UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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Ehrler storms into lead

Ehrler storms into lead
FLW Tour pro Brent Ehrler proudly displays his catch en route to earning the top qualifying position heading into the Lake Ouachita finals.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Heading into the Chevy Open FLW Tour event on Lake Ouachita, the big story was whether or not Bryan Thrift could make history by recording an unprecedented fourth consecutive top-five finish. Then Scott Suggs grabbed the headlines as speculation mounted whether he could duplicate his 2007 Forrest Wood Cup effort and win his second consecutive title on Lake Ouachita.

But along the way people seemed to forget about Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., - arguably one of the top, if not the best, anglers in the nation. Well today, Ehrler made sure that he won't be a forgotten man any longer. Bolstered by a massive 18-pound, 11-ounce stringer on day three, Ehrler vaulted from 10th place to first place overall heading into the finals.

And it couldn't have come at a better time.

"I've honestly been truly blessed," said Ehrler, shortly after weighing in his catch which gave him a whopping 46-pound, 6-ounce total over three days of competition. "My primary pattern kind of died yesterday and I was just able to change things up and do something completely different. I ran all new water today. I just fished with an open mind and things worked out."

Ehrler already has two wins and three top-10 finishes this season alone - an FLW Tour win at Table Rock Lake, an FLW Series win at Lake Shasta and a fourth-place finish at an FLW Series event at Lake Mead. Throw in his 22 top-10 finishes and $1.4 million in winnings over the course of his career as well as a stunning victory at the prestigious 2006 Forrest Wood Cup and it's obvious that Ehrler has earned his place among the best.

However, to get to this point in the tournament, Ehrler had to make a series of adjustments that were not for the faint of heart.

"I kind of figured something out yesterday," said Ehrler. "Then when I caught my big fish early, it really freed me up to do something different. But honestly, one of the hardest things to do is to change things up mid-tournament. It can really mess with your mind.

"Basically, I found (a pattern) that's a combination of three different things. It's kind of complicated to explain," Ehrler continued. "But I was throwing reaction baits and slowing down once in a while and throwing Senkos. The fish are spooky and not easy to catch. I'm also fishing fairly shallow."

Heading into tomorrow's event, Ehrler said he had the chance to do something special.

"I'm confident I know what I'm going to do. I have a game plan and I'm going to do it. I might only catch three fish or I might catch 20 pounds. We'll just have to see what happens."

What's happening is that Ehrler has now made this a competitive tournament. But in addition to the tightening of the leaderboard, Ehrler has other goals on his mind as well.

"I'm fifth in the angler of the year standings right now," said Ehrler, who has now taken another giant step toward the one prize that has eluded him. "And the (AOY race) is never over until the final tournament. I really want to win that angler of the year title."

Suggs has hiccup on way to dominant title run

Scott Suggs of Bryant, Ark., heads into the finals of the FLW Tour Lake Ouachita event in second place.Although it looked as if Scott Suggs was going to win the tournament trophy going away after two days of stellar fishing, the native of Bryant, Ark., suffered a setback in today's competition after only managing to bring 10 pounds, 13 ounces to the scales at Friday's weigh-in.

"I really didn't stumble today," said Suggs. "I got six keeper bites and lost a really good fish this morning. I fished my guts out today. But it just goes to show you how humbling this sport can be. At least I'll have another chance to win this tomorrow. And you can't ask for more than that."

Per his usual strategy, Suggs targeted bass on standing timber in an effort to get an early limit. However, today he fell one fish short during the morning hours.

"I think that messed with my mind a little bit."

However, when he proceeded to execute part two of his plan, throwing a crankbait on deep brush piles - a strategy that had proven successful the last two days - that's when the wheels started to come off the previously unstoppable Suggs train.

"I was worried sick all day," said Suggs, who ultimately boated a three-day catch weighing 45 pounds, 10 ounces. "I caught a big stringer on those brush piles yesterday but it just didn't work out today. Everywhere I had been catching largemouth in the past, I caught spotted bass today. I also have two or three bunches of schooling fish but they haven't shown up all week long."

So what's the game plan for tomorrow?

"I'm not changing a thing," said Suggs. "Going into tomorrow I have nothing to lose. Now I can settle down and just go fishing. Who knows what's going to happen?"

