March 27, 2017
By Ned Kehde
During the first two days of the 2017 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Conroe, Texas, Brent Ehrler was in first place. The five largemouth bass that he brought to the tournament's scale on Mar. 24 weighed 23 pounds, three ounces. His five largemouth bass on Mar. 25 weighed 20 pounds, one ounce. But on Mar. 26, his five bass weighed 11 pounds, 10 ounces, and he finished the Classic in third place.
Back in 2010, we wrote about Ehrler for one of In-Fisherman's printed publications. It featured our observations about his practice session on Feb. 27, 2010, at Table Rock Lake before the FLW Tour's tournament, which he won.
The printed version contained 2,658 words. The original manuscript contained 5,540 words. The print world cannot afford to publish that many words. But it is very easy and affordable to publish them on the Internet.
And during the first two days of the Bassmaster Classic, several folks emailed us and asked us if we still had a copy of that 5,540-word manuscript. And if we did, they thought it would be a good idea to post it online in our Midwest Finesse column.
At their behest, here are the unedited observations that we penned many years ago about Ehrler's piscatorial ways:
Brent Ehrler of Redlands, California, has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in the professional bass fishing world.
He began his FLW career in 2003, and straightaway he won the Western Division points championship.
At the end of the 2009 tournament season, he was ranked second in the BassFan World Rankings, and his angling versatility and prowess was hailed by scores of observers, including such knowledgeable and talented anglers as Mike Folkestad of Orange, California, who said in March of 2009 that Elrher was approaching the talents of Kevin Van Dam.
He started the 2010 season in fine fashion by winning the FLW Series National Guard Western Division at Lake Shasta on January 16, 2010. It was his fourth FLW win, which includes the 2006 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, as well as 20 top-10 finishes and $1,241,983 in prize money.
After Ehrler's win at Shasta, Old Man Winter tossed a monkey wrench onto Ehrler's path, causing such a siege of foul weather to erupt that the FLW Tour event on the Red River at Shreveport, Louisiana was canceled on February 10.
Then winter kept its relentless grip on the Heartland throughout February, and when Ehrler arrived at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, on February 27 to practice for three days before the second FLW Tour event of 2010, the weather and water temperatures were unseasonably cold, causing patches of ice to form in the back of a few coves and making Ehrler's entire practice session extremely demanding.
Several veteran anglers said that they never seen Table Rock this cold, and from that perspective, these anglers concluded that many of the bass would be relatively concentrated and not many of them would be wandering around the shorelines. Thus, one angler opined that the tournament would be an angler's version of searching-for-a-needle-in-the-hay-stack phenomenon, and thus he predicted that scores of anglers would fish many hours, across many acres of water, without eliciting a strike.
Besides Old Man Winter's dastardly hand, a massive shad kill broke out across parts of the lake. For instance, within the 18-mile span of the White River arm between the mouth of the James River and the bridge at Shell Knob there were significant concentrations of dying shad, and the bass fishing in this stretch was problematic. There was a similar kill that stretched from Fisher Creek to Mill Creek, and the bass fishing was sour in this area, too. The shad kill, however, wasn't as prominent in the James River arm and above Shell Knob on the White River arm, and there were several other locales around the lake where the shad kill was minimal.
There was also a full moon, and because the fishing was so trying, many anglers concluded that the bulk of the bass were foraging at night with the aid of the bright moonlight. Some anglers corroborated this assertion by noting that traditionally the best late-winter bite occurs in the afternoon, but during this spell many anglers found that their best bite occurred early in the morning, which these anglers determined was the dregs or finale of the nighttime bite.
Moreover, other anglers suspected that their fishing was adversely affected by a ridge of high barometric pressure that arrived on February 27.
In essence, these were some of the ominous factors that might have affected the way the bass behaved and the way anglers performed.
During his first day of practice on February 27, Ehrler allowed me to observe and write about his every move from sunrise at 6:46 a.m. to sunset at 6:04 p.m. Joining us was Brandon Hunter, a successful co-angler from Benton, Kentucky, who has practiced with Ehrler since 2008.
