By Terry Battisti
photo courtesy of FLWOutdoors.com
March 29, 2010
The goal (or dream) of nearly every tournament angler is to win one event a year and back that up with a solid performance the rest of the year in order to make a championship. To win two events in a year is not just a dream, but a near impossibility when you consider today’s competition.
Even more difficult would be separate wins on two different circuits located 1000s of miles apart. Brett Hite did it in 2008, though, with an FLW Tour win on Toho and then came “back home” and won the FLW National Guard Western Series event at the California Delta – both wins credited to a Chatterbait tipped with a 6-inch GYCB Swimming Senko fished in shallow water.
As of this weekend, though, Brent Ehrler joins that short list of anglers to win back-to-back high-level events. Coming off his recent win at the FLW National Guard Western Series event at
Two season openers, two wins – not a bad way to start off the year.
I had the opportunity to talk with Ehrler shortly after his Table Rock win and here’s what he had to say about this most recent win.
As with his Shasta practice, Ehrler didn’t know what he’d stumbled upon during the last few hours prior to the competition.
“My practice didn’t go too good,” he said. “I caught two keepers each day and had been throwing a crank and a jig in the backs of creeks. That’s generally the way you do well here but it wasn’t working for me at all.
“On the last day of practice, I ran into a creek to fish the back and on my way out, I saw a point come up on my graph. The area looked good so I dropped the trolling motor and started fishing it.
“I was getting a bite on almost every cast but they were shorts,” he said. “Then about 20 or 30 minutes later I caught a keeper swimming a 5-inch Yamamoto single-tail grub through some tree tops. Then my co-angler caught a 2 1/2-pound keeper and we left.”
Just like Shasta, he didn’t realize he was sitting on a pot of gold.
“I honestly didn’t think it was that good of a spot because I had nothing to go off of,” he noted. “I’d fished all around up river and never came upon something like this.”
Ehrler had a decision to make; go to his newfound spot or go up a different arm of the lake – both areas required a commitment that would make the other area nearly impossible to fish.
“I didn’t want to go up to what turned out to be my winning area if I had a bad draw because I felt there would be a lot of boats on it,” he said. “But when I found out I drew 6th out, I decided to go for it.
“The whole way up there I kept thinking in my head that I’d made the wrong decision.”
That all would change shortly after dropping his trolling motor.
“My first cast of the morning resulted in a 2 1/2-pound fish swimming the grub,” he said. “Then, 2 casts later, I got another 2 1/2-pounder. I ended up with a limit in 45 minutes or so and culled up a few fish and then left to look for something similar.
He caught his first few fish off the 5-inch Yamamoto 5-inch grub (002, smoke) and switched up with a Lucky Craft Pointer 100DD (pearl wakasaki) in order to fill his limit out. He caught 7 or 8 fish total that day.
“The next day I had my limit and culled once in about an hour,” he said. “Then I left again to look for more areas. That’s when I caught the 6 1/2-pounder on the Pointer 100DD.
“My main spot was what they call a bluff end,” he noted. “On Table Rock, there are shear bluffs that transition to points or bends in the main river channel. These bluffs are right on the river channel and as they transition to points they flatten out some. It’s these ends that hold a lot of fish this time of year – they’re a perfect transition area for fish coming out of deep water before the head to shallow water to spawn.
“These were the types of areas I was looking for once I’d leave my main area. I’d just fish my way back to weigh-in, hitting as many of these bluff ends as I could with the jerkbait.” He caught 8 keepers the second day of the tournament.”
He’d been changing up between the grub and jerkbait for the first two days and decided to continue to tweak his tackle the third day.
On the third day I decided to incorporate a 4-inch Swimming Senko (306, natural shad) along with my grub,” he said. “I didn’t want the fish to become too accustomed to the grub. I also tied on a Lucky Craft RC 2.5 DD (ghost minnow) to run alongside the Pointer.
“I went with the Swimming Senko first and landed a 3-plus-pound fish and ended up catching 3 keepers on it. Then I’d randomly crank and ended up catching a 5 1/2- and a 2 1/2-pounder on the crank. The thing was all three days I had my limit by 9 in the morning and got out of my main area because I didn’t want to hurt the fish to bad.”
