Path to the Elites: Randall Tharp

Here's how one Elite rookie made it to the big-time

Randall Tharp
Gary Tramontina
With success on several major circuits, Randall Tharp may be the most accomplished rookie in the 2014 Elite Series.

Although considered a rookie in the Bassmaster Elite Series, Randall Tharp is actually an accomplished veteran of national tournament circuits.

The 45-year-old Tharp has recorded three Bassmaster Open wins, seven FLW victories and has appeared in two Bassmaster Classics and four Forrest Wood Cup championships. The Florida pro qualified for the Elite Series in 2008 when he won back-to-back Southern Opens at Santee-Cooper and Guntersville and finished fourth at Lake Okeechobee, but he declined the Elite invitation at that time. He got his second chance at the Elites last year when he topped the Central Open point standings after winning the Open at Ross Barnett Reservoir, taking fourth place at the Red River and finishing 18th on the Arkansas River.

Tharp notes he will never forget the first tournament he ever fished. He was about 20 years old when he fished the Dugout Bass Classic, a team event on Lake Allatoona in Georgia. “We didn’t do very well,” he recalled. “We did catch a limit, but I don’t think I caught a fish. I fished with my dad, and he caught them all.”

After buying his first boat, Tharp started fishing an independent club’s team trail for three or four years. When he won back-to-back angler of the year honors in the club, Tharp decided to try Bass Fishing League (BFL) and Bassmaster Weekend Series events as a boater. He won four BFL events from 1997 to 2009 and recorded one victory while fishing the Rayovac FLW Series from 2007 to 2013. Tharp competed in the Bassmaster Weekend Series in 2005 and 2006 and fished in the Bassmaster Series Championship in 2007.

Despite his successes at the regional level, Tharp recalls never having aspirations of becoming a pro. “It was just one of those things that happened,” he said. "I was winning a pretty good amount of money fishing around the house, especially on (Lake) Guntersville, and I got to the point where that just wasn’t enough anymore.”

In 2008 he decided to quit his job as a contractor and entered the Bassmaster Southern Opens when he qualified for the Elite Series for the first time. However Tharp committed to the FLW Tour in 2009 and has continued to compete in that circuit. He jumped back into the Bassmaster Opens by fishing the Southern Opens in 2010, the Northern Opens in 2011 and the Central Opens last year.

“I’ve had a real good career,” said Tharp who considers his first couple of years on the national trails as the low point of his career. “I didn’t have any sponsors at that time and Sara (his wife) had a good job. So I was away from home 10 or 11 months out of the year, and I didn’t get to see her. That was the toughest part of it for me.”

The two techniques that Tharp claims have won the most money for him in tournaments are flipping a jig and throwing a plastic frog on grass lakes. Ignoring dock talk has also been a key to his success. “I like to fish my way and that is probably the biggest lesson I have learned over the years,” he said. “The more that I keep to myself and do my thing, the better I do.”

Fishing his way has made Tharp a winner throughout the years and now he gets to do his thing in the Bassmaster Elite Series.

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