At 6:35 a.m., Ehrler launched his boat about 13 miles above the dam, where area thermometers hovered at 27 degrees, a 7 mph wind angled from the west, and the barometric pressure registered 30.02. Once the sun rose above the eastern rim of the Ozark hills, it shone like a new dime until it began to plummet below the western horizon. Ultimately, the temperature reached a high of 45 degrees at 5:45 p.m., but a pesky northwest wind with gusts that occasionally hit 25 mph often muted the heat of the sun's warm rays. Even though the wind was uncomfortably chilly and difficult to cast a lure into, Ehrler hoped that some bass might be found sashaying around wind-blown banks and points; so he viewed it as a necessary nuisance. By 3:28 p.m. the surface temperature at the back of Thompson Hollow reached 44 degrees. The solunar table theoretically noted that the prime activity period for the bass would be from 9:51 a.m. to 11:51 a.m. The lake level stood at 915.81, which was about 10 inches above normal. The water was clear in the main body, and a touch stained in parts of the Kings and James rivers and Long Creek arm.
When Ehrler executed his first casts, employing a jerkbait, at a main-lake point at the mouth of Fisher Creek, the lake's surface temperature fluctuated from 39 to 40 degrees. Here his boat floated in 32 to 49 feet of water, and it sat two long casts from a gravel shoreline. Here he made extremely long casts and retrieves.
He said that he elected to fish this point because it is near the boat ramp where a lot of local anglers stage their tournaments and release their bass, and he was hoping that some of the bass from those tournaments would provide some insights to what might be going on at Table Rock Lake. At this moment, however, he wasn't aware that a significant shad kill had erupted in this area, and the bass were virtually impossible to allure.
In the cold-water conditions that confronted Ehrler, his jerkbait retrieve looked to be too fast, but he said that the quick pace of his retrieves was necessary because he needed to cover a lot of water in order to locate several congregations of bass. Then once he found a group of bass, he could milk those lairs by slowly fishing them during the tournament. But he readily admitted that it would be a difficult task to provoke the bass to react to such a quick presentation in the wintry conditions that prevailed.
As he fished this point and watched ice form on the guides of his rod, he briefly reflected upon his five years of plying the FLW circuits, and he quickly concluded that he had never experienced such a demanding set of circumstances that Table Rock presented to him on this first day of practice.
During the winter of 2009, he spent about two weeks fishing Table Rock, as he practiced for and competed in an FLW Tour event. Across those two weeks, he acquired what he called a rudimentary knowledge of the lake's 43,100 acres of surface water, 745 miles of shorelines and its largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. In 2009, he acquired enough knowledge to catch16 bass that weighed 48 pounds, 8 ounces and finished in sixth place. But as he pondered the unseasonable conditions that confronted him this time around, he doubted that he possessed enough knowledge to decipher in three practice days the whereabouts of Table Rock's bass and their forage preferences and habits in these unseasonable conditions. He noted that bass fishing can be an overwhelming and confounding endeavor even when conditions are hunky-dory and he is aware of a waterway's many subtleties. Thus, he was bracing for a week of trying fishing, in which he would endure many hours without eliciting a bite. Ultimately his stellar work ethic that pivoted around his versatility, tenacity, instincts, savvy and optimism guided him through the many quagmires to a mother lode of bass. Yet it took more than two long days of grueling fishing and heavy contemplation before he discovered that he had found the mother lode.
To prepare for this tournament, Ehrler spent a considerable amount of time searching the Internet, consulting such Web sites as Ozarkanglers.com. He examined several maps and consulted a Fishing Hot Spots map several times while he was afloat on February 27. Moreover, his two Lowrance LCX38cHD units were loaded with a map that would help him locate many of the lake's ridges and humps. He studied the results of past tournaments and determined what areas are noted for yielding tournament-winning bass, as well as areas that yield a lot of small bass. Thus, he knew that if a late-winter rain caused water to run into the back of the hollows and small creeks that the bass would quickly migrate into the back of the hollow and creeks, but that didn't transpire this time around. He also talked to talented local anglers about some of the bass' predilections, such as the color and style of lures that the bass traditionally prefer, and he acquired some jerkbaits in the Table Rock Shad tinge, some 20-year-old Wiggle Warts in several crayfish hues and a number of jig-and-grub combos. He even customized some of the lures, following the local prescriptions, but he noted that an angler can get wrapped up in too much dock talk and buy a lot of lures that he will never employ; therefore Ehrler buys and uses only the lures that he has confidence in.
