (5) -- 32-11 (8) -- 10-9 (3) -- 43-4 (11)

7. Miles Burghoff -- Hixson, Tn -- 19-12 (5) -- 9-2 (3) -- 28-14 (8) -- 13-9 (5) -- 42-7 (13) -- $500

8. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 15-15 (5) -- 19-1 (5) -- 35-0 (10) -- 7-4 (2) -- 42-4 (12)

9. Jamie Horton -- Centerville, Al -- 13-14 (5) -- 19-0 (5) -- 32-14 (10) -- 8-12 (3) -- 41-10 (13)

10. Sheldon Collings -- Grove, Ok -- 14-5 (5) -- 10-7 (5) -- 24-12 (10) -- 14-13 (5) -- 39-9 (15)

The following anglers missed the cut and will not compete on day 4.

11. Bailey Boutries -- Daphne, Al -- 14-14 (5) -- 20-6 (5) -- 35-4 (10) -- 4-4 (1) -- 39-8 (11) -- $12,000

12. Jonathan Canada -- Helena, Al -- 6-2 (2) -- 20-8 (5) -- 26-10 (7) -- 11-5 (5) -- 37-15 (12) -- $12,000

13. Todd Castledine -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 20-2 (5) -- 7-4 (3) -- 27-6 (8) -- 10-8 (5) -- 37-14 (13) -- $12,000

14. Bradley Hallman -- Norman, Ok -- 16-5 (5) -- 15-7 (5) -- 31-12 (10) -- 5-12 (2) -- 37-8 (12) -- $12,000

15. Braxton Setzer -- Montgomery, Al -- 17-7 (5) -- 12-6 (4) -- 29-13 (9) -- 7-4 (3) -- 37-1 (12) -- $12,000

16. Matt Reed -- Madisonville, Tx -- 13-8 (5) -- 9-9 (4) -- 23-1 (9) -- 13-15 (4) -- 37-0 (13) -- $11,500

17. Ryan Chandler -- Hebron, In -- 12-5 (5) -- 10-9 (5) -- 22-14 (10) -- 13-15 (5) -- 36-13 (15) -- $11,500

18. Joel Willert -- Prior Lake, Mn -- 14-2 (5) -- 13-10 (3) -- 27-12 (8) -- 8-11 (4) -- 36-7 (12) -- $11,500

19. Josh Douglas -- Isle, Mn -- 12-0 (5) -- 11-13 (5) -- 23-13 (10) -- 11-13 (5) -- 35-10 (15) -- $11,500

20. Kyle Weisenburger -- Ottawa, Oh -- 24-12 (5) -- 7-11 (3) -- 32-7 (8) -- 3-2 (1) -- 35-9 (9) -- $11,500

21. Ron Farrow -- Rock Hill, SC -- 13-14 (4) -- 13-1 (4) -- 26-15 (8) -- 8-10 (3) -- 35-9 (11) -- $10,500

22. Larry Nixon -- Quitman, Ar -- 12-1 (5) -- 16-10 (5) -- 28-11 (10) -- 5-10 (2) -- 34-5 (12) -- $10,500

23. Jimmy Houston -- Cookson, Ok -- 13-11 (4) -- 11-1 (4) -- 24-12 (8) -- 9-0 (4) -- 33-12 (12) -- $10,500

24. Nick Lebrun -- Bossier City, La -- 12-12 (5) -- 13-9 (4) -- 26-5 (9) -- 7-4 (3) -- 33-9 (12) -- $10,500

25. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 14-7 (5) -- 9-13 (4) -- 24-4 (9) -- 9-4 (3) -- 33-8 (12) -- $10,500

26. Joey Cifuentes -- Clinton, Ar -- 8-12 (3) -- 14-15 (5) -- 23-11 (8) -- 8-9 (3) -- 32-4 (11) -- $10,500

27. Terry Bolton -- Benton, Ky -- 15-14 (5) -- 15-10 (5) -- 31-8 (10) -- 0-0 (0) -- 31-8 (10) -- $10,500

28. Lendell Martin Jr -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 12-5 (4) -- 12-3 (4) -- 24-8 (8) -- 2-2 (1) -- 26-10 (9) -- $10,500

29. David Wootton -- Collierville, Tn -- 13-11 (4) -- 10-11 (5) -- 24-6 (9) -- 2-0 (1) -- 26-6 (10) -- $10,500

30. Tyler Stewart -- West Monroe, La -- 12-12 (3) -- 11-14 (4) -- 24-10 (7) -- 1-10 (1) -- 26-4 (8) -- $10,500