Shelby native Bryan Thrift won the four-day National Guard FLW Tournament with 20 bass, weighing 58 pounds, 5 ounces. He took home $127,500 for his hard work. Thrift ended the first day in ninth place, charged into first on the second day and never looked back.
His four-day total was almost 9 pounds more than the second-place angler, from Alpine, Calif., Rusty Salewske. Salewske caught 20 bass, weighing 49 pounds, 7ounces. Third place was Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C., with 20 bass, at 49 pounds and 3 ounces.
The 30-year-old Thrift works for The Great Outdoor Store when he is not fishing. He and his wife, Allison, are expecting their first baby in October. Lake Norman is his "home" lake and his favorite body of water.
Thrift started as a co-angler in 2005 and then moved to the front of the boat to take 15 top-10 finishes. He was the 2007 rookie of the year and placed fifth in the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup. He is now the points leader in the Angler of the Year standings.
"This feels really good," Thrift said. "It's like I've got a big weight lifted off my shoulders. ... I've had several opportunities at a win, but I myself have done something wrong to beat myself. To finally pull it off is really nice."
On the final day, he started on the south end of the lake and quickly caught a fish on a crank bait and then two keepers on back-to-back casts with a jig.
"I knew then I had three pound-and-a-half fish, and if I could go up the river and get two big bites it would be game over," Thrift said. "We ran up to a little place and pulled in there, and the first one I caught was a big one. I put it in the livewell and the very next cast I caught my fifth keeper. This was all before 9 o'clock. I was thinking, 'Hey, this is going to be a good day. We're going to bust 16 pounds again.' But after that, I think I had three bites all day long and they were short fish."
22-year-old Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, fishing in his rookie season of FLW Tour, won $20,000 as a co-angler.
The FLW anglers and co-anglers also qualified for points that could help them qualify for the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing, where they could respectively win up to $600,000 and $60,000. That event will be August 5-8 in Atlanta at Lake Lanier.
The National Guard FLW College Fishing competition was held in conjunction with this event at Mountain Island Lake. N.C. State University anglers Jeff Bumgardner and Will White out-fished the other college teams with more than 21 pounds of bass and won $10,000 for their school and fishing club.
The final weigh-in was held at the Cabarrus Arena with more than a thousand fans in attendance. The Lake Norman event, hosted by the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau, was the second of the 2010 FLW Tour season.
The tournament will air on May 2, 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Versus.