March 4, 2014 by Gary Mortenson
Heading into the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour Lake Hartwell tournament, scheduled for March 6-9 in Seneca, S.C., FLWOutdoors.com editors decided to try and catch up with the reigning title holder from that event, Brent Ehrler. Not only did Ehrler walk away with the tournament title there in 2012, but he also finished in second place overall during the Tour event in 2011. The following is an excerpt from our interview with the Redlands, Calif., pro., where he shares his thoughts about everything from the upcoming tourney, to the 2014 FLW Tour schedule to the banning of the A-rig in Tour competition.
Q&A with Brent Ehrler
FLWOutdoors.com: You won the Lake Hartwell event in 2012; so how are you feeling heading into this tournament?
Ehrler: "I feel really good about it. I've only been there twice but I've really enjoyed fishing Lake Hartwell. On the flip side, it's fishing so you never really know. In the past, when I've looked at the schedule, there were events I thought I'd do really well at and didn't. And vice versa. So again, you just never really know. But there's just something about Lake Hartwell where I've always been able to pattern it pretty well. I'm usually able to get on something, run around the lake, find something that looks good, pull up and catch fish. Leading up to the tournament there in 2012, I was able to fish a lot and save my best spot for the very end. Overall, you can fish a lot of different ways on Lake Hartwell. Personally I've had success fishing both deep and shallow. So it just really suites my style."
FLWOutdoors.com: How differently do you think the lake will fish compared to the last time the Tour visited there?
Ehrler: "I don't know what all of this recent weather has done to the bite so it's hard to say until I get there. But generally speaking, I've never been able to go back to a place and duplicate what I did before. I do think that Hartwell will fish a little differently this year. The water levels are higher right now so I'm not sure how things are going to play out. But to me, the weather is probably going to be the biggest difference, although the water levels could affect the tournament a little bit. I actually tried to practice there this year but I couldn't because of a blizzard. So honestly, I won't know a whole lot until I actually get there."
FLWOutdoors.com: What type of tactics, baits and strategies do you think anglers will employ on Hartwell?
Ehrler: I think the top-10 finalists are going to be using a broad variety of baits and tactics because Hartwell is just one of those lakes where you can really fish your strengths. Looking back over the past few years, (the field) really did use a diverse group of tactics and baits. People were bed fishing, fishing docks, fishing deep and shallow - so it's really hard to nail it down. My guess is that the people who are going to fish shallow on Hartwell are going to use crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, Texas rigs and Shaky Heads. And the anglers who fish deep will probably be throwing swimbaits, jigs, Shaky Heads and some drop-shots. But the people who are really going to do well are the anglers who are able to fish to their strengths and expand on a pattern."
FLWOutdoors.com: Coming off of Lake Okeechobee, there were some Tour pros who struggled who now find themselves way down in the standings. You've had your own struggles there, although not recently. So what does it take to rebound from a tough first tournament in order to still qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup?
Ehrler: "For the anglers who struggled on Okeechobee, they're really going to have to approach every event after that like an individual tournament and not look ahead to the season as a whole. Basically, they're going to have to take it one tournament at a time. If you go to Hartwell in that position and you're already in a hole, and you're worried about Beaver Lake, you're not focusing on the task at hand and you're going to be in trouble. You're also really going to have a good season for the rest of the year. Basically, if you've bombed on the `Big O,' you're going to have to have an angler-of-the-year-type performance the rest of the way. I'm talking about finishing every event the rest of the way no worse than 35th or 30th place with a few top 10s sprinkled in there."
FLWOutdoors.com: What do you think of the 2014 season schedule as a whole?
Ehrler: "I think it's a great schedule; I really do. The only thing I'm tired of is Beaver Lake, mostly because I've been there so many times before. Other than that, I think it's a great schedule and it should be a lot of fun."
FLWOutdoors.com: What effect do you think the A-rig ban will have on anglers this year?
Ehrler: "I don't think it's going to have a lot of effect on anglers with the exception of Beaver Lake. Because if you go to Beaver Lake early pre-spawn, the A-rig is the bait that's probably going to win you that tournament."
FLWOutdoors.com: There were obviously some disqualifications leading up to the FLW Tour Lake Okeechobee event. Any thoughts on those?
Ehrler: "It was unfortunate. I think having a Rayovac FLW Series event and FLW Tour event on the same lake caused some complications for some people with regard to the rules. But in the case of the Brandon McMillan disqualification, although unfortunate, there was nothing really FLW could've done. They had to DQ him because it was a clear violation of the rules. The Anthony Gagliardi disqualification was hard because the Cup is on Anthony's home lake so I feel for him. But I think if he puts his head down, he can still qualify for the Cup. It's not going to be easy, but he can definitely do it."