East Texas bass nets angler $150,000

Professional bass angler Bryan Thrift celebrates after winning the Toyota Texas

The weather was horrible with a combination of a cold front, high winds and rain. Those are three things that will give bass anglers nightmares. Even with the wacky weather, North Carolina angler Bryan Thrift managed a final catch of five bass weighing 25 pounds during last weekend’s Toyota Texas Bass Classic held on Lake Conroe, and reeled in a whopping first-place prize of $150,000. Thrift finished with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 53 pounds, 4 ounces. That’s pretty impressive considering he was competing against 50 of the world’s best professional bass anglers, including Jasper’s Todd Faircloth.

After an unprecedented 11 anglers competed Sunday, Sept. 30, Thrift is the Toyota Texas Bass Classic champion. With a dominating Sunday, Thrift bested second-place angler and 2010 TTBC Champion Brian Snowden at the world championship of professional bass fishing, according to Bryan Frazier with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“It was a comeback for the ages at the final day, where Thrift overcame a final day deficit of 4 pounds, 12 ounces to win the 2012 TTBC by a staggering 9 pounds, 4 ounces,” said Frazier. “Even after finishing the first day in third place with a 16 pound, 12 ounce limit that included a 6.22 pound kicker, the North Carolina pro wasn’t very optimistic about his chances of contending for the title.

“The turning point in Thrift’s tournament came when heavy cloud cover and wind arrived in the area late on Friday afternoon and lingered throughout the remaining two days of competition. Saturday, Thrift returned to his magical stretch and caught two keepers on a buzz bait in the first hour of competition. He finished day two with a modest limit weighing 11 pounds, 8 ounces and snuck inside the final-day cut in ninth place with a total weight of 28 pounds, 4 ounces, nearly 5 pounds behind day-two leader Brian Snowden.”

With less than an hour to go on the final day, Thrift says he pulled up on a brush pile and landed a 6 pound, 8 ounce bass that put him over the top and into some serious bling.

The heaviest largemouth of the tournament, caught by Terry Scroggins, weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces.

Thrift said he used various lures to catch his bass. They included crankbaits, jigs and chatter bait. He fished all over the lake and all types of structure in various depths of water.

“This unique professional angling tournament focuses on conservation and features a catch and release program that highlights the efforts of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department,” said Chad Gay, director of public relations with TTBC. “A generous donation of $250,000 was given to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department on behalf of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic to fund youth education and outreach programs. Over the past five years, $1.5 million has been donated to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department through the TTBC.”

The final FLW tournament will be held on Sam Rayburn Oct. 11-14.

The FLW Tour will wrap up the 2012 season with the Walmart FLW Tour Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir Oct. 11-14. The tournament will feature a field of the world’s best bass pros and co-anglers casting for top awards up to $125,000 cash in the Pro Division and up to $25,000 cash in the Co-angler Division.

“When we get there, that lake should be on fire,” said bass pro Jim Tutt of Longview. “I think there will be a lot of limits caught, some really nice stringers brought in, and I think somebody will have a 10-pound fish.”

Tutt indicated that fishing on Rayburn has been tougher than usual for about the last year because of lingering low water levels followed by rapidly rising levels that scattered fish. However, Tutt said that within the past few weeks the fishing at Rayburn has returned to what he would call “normal,” the water level has stabilized and hydrilla has emerged. As a result, tournament weights have increased dramatically.

“Last weekend there was a tournament, and the first seven places had over 20 pounds, and it took 26 pounds to win,” Tutt said. “Before that it was taking 20 pounds to win.”

Tutt said cooler temperatures, a little rain and the hydrilla are the reason for the better fishing Rayburn is experiencing. He predicts over the course of the four-day tournament the winning angler will need about 18 pounds a day, or a total of 75 pounds to walk away with the trophy.

“That’s the coolest thing about this particular time of year,” Tutt said. “You can fish whatever you feel comfortable with. If you want to flip, if you want to crank or throw topwaters, there will be a number of different patterns going on. Brush piles will even come into play a little bit.”

Anglers will take off from Cassels-Boykin County Park located at FM Road 3123 (off State Highway 147) in Zavalla, at 7:30 a.m. daily. Thursday and Friday weigh-ins will also be held at Cassels-Boykin County Park beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart at 2500 Daniel McCall Drive in Lufkin beginning at 4 p.m.

Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.