As it turned out, Ehrler would only need a little over 3 pounds to secure his second tournament win in less than two months.
“I was so nervous that last day,” he said. “If the event had been a nail-biter with only a few ounces separating the top anglers, it would have been easier I think. But to go into the last day with that type of lead, it would have been horrible to lose it. I was so nervous to screw it up and it would have been all my fault.”
As fate had it, though, he did anything but screw up his chances.
“On the last day I went back to the grub and quickly put 4 fish in the boat,” he said. “Then I pulled out a jig (1/2-ounce Pepper jig in Delta Craw) and put a 3-pounder in the boat.”
Tackle and Tactics
“I feel it was important for me to be able to switch out my baits so the fish didn’t get wary to what I was throwing,” Ehrler said. “I was fishing fish suspended in the trees and each bait I used allowed me to present the bait where the fish were holding.
“With the Swimming Senko and the grub, I used a 1/4-ounce ball head,” I kept my boat in roughly 35 feet of water and I’d cast into 12 or 15 feet of water and let the bait sink to the bottom. Once it hit the bottom, I’d slowly reel it in just like you would a swimbait. The bait would stay deep and come through the trees where the fish were stationed. This is a very popular method back here this time of year.
“The crankbait and jerkbait I essentially did the same thing,” he said. “I’d keep my boat in deep water and make a long-bomb cast into shallower water and work the baits through the trees. The weight-transfer system on Lucky Craft’s baits allow you to make really long casts, which allows you to get your baits down a lot deeper than a bait that doesn’t have that weight system.
Swimming Senko and Grub Gear: Rod – Lucky Craft Shaky Head Rod; Reel – ABU SORON 40; Line – 12-pound Sunline PE Braid and a topshot of 8-pound Sunline FC Sniper; Jig head – 1/4-ounce ball head.
Jerkbait Gear: Rod – 6’-11” Lucky Craft Power Pointer, Reel – ABU Revo Premier; Line – 10-pound Sunline FC Sniper. He weighed two fish on the jerkbait – one was his big fish. He paused the jerkbait but not like they normally do. “Most anglers back there fish their jerkbaits with a 30-second pause. I was consciously pausing the bait for a count of 4 or 5 and then I’d twitch it 1 or two times.”
Crankbait Gear: Rod – 7’-6” Lucky Craft Heavy Action Crankbait; Reel – ABU Winch; Line – 10-pound Sunline FC Sniper. He weighed two fish on the crank and one was his second biggest fish.
Jig Gear: Rod – 7’ Lucky Craft heavy action jig rod; Reel – ABU Revo Burner, Line – 16-pound Sunline FC Sniper; Trailer – GYCB 5-inch double tail grub (301). The jig color was Delta Craw, which is a watermelon green pumpkin candy colored jig. He trimmed the skirt a little, “but not anywhere as short as they trim their jigs back there. It was essentially a full-bodied jig.”
So did Ehrler fall onto the mother load of fish or were his fish moving up – replenishing each day?
“I think the fish were grouped up but I also think the area was replenishing,” he said. “It was a creek channel bend that was laid out perfectly for migrating fish. But, as fast as I was catching them, I think they were definitely stacked there, too.
“It’s pretty cool winning back-to-back events,” he said. “This one was unexpected, just like Shasta, in that I had another bad practice. I feel really fortunate to have started off this well at the beginning of the season.
“It’s really exciting to win a tour-level event,” he added. “In some ways it’s better than a Championship event because you’re fishing against 150 guys instead of 80, which makes it a lot harder.
In the end, though, I really have to thank all my sponsors,” he said. “This event was really special in that Forrest Wood was there and he was the guy who was at the forefront of tournament bass fishing. I also need to thank the National Guard for all they do for us as a country and for them putting a team together for us to fish on. Lastly, but surely not least, I need to thank GYCB and Lucky Craft for providing the one-two punch for me this weekend. I caught all y fish on their gear. Oh, and I better thank Lowrance because without my electronics, I would have never found that magic area.