A tournament field of 198 boats – each featuring a pro and a co-angler – began a three-day, no-entry-fee competition Thursday for a top cash award of up to $235,000 at the Toyota Series Championship Presented by Guaranteed Rate at Pickwick Lake.
The bass-fishing championship, hosted by the Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the culmination of the 2021 Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. season.
Pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 15 ounces to take the early lead after Day One of the three-day event. Thrift holds a 1-pound, 7-ounce lead over pro Chris Digino of Dallas, Texas, who caught five bass weighing 18 pounds, 8 ounces, securing his position in second place.
“Today went a little better than I thought it would go, seeing as I didn’t catch any big ones in practice,” Thrift on Thursday. “I thought a good day would be 10 to 12 pounds on six keeper bites and I think I ended up catching seven keepers today, but that was pretty much it. It definitely wasn’t an easy day.
“I started in a spot where I thought I could catch a couple early, and I did, but after that it was a struggle. I ran 40 miles up and fished my way back – I burned a lot of gas today.”
Thrift said he has seen Pickwick plenty of times in the spring and summer over the years, and though he’s had success on other parts of the Tennessee River in the fall, Pickwick in the fall was all new to him.
“This is my first time being here this time of year and it’s really not as good as I thought it would be,” said Thrift. “I thought it would be easier to get bites, but it isn’t. I don’t know if it’s pressure on the fishery, the weather or what’s going on. My day looks good on paper, but I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Despite his lack of experience on the fishery this time of year, Thrift is a quick study. With a couple big bites today, there’s a good possibility he can repeat his good day tomorrow.
“I was shocked at the two 6½-pounders I caught today,” said Thrift. “I didn’t expect that at all, but it gave me some ideas for tomorrow.”
Although Thrift has a stellar record in bass-fishing, with many big wins, he has yet to win a Toyota Series Championship in his career and said he is looking forward to the opportunity this week.
“I would love to win,” said Thrift. “That’s $200,000, and the Toyota Series is the best deal in bass fishing. Paying less than $6,000 in entry fees for a chance to fish for a $200,000 championship is an amazing opportunity and literally the best deal out there – I’d love to win it.”
For a full list of results visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 568 bass weighing 1,476 pounds, 15 ounces caught by 174 pros Thursday. The catch included 60 five-bass limits.
Anglers take off daily at 7 a.m. from Pickwick Landing State Park. Weigh-ins will also be held at the park and begin at 3:15 p.m. Outdoor vendors will be on site prior to weigh-in Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fans can attend the event or follow the action online through the “MLF Live” weigh-in broadcasts and daily coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com. The 2021 Toyota Series Championship Presented by Guaranteed Rate will premiere on the Outdoor Channel at 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 15, 2022, with additional airings to follow on the Sportsman Channel.
The full field of anglers compete on Days 1 and 2 of the event, with the top 10 pros and top 10 Strike King co-anglers based on cumulative weight from the first two days continuing to the third and final day. The 2021 Toyota Series champions will be determined by the heaviest three-day total weight.
Pros and co-anglers can qualify for multiple contingency awards based on final standings in the championship, including the $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus for pros. The winning Strike King co-angler will earn a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.