California Professional bass angler Brent Ehrler has one of the most impressive tournament resumes that you will find on any upper echelon tour. Ehrler makes his competitive home fishing FLW events including the Walmart Tour. He also excels competing against the best Bassmaster Elite Series anglers in the Major League Fishing competition.
I've been fortunate and have drawn Ehrler at an FLW National Guard California Delta event. I have personally seen how he strategizes the practice of winning and I have had the opportunity to speak with him in detail on his approach toward tournament angling. Whatever level you may fish, competitively or fun, you're going to want to 'catch' what Brent Ehrler has shared with the readers here at the BBZ.
Western Anglers Fishing Back East and the Return to Home Waters
You will find anglers from the east who are specialist in a variety of conditions typical to their home waters. You might find anglers from Alabama that are excellent at fishing shallow grass or skipping docks. Or anglers from Florida that are superior at flipping matted grass with 1-1/2 oz. punch weights. In the west tournament anglers may find themselves fishing at a deep clear reservoir faced with catching spotted bass in 40 to 50 feet of water, at one event, while the next event could take them to the Cal Delta fishing shallow vegetation. With the next stop fishing rock, docks and tulles at Clear Lake and the season ending at a river system fishing for a mix of smallmouth and largemouth.
This experience creates a very broad spectrum of fishing techniques. Every angler on the Walmart Tour will be challenged with an assortment of lake types and conditions. Consequently, if anglers favor one fishing technique but the event takes them to conditions that require a different approach it will put them out of their comfort zone. Ehler explains how his exposure to western fishing conditions has helped him when competing in the east. Conversely, Ehrler says the eastern venues have expanded his skill as well.
In the west Brent has always thrown topwater and jerkbait presentations, however his eastern tournaments have improved other 'reaction bait' skills, especially shallow water cranking methods. This has enabled him to fish fast and cover water with a Lucky Craft BDS3 or a LV500 becoming one of his favorite presentations.
Ehrler has developed confidence fishing the east and western events equally. Prior to the east he was never comfortable basing an entire event on 'reaction' lures, he might have thrown a worm, a jig, a Senko and a crankbait. Now depending upon conditions he might have three different crankbait set-ups out on the boat deck. As I listen to Ehrler talk about cranking I'm reminded of an episode of Lost Lake, filmed at Lake Piru CA. While searching for Piru bass with other lures Ehler settled into a few different crankbait techniques and produced a stellar day catching several stout bass, one of which approached the 10 lb mark.
Tournaments, Fish the Moment and Delete Your Way Points
"I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." - Wayne Gretzky
On the FLW Walmart Tour tournament waters will go off-limits to all contestants 13 days prior to the first official practice day. Not only is fishing prohibited during the off-limits period, pros may not receive any information from anglers other than pros confirmed for the event or publicly available sources. These restrictions also apply to the official practice period. Events start on a Thursday and the official practice period will commence for three days. This is the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday prior to the event and Wednesday is off-limits.
Rarely will Ehrler practice prior to the off-limits period. He will however go online, study lake maps and talk to other anglers to gather information for an upcoming tournament. Ehrler says that you will never be prepared to ask all the right questions until you are out on the water and in the official practice period restricted from talking to outside sources. His advice at this point is to keep an open mind and avoid preconceived ideas. "If you don't keep an open mind you will get beat" says Ehrler.
Fishing the moment and not memories is critical for Ehrler. You may have historical and seasonal patterns that draw you to your comfort zone but if things are not working out, you have to adjust and do something different. You are most likely fishing the wrong techniques or you're fishing in the wrong areas. These adjustments may be as simple as taking the same technique to a different area of the lake or changing methods in a different portion of the water column with a different retrieve speed.
Ehrler explains that you must avoid becoming too comfortable with what has occurred out on the water. Change is inevitable and for these reasons he is an advocate of not saving previous electronic way points. When Ehrler is finished with a tournament he will delete his way points. In the past he has tried fishing old spots and he has never had success doing this.
Ehrler recalls a visit to Clear Lake over fourteen years ago when he located a particular rock pile and did extremely well . With every return visit to this rock pile he hasn't once found bass again. As awesome as that spot may have been at the time, bass are constantly moving with the forage, weather conditions as well as spawning patterns. He will study and learn the general area but his believe system tells him that he found them before so he will find them again.
For these same reasons Ehrler doesn't put much faith in practicing in advance of the off-limits period, change it's going to take place. It's a pitfall for an angler to get locked into what took place over two weeks before an event starts. It can close ones mind locking them into a pattern that is no longer present. Ehrler also notes that the bulk of a tournament season is from late-winter into spring and unlike summer or fall the weather patterns this time of year are the most unstable. Again, change is inevitable.
Professional Tournaments to Recreational Angling
Wow, that was a lot of great information and insight into professional tournament angling. As I acknowledged before, it doesn't matter what type of bass angling you pursue there is a lot that can be learned from listening to Brent Ehrler's advice. As accomplishments go we have already seen a lot from Ehrler and I know we are going to hear much more from him in the future! Thank you Brent Ehrler for giving your time and sharing your knowledge with the readers here at the BBZ.