At 7:07 a.m. Ehrler decided to move. He crossed to the other side of the lake and stopped at the point at the end of Cedar Bluff, which is about 14 miles above the dam. Here he used a jig-and-grub combo to no avail. As he worked the grub, he also pondered his next move, weighing the merits of a 36-mile adventure up the White River to Roaring River or 19 miles up the James River. He opted to sashay their way up the James. (The James River is where he caught his bass during the 2009 tournament).
At 7:38 a.m. they began fishing a series of small coves along the east shoreline about a mile above the mouth of the James River.
At 9:26 a.m. they moved to Jackson Hollow, skipping past Aunts Creek. The reason why Ehrler bypassed Aunts Creek is that he fished it in 2009, and he found the angling pressure to be too intense, calling it a virtual mad house." (It's interesting to note at this year's tournament that Rod Shuffield of Bismarck, Arkansas, caught 18 bass that weighed 56 pounds, 9 ounces in Aunts Creek and finished in second place)
At 10:27 a.m., they moved to Morris Bluff, and plied both transition areas, which is where the bluff peters out and the terrain changes to shelve-rock, boulders, chunk rock and gravel. At 11:21 a.m. Brandon Hunter caught a 14-inch largemouth on a grub in six to eight feet of water, where a series of mild-mannered waves washed across the chunk rocks along the shoreline; the water was tinted with a slight algae bloom.
At 11:40 a.m., they began fishing several points and transition areas around the island that lies across the lake from Cedar Hollow. On a shallow gravel point that eventually drops into 50 feet of water, Ehrler hooked a bass on a pearl Lucky Craft Pointer 78 DD in six feet of water within a few feet of the water's edge. Ehrler elected to not land the bass because another angler was nearby.
After fishing the saddle between the island and shoreline, they left at 12:27 p.m. and headed to the north point at the mouth of Thompson Hollow.
For two hours and 37 minutes, they probed all of the shorelines and secondary points in Thompson Hollow. Ehrler and Hunter caught two bass over 15 inches and two under 15 inches in Thompson Hollow; Hunter caught a 15-incher on an 1/8-ounce Picasso Shakedown jig dressed with a green-pumpkin Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver with a few of the appendages removed. Ehrler caught three bass on a crayfish-colored crankbait. Hunter had five strikes on his Smallie Beaver rig, and Ehrler had one on a crankbait and one on a Neko rig.
In the back third of Thompson Hollow, the surface temperature registered 44.9 degrees for a few minutes; the surface temperature at the mouth of the hollow was 43.4 degrees. This was the warmest water of the day.
From 3:46 p.m. to 4:23 p.m. they fished Point No.12 at the mouth of Viney Hollow and some of the shoreline inside Viney. Then from 4:28 p.m. to 4:55 p.m. they fished the east point and about half of east shoreline going into Smith Branch.
At 5 p.m., they start fishing halfway inside Piney Creek on the north side and worked their way towards the mouth of the creek. A third of the way inside a small cove, Erhler caught a three-pound largemouth on a crayfish-colored crankbait at 5:22 p.m.
From 5:28 to 5:46, they fished a main-lake bluff that lies just upriver from Piney.
As they traveled back to the boat ramp, they stopped on a main-lake point that extends into the lake, forming a significant ridge and hump, and from 6:04 p.m. to 6:10 p.m., they made their last casts of the day upon this unique feature.
Throughout the day, three Lucky Craft spinning rods and seven casting rods graced the deck of his Z Comanche Ranger boat.
The spinning rods were seven-footers and bedecked with Abu Garcia Soron SX40 spinning reels that were spooled with12-pound-test Sunline PE braided line and a Sunline FC Sniper leader in 8-pound test that was attached to the braid with a double uni-knot.
