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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Grace Brown FANTASITIC KICKERS: Bryan Thrift, of Shelby, N.C., holds up two of the bass he caught on the third day of the 2019 FLW Cup during the weigh-in inside Bank OZK Arena on Sunday. He won the tournament with a three-day bag of 38 lbs., 7 oz.

The last man to weigh in fish on Championship Sunday of the 24th FLW Cup, like Ted Williams on his final at bat in the major leagues, socked one out of the park.

Pulling his fourth and fifth keeper bass out of a sack, pretournament favorite Bryan Thrift completed a frontrunning victory on Lake Hamilton worth $300,000. The Shelby, N.C., professional scored his first win in 13 Cup appearances by a whopping 5 pounds, 1 ounce over roommate and friendly rival Kyle Walters.

Championship Sunday

Name Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Final Payout

1. Bryan Thrift 15 lb., 3 oz. 12-7 10-13 38-7 $300,200

2. Kyle Walters 13-13 12-5 7-4 33-6 $60,100

3. Dakota Ebare 9-8 14-15 7-11 32-2 $50,000

4. Jeremy Lawyer 12-1 12-5 7-0 31-6 $37,500

5. Scott Martin 11-9 11-1 8-8 31-2 $30,000

6. Austin Felix 13-5 9-4 7-13 30-6 $24,000

7. Joseph Webster 9-2 11-15 7-1 28-2 $23,000

8. Ryan Salzman 9-5 12-9 4-14 26-12 $22,000

9. Josh Douglas 9-0 12-0 5-3 26-3 $21,000

10. Jordan Osborne 13-11 8-11 NW 22-6 $20,000

Forrest L. Wood, the Arkansas boatmaker for whom the FLW Tour is named, presented Thrift a facsimile of the winner's check and complimented the new champion for "the way you handled yourself."

Thrift's ability to make the equivalent of halftime adjustments in other sports served him well. Breaking through in late afternoon in each of the last two rounds kept Thrift in front by 1-8 on Saturday over Walters and helped him win going away.

Thrift followed Walters to the stage at Bank OZK Arena after the Floridian, with a five-bass limit of 7-4, took the lead at 33-6. Needing 5-12 to catch Walters, Thrift showed off three fish before pulling his two largest fish together. His third limit of the tournament weighed in at 10-13 for a tournament-high 38-7.

"I found a place on the first day and said I was going to fish it, win or lose, the next two days," Thrift said. "I went back there and didn't crank my motor for the next three hours. I don't believe it!"

Joined on the stage by his wife and two children, the latter in T-shirts signifying themselves as "Bryan Thrift Support Staff," Thrift enjoyed a shining moment in a career that he has earned $3 million and twice been FLW Tour Angler of the Year.

"Everytime something went wrong in a tournament and I went crazy, she's the one who straightened me out," Thrift said.

"This has been 13 years coming," said his wife Allison. "He's been close so many times and I would tell him that it was someone else's turn that day. His time has come, and we're so grateful."

Thrift earned a measure of revenge against Walters after placing second to his friend from Florida in the 2018 FLW Costa Series championship. Walters positioned himself as a contender on Lake Hamilton after weighing in two fish totaling 7 pounds on a single crankbait cast Saturday.

"I always wanted to hold up the bass that gave me the lead on Championship Sunday," Walters said before Thrift came to the scales. "Now I've done that, and although I may not win today, I want to get back here."

Louisiana rookie Dakota Ebare, coming off a second-day high of 14 pounds, 15 ounces, placed third at 32-2 after four bass Sunday weighed 7-11.

"I tried as hard as I could and left it all out there, but it wasn't to be," Ebare said. "But (third place) is a lot of money and it was an amazing experience."

Jeremy Lawyer (31-6) and Scott Martin (31-2) completed the top five, both leading temporarily on Sunday. Lawyer's tournament included a human-interest story in the second round when he broke a rod casting into a brushpile but still wrestled the fish into his boat.

"This is a fun place to fish," Lawyer said. "I'd come back here in a heartbeat."

Martin, saying he "prayed for patience," continued a love affair with the Hot Springs area, where he won the 2011 Cup title on Lake Ouachita and many family members live.

Austin Felix placed sixth at 30-6, followed by Joseph Webster at 28-2, Ryan Salzman at 26-12, Josh Douglas at 26-3 and Jordan Osborne, despite catching no fish Sunday, at 22-6.

Wood and wife Nina were honored before the final weigh-in, the 87-year-old from Flippin founding Ranger Boats in 1968 and remaining active in the industry after selling the company in 1987. A Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame member whom then-Gov. Mike Huckabee named to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for a seven-year term ending in 2005, Wood threw his support behind tournament organizer Operation Bass, which in 1996 renamed the circuit with Wood's initials.

From the stage on Sunday, Wood thanked the late FLW founder, saying "our lives are better because of (Minnesotan) Irwin Jacobs." After the sixth FLW Cup in Hot Springs, marveling at an organization with more than 300 tournaments worldwide, Wood said, "There's no end where we can go."

Sports on 08/12/2019

Print Headline: N.C.'s Thrift wins FLW Cup going away

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