Confidence, Past History Led Randall Tharp in First Elite Title
Earlier Success on Other Ozark Lakes Gave Yamaha Pro Lure Choice, Location
from The Fishing Wire
Whenever you’re fishing a lake you’ve never been on before, look for cover or structure that lets you fish your favorite lure and technique and gives you confidence. That’s the advice of Yamaha Pro Randall Tharp, who followed it without hesitation in winning his first Bassmaster® Elite tournament on not one but two lakes he’d never fished before.
“The biggest factor in my win was that I just had a lot of confidence in the technique I was using and the area I was fishing,” explains Tharp in describing his victory at Bull Shoals and Norfolk Lakes in Arkansas where he weighed in 61 pounds, 10 ounces of bass while competing two days on each body of water.
“I had fished other Ozark lakes over the years,” the Yamaha Pro continues, “and they’re all somewhat similar in the way they look and the way they fish. I also studied how another fisherman had won an FLW® Tour tournament on Beaver Lake (another Ozark lake in northern Arkansas) immediately before ours, so that gave me some additional insight on how to fish.
“That tournament was won fishing a jig in less than 10 feet of water, which is my favorite technique, so all I did was find areas where I could do that.”
Tharp chose to fish structure known as “channel swings,” where a creek or river channel makes a turn, either near a shoreline or across a shallow flat. They’re always good starting points to fish on practically any lake because they offer bass both shallow and deep water adjacent to each other. Tharp chose channel swings in the backs of several creeks where he believed bass were moving in to spawn. These were pre-spawn bass that were also feeding heavily on both shad and crayfish.
“Almost all my fish came from water less than five feet deep,” he noted, “and my largest fish were actually less than two feet deep. I kept my boat in eight to 12 feet and pitched my jig very close to the bank, then worked it down the slope of the channel. The bass were around boulders or small flat areas where they could feed easily.”
The first day of competition was held at Norfolk Lake, the next two at Bull Shoals, and the final day back on Norfolk. Tharp opened with 15-9, followed with 13-12 and 16-4 during the two days on Bull Shoals, and finished with 16-2 back on Norfolk. Another key to his success started the first day on Bull Shoals when he changed the weight of his jig.
“I had been using a ½-ounce jig, but late in the afternoon there on Bull Shoals I noticed the bass becoming more aggressive,” says Tharp. “I started getting more bites, and when I’d reel in my jig, several fish would follow it. I did not want them to get a good look at the lure because I really wanted more of a reaction strike, so I changed to a 5/8-ounce jig.
“It’s hard to understand how much faster that jig falls, even though it’s only 1/8 ounce heavier, but it does, and what that allowed me to do was to not only work the water faster but also cover more water when they were feeding. It was definitely an afternoon feeding bite, because on the third morning, again at Bull Shoals, I started with the heavier jig but never got a bite, so I had to switch back to the lighter jig.”
Even though Tharp had never fished either of the two impoundments before this tournament, he wasn’t concerned about fishing strange water. Whenever possible, he emphasizes, being able to fish with a favorite lure and technique, such as pitching a jig like he was able to do, provides a huge dose of confidence. He advises other fishermen facing similar situations to try to do the same. If nothing else, it’s just a good way to start fishing.
“I feel very fortunate to have been able to fish my favorite technique for all four days of the tournament and have it work so well,” the Yamaha Pro concludes. “I even caught a four-pounder on my very last cast the final day. That’s how fortunate I was.”