When decades from now they conduct an autopsy and cut Bryan Thrift’s brain open, I suspect they’ll find a scrolling ticker tape that spits out the combined results of four 12-inch graphs and the solunar tables.
For those of us (including, ahem, me) who haven’t followed his career as closely as we should have, Thrift’s dominance is nothing short of incredible. You can claim that he fishes an easier tour that KVD or Skeet or Ike – a path I’m not prepared to go down right now – but even if you’re fishing only Wednesday night buddy tournaments, it would be tough to maintain that level of consistency
He just finished an AOY campaign that he led once Mark Rose cooled to the touch, and ended up beating runner-up Andy Morgan by 44 points. He was in the top six in four of the seven events, in the top 12 in five of seven, and in the money in six of seven, missing the check line in the seventh by a mere 5 ounces. But while this season was incredible, it’s not as good as what he’s done over the long haul.
Yes, it was his second FLW Tour AOY, but even more impressive is the fact that he’s been in the top ten in nine of the 11 seasons he’s fished the tour, and except for a partial campaign in 2006, he’s never ended up lower than 28th. That’s put him in position to fish 10 Forrest Wood Cups (so far), and while he’s yet to win one, he’s again been in the top 10 on eight occasions. In a sport where everyone seems to stumble or have a down year, he’s apparently the exception. He’s 155 pounds of fish-catching freakdom.
There are three things that make this so confounding and astounding (any Walt Frazier fans out there?). First, while he may be the best angler in the world right now (BassFan currently has him at number four), he’s probably less recognizable to the average bass fan than everyone else in the top 20 – and probably the vast majority of the top 50. Second, while I’m sure that Thrift is a fine technician with a wide variety of tackle, it’s not like he’s dropshotting in 80 feet of water or fishing a specialized swimbait on the regular. Unless I’m missing the story or he’s hiding the ball, most of what he does is remarkably conventional.
Finally, the third factor is the one that’s toughest to stomach. While I have no doubt that he could compete against any bass angler on the planet, on any body of water, on any day of the week, except for a few TTBCs in the past he’s never out there going mano a mano with the likes of KVD or Skeet or (these days) even Jacob Wheeler. He’s fished a total of four B.A.S.S. tournaments in his life, all of them in 2005, and as far as I know he has no intentions of adding to that total. Why should he? He has a good thing going. Again, that’s not to disparage any or all of the FLW Tour field, but as I wrote about Andy Morgan earlier this year, it just seems to be a shame that we may never again see a no holds barred match between the best from both tours.