Differences between BASS and FLW with Randall Tharp


Randall Tharp is one season removed from his first full B.A.S.S Elite season.  Last season, Tharp yanked up his socks and fished the Elites and the FLW Tour, a decision that only a few anglers have made.  Needless to say, fishing both professional fishing circuits is definitely not an easy thing to do.

Tharp has always seemed to excel at every level, and the Elites were the next challenge in line.  But what are the differences?  Sure you can say that one circuit is bigger than the other, but what does Tharp think?

“Well I’ll tell you one thing,” says Tharp, “It’s definitely not the competition! There are really good anglers that fish both the FLW and the Elites you can be sure of that!”

“I would say the most noticeable thing is not having someone in the back of your boat fishing, it really changes how you have to fish.  Once you get on an area and are catching, you have someone else targeting those same fish.  So in some cases if there are only a handful of bites and the co-angler catches one of two of them, you are actually out those fish.  Fishing the Elites, having the marshal there instead is actually really cool.  It keeps everything legit and you don’t have another line in the water targeting the same fish you are.  It makes a huge difference.”

“The second difference that is really obvious is in FLW the weights seems to drop slightly from Day 1 to Day 2 and Day 3. Over on the Elite side, they seem to go up every day so you actually have to fish better throughout an event.  If you have a bad day, it’ll be tough to catch up with the pack.  I’m not exactly sure why that is, my guess is that B.A.S.S tries to hold events on bodies of water that aren’t as pressured. Or maybe it ties in with the co-angler not being there and catching.”

To run a successful tournament trail as big as FLW and B.A.S.S are, let’s face it, everyone can be a critic, but to get as big as they are can’t go unnoticed.  What is interesting though is the spectator interaction and engagement with the anglers.

“Another big difference while you’re on the water during an event are the spectators,” says Tharp.  “On day 2 of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic I had about 100 boats following me around.  To put that into perspective, Kevin VanDam gets that or more every day.  You learn really quickly coming into this to respect guys like Kevin, Skeet Reese, or Mike Iaconelli and how they manage all that attention.  I have no idea how Kevin even catches a fish!”

As fishermen we have always been taught to be extra quiet to not spook the fish.  As we become more experienced with trolling motors and electronics, we have learned to turn them down or off, to give us a better shot at catching.  Having as much knowledge and experience at high level competition that Tharp does, he turned to VanDam for advice on managing spectators.

“After the 2014 Classic I actually talked to Kevin about managing spectators,” explains Tharp.  “I just wasn’t used to it coming from the FLW side, and this was completely new to me.”

“For the most part, the spectators are respectful of the anglers and give them their space, but there are always a couple of bad eggs who see me catch fish and pull in when I leave.  I mean, it’s not my spot so that’s alright, but that just means that area is pretty well shot for the next day of fishing.  It definitely is amazing having that attention around you while you fish, but it’s just another thing you have to focus on..or not!”

Going into the 2015 season Tharp is looking forward to fishing some of the new bodies of water and northern lakes that he’s not used to.

“I don’t have a lot of experience on some of the lakes this year, but I welcome it,” says Tharp.  “I have always enjoyed fishing new water because it only makes us better fishermen.”

Tharp finished 13th in the points in his first year as an Elite Series Pro.  Let’s see if 2015 is as good to him as 2014 was.