Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 04/18/2018

Story by Matt Pangrac - Thrift photo courtesy of FLW Communications

Moore, OK - The tournament schedule is about to get wild in the upcoming month of professional bass fishing.

Things kick off tomorrow with the start of the Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River out of Muskogee, Oklahoma and the Costa FLW Series event on Table Rock Lake out of Branson, Missouri.  

From there, both the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series return to action to close out the month of April.  If it seems like it’s been an eternity between regular season Elite Series stops in 2018, that’s because it has been 67 days since the last cast was made.      

The gap between the first and second Elite Series stops of the 2018 season was due to severe weather and flooding on the Sabine River in Orange, Texas.  The second stop of the Elite Series season was originally scheduled for April 6-9, but was postponed until June 7-10.  

As a result, Takahiro Omori (who won the first Elite Series stop on Lake Martin in early February) is the only Elite Series angler to lift a blue trophy nearly four months into the 2018.  

On April 12th, Elite Series pro Justin Lucas jokingly Tweeted, “FLW started their 4th event of the year today and we still have had 1 Elite Series tournament.  I should’ve signed up for FLW too so I could know what it is like to fish a tournament in the spring.”  

While the Elite Series is just getting warmed up, the 2018 FLW Tour is already past the halfway point in the season.  After four tournaments, there’s a familiar name at the top of the AOY leaderboard – Bryan Thrift.  As a result of his sixth Tour victory last week on Cumberland, Thrift has opened up a nine point lead in the AOY race over Oklahoma’s Zack Birge.  With three regular season tournaments left on the schedule, the North Carolina pro is on track to capture his third consecutive FLW Tour AOY title.  

Here’s a look at the upcoming month in professional bass fishing:  

April 26-29 – Bassmaster Elite Series – Grand Lake (Grove, Oklahoma)
The FLW Costa Series visited Grand the end of March and Chris Jones won with a three day total weight of 47-3.  The story surrounding the Costa Series event was the stingy bite on Grand.  It took a two-day total weight of just 14-1 to cash a check (43rd place), and not a single angler in the Top 10 had a limit all three days of competition.  
If the past week is any indication, the tough bite during the Costa Series is a thing of the past.  In the most recent Nichols Marine Team Series tournament on Grand which took place on April 15th, it took 22.21 pounds to top the 263 boat field.  26 teams weighed-in at least 18-pounds, 60 teams weighed-in at least 15-pounds, and 99 teams came to the scales with at least 12-pounds of Grand Lake bass.  

With recent cold fronts sweeping across the Sooner state, the Elite Series anglers should be able to target pre-spawn, spawning, and post-spawn bass in the second stop of the season.  

April 26-29 – FLW Tour – Smith Lake (Jasper, Alabama)
The same time the Elite Series will be competing on Grand Lake, the FLW Tour’s fifth stop of the 2018 season will be taking place on Smith Lake in Jasper, Alabama.  

Believe it or not, current AOY leader Bryan Thrift has never recorded a Top 10 finish on the Alabama fishery.  The last time that the Tour visited Smith in March of 2015, he finished in 24th place.  

The fifth stop of the FLW Tour season will also be pivotal for another perennial AOY contender, Andy Morgan.  After a dismal start to the season, Morgan rebounded with a Top 10 effort in the last Tour stop on Cumberland and climbed to 59th place in the AOY standings with 498 points through four events.  Morgan sits just 36 points outside the Top 40 and needs another solid showing at Smith Lake to put himself in position to qualify for his 16th consecutive Forrest Wood Cup.  

May 4-7 – Bassmaster Elite Series – Kentucky Lake (Paris, Tennessee)
Immediately following the Elite Series on Grand Lake, the 109 angler field will make the 450 mile drive east to Paris, Tennessee for the third stop of the season on Kentucky Lake.  The Elite Series has a rich history on Kentucky Lake, and 2018 will be the sixth time the Elite Series has fished there since the 2006 season.  

May 17-20 – Elite Series Toyota Texas Fest – Lake Travis (Jonestown, Texas)  
Following back-to-back stops, The Elite Series takes two weeks off before turning to action on a new fishery (Lake Travis) for the annual Toyota Texas Fest.  

Travis will be a new fishery to many Elite Series anglers in the field, but the FLW Tour did visit the lake in February of 2017.  Mark Rose won the tournament with a four-day total weight of 59-2.  Wesley Strader, who made the move from FLW to the Elite Series in 2018, finished in 22nd place in the 2017 FLW Tour stop on Travis and fellow FLW Tour transplant Shin Fukae finished that tournament in 56th place.  

With 10 Texas anglers in the Elite Series field, there’s no doubt that many pros put in some serious pre-practice time on the Texas fishery before the 30-day off limits period.