One spinning outfit featured an unpainted, quarter-ounce, ball-headed jig with a wire guard and a four-inch smoke-colored grub that had been soaked in water to create a milky hue. Ehrler prefers to use a painted jig, but he didn't have a painted jig with a weed guard; so he opted for a generic model. During the tournament, he also dressed this jig with a Yamamoto Swimming Senko in a natural shad color and either a four or five-inch smoke-colored Yamamoto Single Tail grub; the Senko and grub were soaked in water to create a milky tone.
A Neko rig was attached to another spinning outfit. It consisted of a five-inch green-pumpkin Yamamoto Senko with a 3/32-ounce Lunker City Nail weight inserted into its head, an O-ring was affixed to its egg sack and a 1/0 Owner Weedless Wacky hook was placed under the O-ring.
An 1/8-ounce Picasso Shakedown jig with either a green-pumpkin Yamamoto Pro Senko or Flappin' Hog -- devoid of its side appendages -- dressed the third spinning rod.
Three of his casting rods were seven footers with either a medium-fast or a medium-heavy action. These rods are part of Lucky Craft's cranking-rod repertoire. They are fitted with ABU Garcia Revo Winch Reels (5.4:1 gear ratio) and spooled with ten-pound-test Sunline FC Sniper. He wielded a variety of shallow- and medium-diving crankbaits, such as a Lucky Craft RC 1.5DD and a few vintage Storm Wiggle Warts, with these three outfits. During the tournament, he used a Lucky Craft RC 2.5 DD in the ghost-minnow hue to allure a 5 1/2-pound bass.
Three of the casting rods were six feet, 10 inches long graphite models with which he employed a variety of jerkbaits. Each rod was fitted with an Abu Garcia Revo Premier reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) and spooled with ten-pound-test Sunline FC Sniper. During the tournament, he wielded a pearl Lucky Craft Pointer 100 DD, and it inveigled a six-pound bass.
Another seven-foot graphite casting rod and Revo Premier reel, spooled with 14-pound-test Sunline FC Sniper, was garnished with a half-ounce football-head jig and Yamamoto Hula Grub in a green-pumpkin hue. During the tournament, this outfit sported a half-ounce Pepper Jig with a black Arky-style head and a brown-green-purple skirt and a five-inch green-pumpkin Yamamoto Double-Tail Grub, which enticed a three-pound bass during the tournament. The skirt was trimmed slightly, but it wasn't trimmed as radically as many Ozark anglers traditionally trim their jig skirts.
His ability to employ a variety of different lures and rods is a reflection of Ehrler's versatility, and many observers say it is one of the factors of his success on the tournament trails.
Across the past two FLW Tour seasons, Brandon Hunter has played a significant role in Ehrler's practice sessions — especially when they are fishing new waterways. For instance, while Ehrler spent many hours wielding a crankbait or a jerkbait at Table Rock, Hunter would employ -- at Ehrler's behest -- an 1/8-ounce shaky head jig dressed with a green-pumpkin Smallie Beaver, or a 4" smoke grub on a quarter-ounce jig or a skirted jig adorned with a soft-plastic trailer. Ehrler also asked Hunter to stroll a jerkbait behind the boat, or fish a partially submerged tree at several different angles. In other words, Hunter allows Ehrler to simultaneously employ two different presentations. Because Hunter is such a gifted angler, Ehrler trusts Hunter's abilities to allure scores of bass during the practice sessions, and during the three practice days at Table Rock, Hunter garnered more bites than Ehrler did.
For years, Ehrler was reluctant to have another angler in the boat during the practice rounds, especially on his home waters in California. Ehrler feared that another angler would distract him or the angler might reveal some of Ehrler's methods and places or that angler would return to fish some of Ehrler's most secret lairs. Besides Hunter's help with multiple presentations, Ehrler finds that it is comforting to have Hunter in the boat; it helps remove some of the tedium that occasionally afflicts an angler when he has to practice from daylight to dusk.
When Ehrler practices at a big lake that he doesn't know, he says that he likes to use a crankbait, such as the Lucky Craft RC1.5, Skeet MR and BDS3, which work in 1 to 4 feet of water, or a 1.5 DD, which works in 4 to 8 feet of water. Ehrler noted that three days of practice doesn't allow an angler a lot of time to mess around, and a crankbait allows him to search a lot of water, and if conditions are favorable, a crankbait can locate some bass relatively quickly. But accomplishing that feat with a crankbait, Ehrler said, would be a daunting task in the wintry scenario that confronted him at Table Rock.
