GARY MORTENSON photo

A plan is great. An adjustment (or two) is even better. The evidence is in Brent Ehrler’s second FLW Tour win this year earning another $125,000. As he told me this morning, “I’m still really shocked,” but it wasn’t just that he was facing a tough regional field, but as he said the surprise was in “how I won.”

In that part of the country, the spawn is all but over in late May and any prospects of sight fishing were over as well. “I was fully planning on fishing outside with a big worm and big crank,” he said. “They go out on their summertime deal or secondary main lake points.”

But when he arrived he noted, local favorite Scott Suggs remarked, “Did you notice the lake came up 5 feet?”

In short order, Brent reacted, “I cut off the Carolina rig and the deep diving plug. In my short experience,” he said humbly, “when a lake comes up, the fish are shallow.”

To make a long story short, his practice included some topwater, flipping, shaky head and Senko where there was cover (buck brush and willows). But late in one day of practice, he found himself on the main lake with the sun getting low, and he tossed his Gunfish on some points where there was no cover on the bank caught a 5 1/2 pounder followed by a 3 1/2 pounder.

By the first day of competition, that surprise discovery got him fishing topwater early and then looking to fill out in the bushes. And sure enough, that worked the first day when his catch included a fish over 5 pounds. He then assumed that “if I didn’t catch them on topwater in the morning, I wouldn’t get a limit.”

But that plan fell flat the very next day.  “I did the same thing,” he said, “but I don’t get one single topwater bite. Now I’m struggling; I have to catch a few easy ones and then throw the worm around.” He didn’t get his first fish until 10 a.m. and his fourth with an hour to weigh-in.

Scrambling, but not beaten, he remained alert throughout the day. After catching a second fish on a secondary point, he said, “I see four bass swimming down the bank. Then I see a few more and then I see bluegill beds.” Deciding this is the best thing he has going and with time running short, he sticks with it and gets three more fish in the last hour, keeping a 2-pounder on a Senko for his limit.

While this period of scratch fishing kept him in the race, he examined all of the factors before fishing the third day. The lake had come up two feet in the 24 hours before the tournament, peaked, and then began to recede. The fish had moved into the bushes, but seemed to pull out. The bluegill on beds gave the bass a reason to stay, and Brent assessed the fish that pulled out had formed packs that were running the shorelines.

Since the better fish had showed themselves previously, he made the decision to go the main lake and repeated the topwater approach. Only he adjusted his thinking again from his “morning only” topwater approach, and discovered that same bite was good all day.

True, the final day had further droppage of water and a lot more boat traffic, so the number of bites went from “30 down to 8” but the confidence he gained from the topwater bite he had experienced and surmising why those fish were running the banks, allowed him to stay on task.

Not exactly the plan, but certainly a near-perfect adjustment.

 




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