HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Apparently Brent Ehrler wasn’t satisfied with just one FLW Tour victory this year. Bolstered by a four-day catch of 58 pounds, 1 ounce, Ehrler outdueled a talent-laden top-five field to capture the first-place trophy on Lake Ouachita and walk away with his second FLW Tour title of the 2010 season.
“I’m just so fortunate to be here,” said Ehrler. “I’m shocked. It’s the last thing I thought was going to happen.”
With his win, Ehrler joined a select group of anglers who have won more than one FLW Tour event in a single season (David Fritts in 1997, Rick Clunn in 2000 and Shinichi Fukae in 2006). Ehrler also scored a victory this year at the FLW Tour event at Table Rock Lake. As an added bonus, the win also pushed Ehrler’s career FLW Outdoors winnings to over $1.5 million.
In many respects, Ehrler's win was even more impressive given the fact that it came against David Dudley, the FLW Tour’s all-time leading money leader, and Scott Suggs, the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup champion and odds-on favorite to win the event.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Ehrler, who now boasts 23 top-10 finishes at FLW Outdoors events, a 2006 Forrest Wood Cup title and six top-10 FLW Tour finishes in the last three years alone. “I really didn’t think I had a chance to win this.”
After day two, it appeared that Ehrler wasn’t in any position to the win the tournament. With hometown hero and pre-tournament favorite Scott Suggs looking unstoppable, it seemed that everyone else was fishing for second place. But then two dramatic events transpired that would change the course of the entire tournament.
For starters, Suggs had a serious hiccup on day three – managing to only boat a little more than 10 pounds as opposed to the 17-pound stringers he had recorded the previous two days. But just as important, Ehrler finally figured out the puzzle that was Lake Ouachita.
"I finally figured something out at the end of day two,” said Ehrler. “I had caught a good limit earlier in the day and that freed me up to do some other things. I started throwing a top-water bait just to cover a lot of water and find some new areas. But the fish kept biting the top-water baits. In practice, I thought the top-water bite was done at 8 a.m. Then I realized, ‘I should be throwing this all day.’”
And that’s exactly what he did. Armed with Lucky Craft and Brian Bees top-water baits, as well as the occasional wacky-rigged Senko, Ehrler attacked shallow bays with his newfound arsenal. As a result, he was able to storm into the lead on day three on hold on for 1 ½-pouind victory in the finals.
However, now that he’s captured his second title of the year, he has another huge goal in mind.
“I really do want to win the angler of the year title,” said Ehrler, who now sits in second place in the overall standings, a mere 21 points behind fishing phenom Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C. “I’ve been close the last couple of years. So it would be a dream to win it this year.”
At this rate, for Brent Ehrler, it seems that anything is now possible.
Suggs suffers tough defeat
Although Scott Suggs of Bryant, Ark., fished a fantastic tournament, it was easy to tell that he was disappointed with the final outcome. After winning the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita and jumping out to a sizeable lead on Thursday, it appeared that it would be Suggs’ tournament to lose.
Unfortunately for the Arkansas native, his storybook ending would conclude with a second-place finish.
“I had a rough day today,” said Suggs. “I had some real missteps today and the shorter day kind of messed with me. There was also some water I didn’t get to run – that’s all I’ll say. I had my chances. On the first day I lost three big fish. And I lost a big one on day three. It wasn’t the fish’s fault. I had an opportunity to win this.”
Like the previous three days, Suggs started out in the morning using a Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait, targeting standing timber in 70 feet of water in an effort to catch a limit. From there, he’d switch to a crankbait, targeting brim beds off deep brush piles. However, today, the big bites just weren’t there.
“I guess I’ll have to get used to second place,” said Suggs, who ultimately recorded a four-day catch of 56 pounds, 11 ounces.
However, despite his disappointment, Suggs fished admirably given the circumstances. In addition to facing the pressure of fishing on his home lake in front of friends and family, Suggs also recently underwent surgery for prostate cancer. In fact, Suggs had to be hospitalized in December for the procedure. In short, it was remarkable that he was even out on the water in the first place, not to mention the fact that he came within ounces of winning an FLW Tour event against some of the best anglers in the nation a few short months later.
For his efforts, Suggs won the admiration of bass-fishing fans everywhere as well as a nice check for $36,500.
Dudley climbs the ladder
Although David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., didn’t win the event either, his four-day catch of 56 pounds, 2 ounces was good enough for a third-place finish. It was also good enough to put a smile on the angler affectionately known as the “Manteo Machine.”
“I’m happy,” said Dudley, who now boasts a staggering $2,475,000 in career FLW Outdoors earnings. “I did better every day and had the biggest sack in the finals. I climbed a mountain this week I reckon.”
According to Dudley, his climb wasn’t easy by any stretch.
“I’m definitely happy to have caught what I did in the finals,” said Dudley. “There was a lot of (holiday) boat traffic out there. It was a trying week for me. On the last day of practice I got onto something which usually means that you have to practice a little bit more during the tournament until you figure things out. So it was tough. But I’m happy.”
Dudley said he ultimately decided to target largemouth bass running in “wolf packs” along the bank feeding on brim.
“I used a Berkley heavyweight sink worm, light line and had my drag set real loose,” said Dudley. “I moved around a lot, fishing the banks in about 2 feet of water or less.”
For his efforts, Dudley took home a check for $27,000.
Monson nets fourth place
Like many of the finalists, Keith Monson of Burgin, Ky., also had a relatively difficult day of fishing. As one of the most consistent anglers in the tournament, Monson could only manage a final-day catch of 7 pounds, 12 ounces for a four-day total weight of 51 pounds, 14 ounces.
However, despite his disappointing day in the finals, Monson said he was pleased by his overall performance.
“I’m so excited it’s not even funny,” said Monson, shortly after weighing in his catch. “It’s a joy. To make the top five is just a dream come true for me.”
Monson said he spent most of the week fishing shallow bushes.
“It was a lot of finesse fishing,” said Monson. “I was doing well but then the water dropped and I had to figure out something else. I was really starting to run out of fish yesterday, but then I found this spot at the end of the day and there were fish swimming everywhere. But when I went back today, I couldn’t catch them.”
Monson ultimately walked away with over $18,000 in winnings.
Monroe settles for fifth
Ishama Monroe of Hughson, Calif., came into the Lake Ouachita event with a very important goal – to qualify for his first-ever FLW Tour finals. As evidenced by his stellar four-day catch of 51 pounds, 6 ounces, he accomplished that task. But while he didn’t achieve his second goal – winning the tournament outright – he said he was more than happy with how the week unfolded.
“I only had two days of practice and averaged about 15 keepers a day so I’m happy,” said Monroe. “I really had a lot of fun. I just love this place. And I’m looking forward to coming back here for the (Forrest Wood Cup) championship in 2011.”
Monroe said he used a combination of Paycheck Baits Repo Man and Snag Proof Phat Frog top-water baits to land the majority of his catch. He also said that he targeted schooling post-spawn bass in about 2 feet of water or less.
In the end, Monroe said he still has an eye on a few more goals – winning angler of the year and qualifying and winning the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, slated for Aug. 5-8 on Lake Lanier in Atlanta, Ga.
For his efforts, Monroe walked away with over $16,000 in winnings.
FLW Tour competition resumes June 23-26 at Lake Guntersville in Huntsville, Ala.