Nevertheless, he wielded a crankbait for about four hours, plying various terrains in depths of four to eight feet of water as he maneuvered his boat in four to 17 feet of water. He regularly opted for a crankbait when he was plying shorelines and secondary points inside coves, hollows and small creeks. He retrieved the crankbaits with a medium-speed retrieve as his rod was pointed at the four- to five-o'clock position; he never executed a pause or a flick of the wrist to impart an irregular action to the crankbait.
The bulk of the time, however, he elected to employ a variety of jerkbaits in several sizes and colors; a couple of them were deep-diving models. Some Table Rock anglers customize their jerkbaits so that they sink very slowly, but Ehrler didn't customize his jerkbaits that way. His were neutrally buoyant, but he noted that the weight-transfer system of the Lucky Craft Pointer allowed him to make extremely long casts, and that allowed the Pointer to dive deeper than jerkbaits that don't possess the weight-transfer system.
When Ehrler retrieved his jerkbaits, his rod was held in the three- to five-o'clock position, as he executed a series of two twitches of the rod followed by a two- to four-second pause; there were spells, however, when he used a single twitch rather than the double twitch.
When the water temperature is in the low 40s at Table Rock, many local bass anglers, who know the whereabouts of significant concentrations of wintertime bass, often implement a 20- to 30-second pause between twitches. Ehrler says that unique knowledge of the whereabouts of the bass allows the local anglers the luxury of being able to linger at a particular locale and employ a dead-sticking motif with a jerkbait, but rarely can a tournament angler do that during the practice sessions.
Throughout the day, he was in constant search of wind-blown areas to employ his jerkbait and crankbaits.
As he wielded his jerkbaits, he often focused on submerged trees on main-lake points and around secondary points inside small creeks and hollows.
Along shorelines that sloped into the water at a 45-degree angle and graced with various geological transitions, such as a change from ledge rocks to boulders to gravel, he worked crankbaits and jerkbaits, opting for the jerkbait along the deeper portions of the 45-degree banks or at spots that were enhanced by flooded trees.
In areas such as Smith Branch, he plied the outside edges of long thickets of flooded buckbrush that embellished some of the flat and gravelly shorelines with his crankbait and jerkbaits, while Hunter used a grub and Smallie Beaver.
During the first day of practice, Ehrler registered only one bite on a jerkbait, and he hooked the bass for a moment, but he didn't land it because there was another angler nearby; this occurred on a main-lake point on an island. He caught three bass and had one bite on his crankbaits along shorelines and secondary points inside Thompson Hollow and Piney Creek.
It is interesting to note that they never fished boat docks, which a lot of local anglers traditionally ply, with any of their many presentations. For instance, Stacey King of Reed Springs, Missouri, probed several docks during the practice and tournament hours.
Ehlrler used a football jig and Hula grub for 18 minutes on a bluff, retrieving this combo with a delicate lift of his rod from two to 12 o'clock, which slowly raised the jig about two inches off the bottom; he described it as minor hop and drag
Ehrler wielded a Neko rig for about 10 minutes, casting it to the shoreline and a few laydowns and slowly moving the rod from the two- to one o'clock position and shaking it.
Hunter tested a four-inch smoke grub and quarter-ounce jig a lot and caught one 14-inch largemouth bass. Ehrler worked with it four times for a total of about 15 minutes, and he failed to register a bite; he also failed to catch a bass on it in 2009. Traditionally the grub has been one of the most effective bass lures at Table Rock and several other Ozark impoundments — especially in the winter. Even though the grub wasn't one of Hunter and Elrher's angling fortes, they were dedicated to learning how to catch bass with
During the 2009 Table Rock tournament, Ehrler and Brandon Hunter caught a goodly number of bass on a shaky head rig. Last year their jigs were dressed with plastic worms. On February 27, Ehrler didn't use it, but he asked Hunter to test it a lot. Hunter dressed his shaky head jig with a Smallie Beaver. He tried shaking the rod tip as the Smallie Beaver fell towards the bottom and as he moved it by lifting the rod and slowly dropping it, but most of his bites came as Hunter dragged it along the bottom, and this combo elicited the most bites during their three practice sessions.