Monson's consistency pays off

Keith Monson of Burgin, Ky., qualified for the FLW Tour finals on Lake Ouachita in third place.While many of the top pros have had their fair share of rollercoaster rides throughout the tournament, Keith Monson of Burgin, Ky., just keeps plugging along steady as usual. After another yeoman-like effort in today's competition, Monson now boasts a three-day catch of 44 pounds, 2 ounces and is poised to make a title run of his own.

"It was a little slower out there for me this morning but by the afternoon it really picked up," said Monson. "I kind of struggled out there today. I only had four fish in the boat until I pulled up on a spot and saw that there were 15 to 20 fish. I eventually caught my limit but it's a slow bite."

Monson said that he's doing a lot of "random casting" off the bank, moving his boat out to 10 to 12 feet of water and then casting towards bushes housed in about 5 feet of water.

"It's been slow but real consistent," said Monson, who continues to throw a combination of Zara Spooks and Shakey Head trick worms to land the majority of his catch. "But I found a real big school of fish this afternoon and I'm going to stick with that tomorrow. Right now, the worst I can do is fifth place."

Dudley surges into fourth

Pro David Dudley qualified for the finals of the FLW Tour event at Lake Ouachita in fourth place.Starting the day in 17th place, David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., knew he'd have to make a huge move if he was to qualify for today's top-five cut. And that's exactly what he did, bringing a massive 18-pound, 13-ounce stringer to the scales in today's competition to secure a fourth-place finish heading in the Lake Ouachita finals.

Ironically, however, it was a tip from pal and fellow FLW Tour pro Jacob Powroznik which allowed Dudley to move on and Powroznik to finish in sixth place - just missing the cut.

"Jacob is a really good friend of mine; he's kind of like my brother," said Dudley. "And he kind of helped me out this week. But he said, `Boy, if you bump me out of this tournament, I'll kick your ...' So I think I'm going to owe him one."

"Like your best fishing hole on Lake Guntersville," joked Powroznik, referring to the expected payback at the upcoming FLW Tour event slated for June.

As usual, Dudley was in a philosophical mode when asked to address the importance of moving up the leaderboard on the most crucial day of competition to date.

"In tournament fishing, the people you have to watch out for are the people who continue to climb in the standings each day," said Dudley. "The people who start doing (worse) each day, you don't have to worry about them as much."

As far as fishing goes, Dudley said that's he's targeting "wolf packs" of largemouth bass feeding on brim.

"When all the brim are up shallow, you're not going to see 15-inch fish eating brim, they're going to be big fish," he said. "The bass that are eating brim just have a taste for it. The bass that like shad are going to follow the shad out deep. But since the brim are shallow, the bass that like to eat brim are going to be shallow as well. And that's why I'm fishing shallow. Let's put it this way, I like to eat sushi. And if sushi was up shallow that's where I'd be."

Dudley also credited his $9 pair of sunglasses that he "bought at a gas station," for part of his success as well.

And yes, Dudley said that he did have a message to send heading into the finals.

"I know Ehrler is leading but I have my sights set on Suggs," said Dudley. "He's a good guy but I want to beat Suggs more than anything. It's just a pride thing."

For the record, Dudley now owns three consecutive top-10 FLW Tour finishes on Lake Ouachita as well.

Monroe finally makes the cut

Pro Ishama Monroe qualified for the FLW Tour finals on Lake Ouachita in fifth place.After many attempts to crack the final day roster at an FLW Tour event, Ishama Monroe finally achieved his goal - netting a total three-day catch of 42 pounds, 2 ounces to grab the fifth and final qualifying spot heading into the finals.

"I really wanted to make the top five," said Monroe. "I always wanted to make the top 10 and I finally did it at Lake Norman. But then you guys changed (the format) to the top five. So it's a good feeling to finally make it."

Monroe said that he's using a Paycheck Bait Repo Man top-water and Snag Proof Phat Frog to land the majority of his catch. He said that he's targeting schooling post-spawn bass and that most of his catch is coming in 2 feet of water or less.

"The shade has been the whole key," said Monroe. "I've been fishing pockets, the whole pocket, because the bass are staging all over the place.

"I actually should be in a better position than I am," Monroe continued. "Yesterday I had an opportunity for 20 pounds. And I lost a 5-pounder this morning. But overall I feel pretty good."

Day four of FLW Tour competition on Lake Ouachita resumes during tomorrow's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. at the Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa, located at 994 Mountain Harbor Road in Mount Ida, Ark.

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Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2010-05-26-lake-ouachita 

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