GAINESVILLE, Ga. – National Guard pro Brent Ehrler has already had a historic 2010 tournament season. In January, he won the first FLW Series Western Division event on Lake Shasta. Weeks later, he won the FLW Tour opener on Table Rock Lake. In May, he won the FLW Tour qualifier on Lake Ouachita. And with one more successful day on Lake Lanier, he’ll claim his second Forrest Wood Cup title.
On day three of the 2010 Cup, Ehrler brought in 14 pounds, 14 ounces, the heaviest limit of the tournament thus far. With one day remaining, his total weight sits at 39 pounds, 3 ounces. Ehrler said the 14-14 looks great on paper, but the reality is that the fishing is a grind.
“It wasn’t easy; I caught my fifth one at like 3 p.m.,” he said. “The bites are few and far between but the good news is that I’m around big fish.”
Ehrler continues to target main-lake brush, but he’s fishing shallower than most. His drop shots are hitting approximately 15 to 25 feet of water.
“The first day I ran around a lot but the last two days I’ve really fished eight or 10 places. And I maybe get one fish from each per day.”
The 2006 Forrest Wood Cup champion is excited about this opportunity but he knows by only getting a handful of bites each day he’s playing with fire.
“I see the potential in my area. But keep in mind I struggled just to get five. I can get them to follow my bait but I can’t hardly get them to eat it. I’m also seeing fish break the surface, but by the time you wind a topwater out there they’ve already gone back down. But that at least reinforces that they’re there.”
Of his eight to 10 spots, three are loaded with magnums.
“If I get bit on those it’s a 3-plus pounder for sure. The way I’m fishing is kind of like Guntersville. Sometimes I’ll fish it hard then give it an hour to rest. You go back and they may or may not be fired up. You give it another three hours and then you go back again.”
Ehrler’s two key baits have been a Roboworm and a Thin Senko. His best colors are green pumpkin, watermelon and morning dawn. Morning dawn, which looks like a mix of purple and pink, has been the bait of the tournament so far. For whatever reason, the Lanier spots just eat it up.
The pro leader is trying not to think about tomorrow. At this point he’s just happy to redeem himself after a poor finish at Guntersville, the Tour’s final regular-season stop.
“It’s a great way to finish the season, especially the way Angler of the Year played out. I wanted some redemption.”
If he does claim victory tomorrow, he’ll be the first pro ever to win two Forrest Wood Cup titles.
“Tomorrow is going to be a one-day shootout. Honestly, I’d rather be where Cody (Meyer) is in second place. Now I have that target on my back.”
Back in the tanks, Cody Meyer told the media he thought he had 8 or 9 pounds. It was his worst day by far and he worried he’d fallen out of contention. As it turned out, he greatly underestimated his catch. Meyer’s five fish, the only five bites he received, weighed 11 pounds, 5 ounces – giving him a three-day weight of 38 pounds, 11 ounces.
“Today was brutal; I thought for sure I was going to only come in with two. At 1:30 p.m. I caught my third and my fifth came at 2:30.”
Meyer fished mostly the same deep areas (25 to 35 feet deep) with the same tackle. He’s at the lower end of the main lake and the mouth of Six Mile Creek. On days one and two, he almost exclusively used a Jackall Cross Tail Shad on his drop shots. Today, he mixed in a Roboworm.
“I don’t really have new water. I just keep going back over them until they fire up. One thing I’ve discovered is that the newer, greener brush is better. And if it’s on a ledge, it’s really good.”
Meyer wasn’t pleased with day three, but by no means does he feel defeated.
“I know what’s down there so I still think it can happen. There are a lot of 3-pounders in this lake.”
Nixon limits, falls to third
Chevy pro Larry Nixon experienced a great morning bite, but then for whatever reason the fish locked up on him. He managed a late keeper and finished the day with 11 pounds, 5 ounces.
“It started out good; I had four pretty quick and then it died. Finally I caught the fifth right there at the end.”