A synopsis of the second and third days of practice and the four tournament days
On the second day, they ventured about 49 miles up the White River to examine areas such as Roaring River and Owl Creek. On the long stretch of the White River from the mouth of the James River to Roaring River, they failed to garner a bite while probing main-lake points, channel banks and bluff ends.
Inside one creek arm, however, they had some action on their shaky-head jigs, catching one three-pounder on a 45-degree shoreline that was embellished with shelf-rock. Also in this creek arm, Ehrler's sonar pinpointed a likely-looking lair on a secondary point. Hunter has witnessed Ehrler's wizardry with a sonar a number of times during other practice sessions; this time Hunter described it as follows: "As we were leaving the creek, he spun the boat around, and I knew exactly what he was doing. So I immediately looked at the graph and it was lit up. We turned the boat, fired out there with a grub and started getting bit pretty quick. We knew we were fishing a creek channel swing but didn't really study it too hard." Most of the bites were from small bass, but as soon as Ehrler caught a keeper and Hunter immediately followed suit with a 2 ½-pounder, they didn't make another cast to that spot. Instead, they searched in vain for a similar locale.
On the third day, they practiced in the lower portions of the lake, where they found the lake to be too clear for their tastes. What's more, they caught only three bass. The bass were caught at first light on a jerkbait, and after that, they didn't garner another bite.
During more than 36 practice hours of fishing, Ehrler boated only six keeper-sized bass and Hunter caught only two. What's more, they fished many hours without a bite.
Immediately after the last day of practice, Ehrler thought that he would spend much of the first day of the tournament fishing with an 1/8-ounce Picasso Shakedown jig affixed to a green-pumpkin Yamamoto Flappin' Hog.
Even though the small creek arm, which lies about 46 miles above the dam, had been the most fruitful area that he and Hunter had fished, Ehrler thought that he would spend the first day of the tournament in the James River arm, focusing on areas such as Thompson Hollow and Piney Creek and a few other locales where Hunter elicited bites with his shaky head and Smallie Beaver. It would be a run-and-gun approach. By doing this he hoped he could catch three keeper-sized bass a day, finish in the top 50 and collect at least $10,000.
But once he found out that he would be the sixth angler off the starting line on the first day of the tournament, Ehrler decided to make the 46-mile jaunt to the upper end of the lake and fish the secondary point that he and Hunter found inside that creek arm during the second day of practice. If he hadn't been sixth angler out, he feared that by the time he arrived at that creek another competitor would be probing the spot that he wanted to fish, and then he would have to travel another 46 miles to get to his areas in the James River
So the luck of the draw allowed him to return to the most productive practice spot and completely dissect it.
As he made the time-consuming and cold journey up the White River, he was worried that he had made the wrong choice. But much of his worry dissipated after his first and third casts, when Ehrler landed a 2 ½ -pounder on the first one, and two casts later he caught another. By the time 45 minutes had lapsed, Ehrler had a limit that weighed 16 pounds, six ounces. Then he spent the rest of the day searching unsuccessfully for bass at other areas in the upper portions of the lake.
He caught them on either a four- or five-inch milky-colored grub affixed to a quarter-ounce jig. His boat was situated in 30 to 35 feet of water. From that position, he executed long casts onto the point and allowed the grub to plummet directly to the bottom, which consisted of gravel a and ranged in depth from 10 to 20 feet of water. A few bass engulfed the grub on the initial drop. If a bass didn't take it on the fall, he began a slow and steady retrieve once the jig touched the bottom, allowing it to scrub the gravel and rocks and eventually glide across the tops of the submerged trees. The tops of the trees ranged from eight to 15 feet under the surface. Some bass didn't inhale the grub until it was under the trolling motor. At times, he would catch one after he failed to hook a striking bass; then as Ehrler allowed the jig to plummet a few feet after the missed hook set, a bass would occasionally engulf the grub during the fall. Ehrler suspected that the bulk of the bass were allured out of the submerged trees. At times, he would catch one after he attempted to set the hook on a striking bass, but failed to hook it. Ehrler would then allow the jig to plummet a few feet after the missed hook set, and a bass would occasionally engulf the grub during the fall. Ehrler suspected that the bulk of the bass were allured out of the submerged trees
His second day was similar to the first one; he had a limit within an hour. Then he plied other areas with a pearl Pointer 100 DD and caught a 6 ½-pounder.
