Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fish Understood & Good Decisions Made

Randall Tharp, 2013 Forrest Wood Cup Champion
Randall Tharp's confidence throughout the Forrest Wood Cup and his eventual victory by a 4-pound margin would suggest that he had a magical spot, perfect pattern or secret lure. But in truth it was none of the above. He actually fished a bunch of different spots and multiple patterns, and caught his three best fish today on a lure he'd had tied on throughout the tournament but hadn't picked up until today.

Instead, Tharp won by fishing his kind of waters well. He devised a strong game plan, with good areas that suited that plan, and he made good decisions during the event. Tharp thrives in shallow, stained water, with a big stick in his hand, so he has been excited about the year's Cup location ever since it was announced. He had done well on the Red River before, and everything about it suits the way he likes to fish.

Having found some good locations during pre-practice and having gotten a good feel for what the fish were doing during official practice, Tharp felt confident going into the tournament -- and all along he believed the winning weight would be a little higher than most other anglers predicted. When the first morning of the tournament brought unusually cool weather and dropped the water temperature, he made the adjustments he needed to make.

Tharp did have major patterns he was running, and one backwater area was extra important for producing his biggest bass, but catching limits from the main river and bigger fish from the backwaters were both important to his strategy, and he made good decisions about when to stay and when to go throughout the event. He also had a strong sense of when he was around fish that would bite, largely based on minnow and bluegill activity.

When asked why he picked up a frog rod halfway through today, largely abandoning what had kept him in first or second place to that point, he couldn't really give a specific answer. It just felt right. He was fishing on instinct, as pros often put it, and seemingly it was the right time for that change because he caught one of his best bass of the day on the first cast with a frog. He then stuck with the frog through much of the afternoon and fished four hours in his "big fish spot" for two bites. Those bites were from 4-pound class fish, which he landed. The three frog fish were the difference in the tournament for Tharp.

Tharp also threw a Lucky Craft square bill crankbait quite a bit, and his main lure in the backwaters for the first three days was a swim jig. He said he actually caught fish on several different lures over the course of four days.

Maybe this oversimplifies things too much, but my best analysis of what Randall Tharp did to win the Forrest Wood Cup is that he fished better than everyone else.

For complete coverage of all the top finishers, lures and patterns, visit

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