Tharp continues to lead Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee pres - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tharp continues to lead Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee presented by Evinrude

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(Photo by Brett Carlson) (Photo by Brett Carlson)

CLEWISTON, Fla. – The wind wasn't a factor today like it was Thursday, but fishing pressure might have been as Lake Okeechobee seemed reluctant to give up large limits of bass at the Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee presented by Evinrude. Six of the top-10 competitors after Friday's weigh-in posted less weight than they did the day before. But the term "less weight" was relative for EverStart pro Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., who caught a five-bass limit weighing 30 pounds, 4 ounces Friday to maintain his lead.

Tharp's two-day catch of 10 bass weighing 63 pounds, 13 ounces gives him a commanding lead heading into the third day of the tournament. There were 160 pros and 160 co-anglers from across the United States, Canada, Spain and Japan who started the tournament. The top 20 will fish day three and

the top 10 will compete for the title on day four.

"I ended up catching all of my fish in a new area," said Tharp, who claimed the runner-up spot at the 2011 FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee. "Fish on Okeechobee really get concentrated in small areas.

"As soon as guys see you've caught them and everybody knows where (I'm fishing), well, instead of 10 boats there were 30 where I caught them yesterday," Tharp added. "But all the guys who are catching them have that going on."

Tharp said he's relying on a technique he knows and loves at Okeechobee – flipping a bait with a 1 ½-ounce weight into thick vegetation. He claimed his day was a mirror image of the day before – about 20 bites, with seven of them coming from quality bass.

"That's my favorite way to fish and that's the way I'm going to fish the rest of the tournament," Tharp said. "If I don't get another bite I'm just going to have one rod in my hand the rest of the time.

"I feel good about it, but I still expect to have an off day," Tharp added. "I'm tickled to death to catch 30 (pounds) two days in a row. I think I need to do it one more time to seal the deal. Hopefully I'll go out and catch 30 tomorrow and distance myself from the guys. I'm fishing for big ones and not getting that many bites. It could really go south on me."

John Cox of Debary, Fla., is in the No. 2 spot with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 52-14.

"During the first day of practice in the area I'm fishing I would have been around the 40-pound mark," Cox said. "I don't know if it's going to get like that again, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

Cox said he's drifting a big flat and flipping every piece of vegetation he comes across. He thinks there's a mixture of fish feeding on bluegill as well as spawning fish in the vegetation.

"It's a mixture of both," Cox said. "It's got fish coming in and going out. It's the best of both worlds. I'm just going to stay in that area and see what happens. Maybe I'll catch up a little bit each day the next two days."

Rounding out the top 20 pros that will fish Saturday on Lake Okeechobee are:

3rd: Brandon McMillan, Clewiston, Fla., 10 bass, 47-12

4th: Art Ferguson III, St. Clair Shores, Mich., 10 bass, 47-0

5th: Steve Kennedy, Auburn, Ala., 10 bass, 44-4

6th: Jeremy York, Monroe, Ga., 10 bass, 43-5

7th: J. Todd Tucker, Moultrie, Ga., 10 bass, 40-8

8th: Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 10 bass, 39-14

9th: National Guard pro Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 10 bass, 39-9

10th: Nick Gainey, Charleston, S.C., 10 bass, 38-12

11th: Roland Martin, Naples, Fla., 10 bass, 37-14

12th: Todd Auten, Lake Wylie, S.C., 10 bass, 37-12

13th: Jay Yelas, Corvallis, Ore, 10 bass, 35-7

14th: Chad Prough, Chipley, Fla., 10 bass, 35-6

15th: Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla., 10 bass, 35-6

16th: Bill McDonald, Greenwood, Ind., 10 bass, 34-7

17th: Glenn Browne, Ocala, Fla., 10 bass, 34-6

18th: Jeff Gustafson, Keewatin, Ontario, 10 bass, 34-4

19th: Brandon Medlock, Lake Placid, Fla., 10 bass, 33-13

20th: Bob Izumi, Milton, Ontario, 10 bass, 33-7

Thrift and Gary Niemi of Lake Placid, Fla., split the day's big bass award with fish weighing 8-7 on the pro side. Each won $250.

Overall there were 729 bass weighing 1,801 pounds, 10 ounces caught by pros Friday. The catch included 133 five-bass limits.

Pros are competing for a top award of up to $125,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing. The top five anglers in the point standings from the four Walmart FLW Tour Open tournaments will qualify.

Spiro Agouros of Peterborough, Ontario., leads the co-angler division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 32 pounds, 15 ounces, followed by Aymon Wilcox of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., in second place with 10 bass weighing 26-13.

Rounding out the top 20 co-anglers are:

3rd: Ralph Mulleins, Cumberland, Va., 10 bass, 26-7

4th: Timothy Dearing, Loudon, Tenn., 10 bass, 25-14

5th: Marlon Crowder, Tampa, Fla., nine bass, 25-2

6th: Rod Lambirth, Odessa, Texas, nine bass, 24-1

7th: Ralph Myhlhousen, Council Bluffs, Iowa, eight bass, 24-0

8th: Jason Counsil, Casselberry, Fla., eight bass, 23-8

9th: Dererk Savage, Port St. Lucie, Fla., nine bass, 23-5

10th: Larry Hostetler, Floyds Knobs, Ind., 10 bass, 22-15

11th: Daren McDermott, Saint Cloud, Fla., 10 bass, 22-8

12th: Mike Daley, Springfield, Ill., 10 bass, 22-0

13th: Robert Gulley, Tupelo, Miss., 10 bass, 21-10

14th: Shannon Schiner, Pompano Beach, Fla., nine bass, 21-7

15th: Frank Mackin, New Port Richey, Fla., six bass, 21-2

16th: Theo Corcoran, Waterford, Mich., 10 bass, 21-2

17th: Maurice Cobb, Kuttawa, Ky., 10 bass, 21-1

18th: Dale Walker, Miami, Fla., nine bass, 20-15

19th: Bill Bade, Omaha, Neb., nine bass, 20-14

20th: Mark Horton, Nicholasville, Ky., 10 bass, 20-11

Agouros, Corby Wimmer of Ocala, Fla., and Josh Dorr of Pickens, S.C., split the day's big bass award with fish weighing 8-1 in the co-angler division. They each received $125.

Overall there were 545 bass weighing 1,021 pounds, 9 ounces caught by co-anglers Friday. The catch included 66 five-bass limits.

Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $25,000 this week plus valuable points that could help them qualify for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup. The top five co-anglers in the point standings from the four

Walmart FLW Tour Open tournaments will qualify.

Anglers will take off from the Clewiston Boat Basin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday morning. Saturday and Sunday's final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston 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.

Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when "FLW" airs March 18 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. "FLW" is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.

For complete details and updated information visit FLWOutdoors.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.

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