On the third day, Ehrler feared that the bass at his honey hole might have become too accustomed to his grub motif. Therefore, he also employed a four-inch Swimming Senko on the quarter-ounce jig, Lucky Craft 2.5 DD crankbait in a ghost-minnow color and Lucky Craft Pointer 100 DD. He caught a 2 ½- and a 5 ½-pounder on the crankbait.
During the final day of the tournament, he opted for the grub, which quickly caught four bass, and he caught the fifth one by slowly lifting and dragging a half-ounce Pepper Jig with a brown-green-purple skirt and a five-inch green-pumpkin Yamamoto Double-Tail Grub across the bottom of the point.
Long before Ehrler made his last cast, he had outpaced the entire field by a significant margin, catching 20 bass that weighed 69 pounds, 11 ounce, while some of the nation's finest tournament anglers failed to catch a keeper-sized bass. As a result of this win, Ehrler replaced Kevin Van Dam as the top angler on the BassFan World Rankin.
(1) Eric Prey, who is a veteran Table Rock guide, caught bass on February 27 and 28, while many tournament anglers struggled, including Brent Ehrler.
On February 27, Eric Prey and a friend fished the Kings River arm from Viola to the Highway 86 bridge from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The surface temperature ranged from 42.5 degrees at Viola to 46 degrees at the Highway 86 bridge. They caught 15 largemouth bass, seven were keepers, and their best five weighed about 14 ½ pounds. They were caught on channel banks in four to eight feet of water around some kind of cover, such as trees or pieces of broken rock. The biggest and most bass were allured by a jerkbait that was allowed to pause for 10 to 15 seconds between twitches. Most of the strikes were very soft. A few bass were enticed by a Wiggle Wart or a jig and craw combo. The northern banks with the sun shining upon them were more productive than southern banks in the morning, but by the afternoon the southern banks produced as well. The fishing was better in the morning, and the wind in the afternoon made it difficult to feel bites.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on February 28, Prey fished the Long Creek arm from Brushy Creek to Yocum Creek, where the surface temperature was 42 degrees in the morning and 45 degrees in the afternoon. The best fishing occurred in the stained water between Cricket Creek and Yocum. There was a lot more fishing pressure in Long Creek than there was in the Kings River; consequently, Prey couldn't fish some of the areas he would have liked to fish. Nevertheless, they caught 12 largemouth and spotted bass. Six of them were keeper-sized, and the best five weighed about 12 ½ pounds. Most were caught on a jerkbait; the two biggest engulfed a jig and craw combo; a Wiggle Wart also allured several bass. There was no difference between the morning bite and the afternoon bite.
Prey noted that the bass seemed to be concentrated both days. They would get bites along a small stretch of bank then nothing for many casts. When they were wielding a jerkbait the boat was in 18 to 22 feet of water, in 15 to 20 feet with the jig, and in 10 feet or less with the Wiggle Wart. The bass that they caught on a jig were caught in less than five feet of water.
Their jerkbaits were either a Smithwick Suspendin' Rogue or Megabass Vision 110 in a gold hue or another metallic finish. They were customized with Suspend Dots so they would suspend horizontally and sink very slowly.
Their jigs were a Jewel Bait 5/16-ounce PB&J Eakins' Jig dressed with a green-pumpkin Eakins' Craw and a Jewel Bait 3/8-ounce Eakins' Flip 'n Jig dressed with a black-and-blue-flash skirt and a blue-and-purple-flake Eakins' Craw.
The color of the Wiggle Wart was brown crayfish.
Prey, who interviewed Ehrler on his radio show, said that it was "interesting to see how well he did despite only finding one key area in practice, [but] that's Table Rock in the late winter."