Nixon said he had to fish painfully slow today, something that wasn’t the case earlier in the week and during practice. He’s not sure if boat traffic had an effect, but the cruisers were out in full force and there was a flotilla of bass boats following the General’s every move.
“The only thing I can say is that I’ve got water completely to myself. I’m not rotating or sharing any water. I knew I couldn’t compete with those guys who were running 70 spots a day. I’d rather have 10 or 12 good places.”
While most of the other finalists are fishing the main lake, Nixon is fishing in creek arms. But he’s still probing the deeper water (26 to 30 feet) with a drop shot.
“I’m using several worms but my biggest fish today came on a Berkley Shaky Worm.”
Nixon starts tomorrow with a total weight of 37 pounds, 7 ounces and a deficit of less than 2 pounds.
“I’d like to think this is still my Cup. If I can get on a roll, I really feel like I can win. I’m capable of a 13- or 14-pound stringer tomorrow.”
In fourth place was day-one leader Kevin Hawk. The Lanier transplant brought an 11-pound, 2-ounce bag to the scale Saturday, which pushed his three-day weight to 36 pounds, 1 ounce.
Not much was known about Hawk before this tournament. He qualified for the Cup via the 2009 FLW Series Western Division. After he qualified, he moved from Ramona, Calif., to Buford, Ga., and became a spotted bass disciple. Those that have seen him fish describe him as focused and meticulous to the point where he resembles a robot on the water.
“I hit 40 to 45 spots again today – spending 5 to 7 minutes on each,” said Hawk. “I caught the 4-pounder within the first half hour.”
After weigh-in, Hawk appeared somewhat disheartened.
“I’ve basically burned through all of what I call my good spots. I fished some up north today and only found little fish. As the tournament wears on, my confidence is slowly going down.”
Like many in the field, Hawk is using a drop shot and a morning dawn Roboworm. He rigs it on 7-pound Sunline Sniper, a 3/8-ounce dropper and a 12-inch leader.
Ronald Hobbs Jr. is the only fisherman that made the top-six cut by fishing shallow water. The Orting, Wash., native caught 11 even today to finish day three with a total weight of 35 pounds, 3 ounces.
“The deepest I’ve caught a fish in this tournament is 6 feet,” Hobbs said. “I’m fishing stained water up the Chestatee River. The edges of the creek channels have a little trough that baitfish run through. And if you can find something intersecting that channel, whether its trees or a dock, it’s really good.”
Hobbs said he only has two 100-yard stretches of good water. Today, his limit consisted of three spotted bass and two largemouths. In total, he’s caught five largemouths during the tournament.
“I’m fishing shallow, but I’m still using a drop shot and dragging it very slow.”
Hobbs tips the drop shot with a Zoom Shaky Worm.
All-American champ makes the cut
Winning the BFL All-American is an impressive feat in its own right, but winning the Forrest Wood Cup in the same season is the stuff of legend. After catching a 12-pound, 11-ounce limit Saturday, Troy Morrow squeaked into the top six and has a chance to make history.
Ironically, the Toccoa, Ga., native edged out fellow Georgia pro Tom Mann Jr., one of the pretournament favorites. Morrow finished day three with 35 pounds, 1 ounce while Mann had 34-10.
“It turns your stomach a little bit standing here,” said Morrow.
Morrow may be nervous, but he’s been preparing for this tournament from the moment he claimed victory at the All-American.
“I came home from Arkansas and basically lived here for four months. In that time, I marked 1,600 waypoints on my GPS. I have since narrowed that down to 520.”
Morrow isn’t just fishing deep. For 15 or 20 minutes each day, he’ll pull out a Brian’s Bees Prop Bee (No. 2) and target cruising largemouths on the bank.
“I fish two or three pockets and I’m after one bite. I caught one yesterday and I missed a real good one today.”
Morrow then reflected on an eventful four-month journey.
“The goal was to make the top six. Whatever happens from here I’ll be happy with.”
The final day of Forrest Wood Cup competition on Lake Lanier will begin Sunday at 7 a.m. Eastern time from Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Hwy. in Gainesville, Ga.