By TJ Maglio
March 26, 2012
Starting the season off with a win is one of the best ways to help take the pressure off the rest of the season. Brent Ehrler’s domination of the first FLW Tour Major on Lake Hartwell helped to do just that as he chases his first FLW Tour Angler of the Year win (he finished second in 2008 and 2011). In notching his 7th career FLW win, he also took home $125,000 and further cemented himself as one of the best anglers in the world. Here’s how he did it.
Brent had originally planned on looking for fish both shallow and deep, as he figured they would be scattered due to the unseasonably warm spring, and his intuition proved accurate as he found fish in both depths shortly after practice began.
“I had started looking shallow, throwing reaction baits and the plan was to slow down with jigs and Senkos once I found some fish. I caught a few doing that, but as the week progressed, it was obvious that there weren’t enough fish to do any one thing shallow or deep for four days.” Brent says about the practice.
After identifying the need for variety, Ehrler eventually located an assortment of areas both shallow and deep where he thought he could catch some decent fish, but laid off a lot of them and wasn’t entirely sure what kind of quality they would produce.
Going into the tournament, his confidence was pretty high. He felt his two-pronged approach would give him options no matter what the lake threw at him.
There were three components to the shallow pattern that Brent fished: a reaction bite with a crankbait, a jig/Senko combination on docks and a castable umbrella rig that caught him a few fish over the course of each day.
“I’d start out throwing a Lucky Craft L.C. 1.5 DRS Crankbait in pearl threadfin shad in between the docks, but once I got to one, I’d pick up that jig or Senko and pick it apart.”
The jig was a ½ ounce Phenix casting jig in Glimmer Blue Craw, and he tipped it with a Yamamoto 4” double-tailed grub in green pumpkin (297). He fished it on a Lucky Craft MH “Pitching” rod paired with an Abu Garcia Revo MGX and 16lb Sunline FC Sniper, which he used to cast and skip the jig around pilings and under platforms.
When he switched to the Senko, Ehrler used an unweighted 2/0 Owner hook and a 5” Senko in green pumpkin. He fished it on a Lucky Craft Reaction/Tube spinning rod paired to a Abu-Garcia PRM-40 spinning reel with 12lb Sunline FX1 braid and an 8lb FC Sniper leader.
The umbrella rig was a Picasso School-e-rig rigged with 3.5 inch white Yamamoto swimbaits (SB35) around the perimeter and an unnamed swimbait in the middle.
There didn’t seem to be much of a pattern to where the fish were located on the docks. Ehrler explained, “I caught a 4lber off a dock that sat in 10 feet of water, and I caught a 3lber off a dock in probably two feet of water. I did notice that the more cover the better though, as most of the shallow fish came off docks that had larger swim platforms, or boats in the slips.”
About the umbrella rig fish, Ehrler didn’t really know what he had until the tournament started. “I actually threw it a fair amount in practice, but I could only get them to bite it in one specific spot. I also didn’t think there were any good ones there, but I could get bit pretty easily on it. I really thought it would be a spot where I could go get a limit if I needed one as I was only seeing 1.5 lb fish. On the second day of the tournament though, I caught a 3lber on it and the third day I had a 4.5, so it ended up being a better quality spot than I thought. I probably weighed three or four off the School-e-rig total.”
The deep bite was the real workhorse of the tournament for Ehrler as he figures he caught 13 or 14 of the 20 fish he weighed in out deep. He relied mainly on a big football jig, but did mix in a dropshot to fish that he could individually see on his electronics.
The location was what made the deep bite so effective. He was able to locate structural elements that many other anglers were overlooking. “Hartwell is a really flat lake. All the points are really long, and so the odd thing was to find a good point that rolled off really fast. That’s where I would fish them, right as it rolled off and hit the trees. The fish weren’t in the trees, but if there weren’t trees there, there were no fish.”
While fishing the deep points, Ehrler would start out throwing a brown ¾ ounce Phenix football jig that he tipped with a green pumpkin Yamamoto 5” twin tailed grub. He fished the jig on a Lucky Craft heavy action Jig/Spinnerbait rod paired with an Abu Garcia Revo MGX and 16lb Sunline FC Sniper, which he bumped, dragged and hopped along the bottom.
The reason Ehrler likes the twin-tailed grub so much for tipping his jigs is its inherent action, “they just have so much action with so little lure movement. I’d just throw it out there, and most of the time they’d eat it on the fall, or the lure would just swim away. That twin-tail trailer just looks so realistic to the fish and they can’t resist it.”
The dropshot was effective for Ehrler if he actually saw a fish on his electronics, saying “I’d start out throwing the jig, but if I saw one on the Humminbird, I’d burn the jig back to the boat and quickly drop the dropshot on them. Often, the dropshot fish were suspended, so they would follow it to the bottom, and then bite it there.”
The deep bite got progressively better as the tournament went on, and Ehrler caught all five he weighed on the last day of the tournament on the ¾ ounce jig with the 5” double tail trailer.
Though he is ecstatic about the victory, Ehrler doesn’t think the victory at Hartwell will alter his fishing style much the rest of the year. “I’ve always been one who tries to approach each tournament the same way, I never slack off, and I’m going to try as hard as I possibly can every time I am out there. If anything, the cushion this win gives me might allow me to play a little looser in another tournament trying to get the win. I can’t play it too loose though, as I’ve still got to qualify for the Cup, so it’s important that I go out and catch them at each tournament.”
Unfortunately, for the rest of the anglers on the FLW Tour, they can expect a confident Ehrler to compete pretty well at the next tournament on Table Rock Lake. He won there the last time the Tour fished it.