New look, new season, unlimited possibilities

The 2016 Bassmaster Elite Season is approaching fast, and I’m ready to get going. It’s been busy in the Tharp camp, and for those of you that follow me closely you know there is really not an “off” season. I have enjoyed getting to see and talk to everyone at the various trade shows and events that I have worked over the last several months.

There have been lots of questions and assumptions over the course of last season and more since my last blog, Getting Sponsor Deals Right.

I want to clear the air a bit and announce some of the changes for me in 2016 and beyond.

The bottom line is that every angler – from the superstars down to the newcomers – will likely change sponsors within a category at some point during his career. Sometimes it’s by choice, other times it’s not. What looks good financially in the short term has the potential to jeopardize your credibility in the long term, so in every move that I make I try to think about the long-term consequences and stay true to my history in the sport.

The engine on the back my boat has been the topic of much debate. My relationship with Yamaha goes back to the early 2000s and my Weekend Series and BFL days. I ran the HPDI and then the Series 2 as my career progressed up to the FLW Tour. I was involved with the product launch of the SHO and had two boats with that engine prior to the one I ran for the majority of 2015 Elite Series season.

Now that I am competing on the Elite Series and living on the coast of Florida, Yamaha is a perfect fit for me. They are a huge supporter of B.A.S.S. where I have chosen to compete and build my brand. They are also actively involved in conservation efforts that I truly believe in and support, such as “Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation” and the Coastal Conservation Association. You will see and hear more about my association with these efforts soon.

My 250 Yamaha SHO will be on the transom of a Phoenix 921 Pro XP this year. I have watched Phoenix grow and couldn’t be happier to be a part of the strong team they have assembled there. Sara and I spent a day at the Phoenix factory last fall, and it was easy to see why they have earned the reputation they have amongst some of the best tournament bass fishermen in the world. I have spoken at length with each of these fishermen about the company, and the boats that they build. Everyone at Phoenix Boats seems to be 100 percent committed to building the very best tournament bass boat that can be built, and they have warmly welcomed me and Sara into their growing family.

I am excited to announce I will be fishing and working with Lew’s this year. Lew’s has established themselves in the industry and build what I feel are the very best reels, period. Lew’s reels are super light and compact, long casting and durable, and available at an affordable price. They make the right tools for the job at hand, whether I am flipping on Okeechobee, deep cranking at Kentucky Lake or catching smallmouth with spinning tackle up North.   

TH Marine is based out of Huntsville, Ala., and I have known the guys there as long as I have been fishing. We fished against each other regularly back in the good old days in Alabama. I have run their products, such as the Hot Foot and Atlas Jack Plate, on every boat I have owned. Now, it’s just a little more formal. Their product catalog is far too deep to mention them all. Each product they make is innovative and designed to make your on the water experience better in specific ways.

I feel that each of my sponsor relationships have unlimited potential for the future, and I am excited about the changes I have made. I’m looking forward to growing these relationships in the years to come.

I am fired up about the Elite schedule for 2016 as well. We have a lot of new venues and others I have fished several times. A few more of the FLW guys have made the move to the Elites, and some new faces will be there as well. It will be fun for us, and I hope all of you that follow us will enjoy it as well. I think with Bassmaster LIVE you will be able to follow the sport better than ever before.

If we didn’t get a chance to visit this “off” season then come see me on the Elite Series this year. I feel it’s going to be a memorable one. It’s time to go fishing!