Tharp Leads Wire-to-Wire to Win FLW Tour on Lake Okeechob - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tharp Leads Wire-to-Wire to Win Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee

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Randall Tharp sets up on another one. (Photo by Shaye Baker) Randall Tharp sets up on another one. (Photo by Shaye Baker)

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., had endured three days of tough weather and wind and managed to lead the first three days of competition at the FLW Tour bass fishing tournament on Lake Okeechobee. All he needed was one more solid day's weight to claim his first FLW Tour title.

Tharp caught a five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 2 ounces Sunday to win $125,000 with a four-day catch of 20 bass weighing 101-12. The catch gave him the win by a massive 23-pound, 9-ounce margin over John Cox of Debary, Fla., who caught a total of 20 bass weighing 78-3 and earned $35,000. Tharp's margin of victory broke the FLW Tour record set by Brett Hite (20-4, Lake Toho, 2008).

"I felt like I could catch 30 pounds a day if I fished perfect," said Tharp, who adds an FLW title to his four BFL wins and one EverStart Series victory. "I would have liked to have caught more, but I'm pretty tickled with the way things turned out.

"When I caught the first big one today and it put me at 19 (pounds) and I caught the second big one I didn't say anything, but when I caught the third one I knew it was over," Tharp added.

Tharp said the one constant during the tournament was the wind. High winds wreaked havoc on anglers' plans as water clarity went south. Many anglers struggled to adapt and catch fish.

"It was not what you want in south Florida," Tharp said. "We had a wind chill of 27 degrees this morning. The winds were sustained 20 (miles per hour) with gusts to 40. The style I was fishing is what you need to do under those conditions."

And Tharp's style of fishing just happened to be what he loves to do – use a big rod, heavy line and big weights to flip grass. Tharp fished the north end of the lake and threw a black with blue flake Bitters Baits B.F.M. paired with a 1 ½-ounce pegged sinker. Tharp said he boated eight keepers during the course of the day.

"I've done pretty good on just about every type of body of water, but I prefer to fish a grass lake," Tharp said. "Any grass lake is different when you go back. You never catch them in the same places because the grass is different. Okeechobee is a prime example of that.

"I've known for a long time that if I could win just one Tour-level event this is the lake I'd want it to happen on," Tharp added. "So now I've got that out of the way and I can set my sights on other places."

The remaining top 10 pros finished the tournament in:

    3rd:    Jeremy York, Monroe, Ga., 20 bass, 74-2, $30,000
    4th:    Art Ferguson III, St. Clair Shores, Mich., 20 bass, 71-5, $25,000
    5th:    Brandon McMillan, Clewiston, Fla., 16 bass, 64-6, $20,000
    6th:    Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 16 bass, 61-12, $17,000
    7th:    Roland Martin, Naples, Fla., 15 bass, 59-6, $16,000
    8th:    National Guard pro Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 15 bass, 56-3, $15,000
    9th:    Steve Kennedy, Auburn, Ala., 16 bass, 55-8, $14,000
    10th:    Nick Gainey, Charleston, S.C., 15 bass, 54-5, $13,000

A complete list of results can be found at FLWOutdoors.com.

Overall there were 27 bass weighing 77 pounds, 12 ounces caught by pros Sunday. The catch included four five-bass limits.

Aymon Wilcox of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., won the co-angler division and $20,000 Saturday with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 44 pounds, 4 ounces followed by Spiro Agouros of Peterborough, Ontario, in second place with 13 bass weighing 38-0 worth $7,625.

In FLW Tour Open tournaments, pros and co-anglers are competing for valuable points that could help them qualify for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing. The top five pro and co-anglers in the point standings from the four FLW Tour Open tournaments will qualify.

The Tour stop on Lake Okeechobee presented by Evinrude was hosted by Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina & Resort, and was the first of 10 Walmart FLW Tour tournaments of the 2011 season. The Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Hartwell presented by Folgers will be the next tournament and will be held March 8-11 in Greenville/Anderson, S.C. The event will be hosted by the Greenville Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Anderson Convention & Visitors Bureau and boats will launch from Portman Shoals Marina in Anderson, S.C. For a complete schedule, visit FLWOutdoors.com.

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.

ABOUT FLW
FLW is the industry's premier tournament-fishing organization, providing unparalleled fishing resources and entertainment to our sponsors, fans and host communities. FLW is offering anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money nationwide in 2012 over the course of 191 tournaments across five tournament circuits, each providing an avenue to the sport's richest payday and most coveted championship trophy – the Forrest Wood Cup. FLW is committed to providing a lifestyle experience that is the "Best in Fishing, On and Off the Water," through a variety of platforms including tournaments, outdoor expos and the world's richest fantasy sports game – FLW Fantasy Fishing. For more information about FLW and FLW Fantasy Fishing, visit FLWOutdoors.com or FantasyFishing.com and look for FLW on Twitter and Facebook.

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