Grind It Out: Despite Tough Fishing on Eufaula, Ehrler Is Keeping Options Open
By Lynn Burkhead
Normally, the pros of Major League Fishing know months in advance that when it comes to a MLF Cup level event, the one thing that they can count on is being surprised.
Especially in terms of the venues that they'll be fishing, angling spots that will not be known until they pull into the boat ramp parking lot on the morning of competition.
Not to mention fishing holes that are smaller in nature and lying off the beaten path.
But that's most of the time and not this time said Brent Ehrler, winner of the inaugural MLF Summit Cup championship staged on Lake Amistad a few years ago down in southwest Texas near Del Rio.
This time, when he got the MLF e-mail instructing him to travel to a famous area in extreme eastern Alabama, the California pro said that he had a pretty good inkling of where the MLF Challenge Cup would be contested.
"I knew months ago that we were going to be on Lake Eufaula," laughed Ehrler, mentioning the travel schedule. "You don't come to Eufaula, Ala., if you're not going to fish on Lake Eufaula. So it wasn't a surprise."
After all, Ehrler notes that the 45,181-acre lake is famous for its big bass, especially during the springtime.
"I've fished here one time (before) for an FLW event," said the former FLW Tour circuit star now competing full time on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour. "But that was in May, so it was a late spring event. And the fishing was tough then."
What about now as the MLF pros arrive during the warm early days of fall?
"Unfortunately, this time of the year, fishing is tough anywhere in the south," said Ehrler, winner of five FLW Tour level events including the 2006 FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup championship event.
"(So) it's going to be a grind today, I can promise you that," he added as he worked on tackle in the boat ramp parking lot. "There's not going to be a lot of fish caught."
Why is that?
"This is still a late summer, early fall pattern," Ehrler said. "We haven't had any really good cold fronts (this far south yet) that would really make it better."
Meaning that viewers shouldn't expect a slugfest with fish a minute action like what was discovered at the Summit Cup near Grand Rapids, Minn.
But while there may not be any real threat to unseat Aaron Martens from the single day weight record he owns after a glorious day in Minnesota a few weeks ago, there's still some work to be done here this week.
Because someone - tough conditions or not - is going to compete for and end up winning the prestigious Challenge Cup that is up for grabs here in eastern Alabama.
After all, big alligators aren't the only thing Eufaula is famously full of - there are plenty of good sized bass, too.
"You have to stay positive," said Ehrler of the anticipated tough fishing conditions. "It's not going to take a lot to do well (here this week). So you're going to have to be on your game so that when that one fish finally does bite, you're ready for it and you don't flub it (the opportunity)."
Since Ehrler is expecting a complete grind it out kind of day, will he pay more or less attention to the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard? And into what his fellow MLF competitors may be doing on the water to catch their fish?
"One thing I've noticed about this deal is that when I try to think or say that I know what these guys are doing (during a day of competition), I'm wrong," smiled Ehrler, who has five MLF Championship Round appearances on his resume.
The California pro, who has also appeared in two Bassmaster Classics and nine Forrest Wood Cups, has noticed that trend after taking a number of such guesses in his mind after listening to SCORETRACKER LIVE! updates during a MLF competition.
A guess that is ultimately proven to be wrong when he actually gets to see the finished product later on when the show airs on Outdoor Channel.
"Guys start doing well and I assume I know what they're doing, but as it turns out sometimes, they're not doing what I thought they were," Ehrler said.
"So I'm not going to try and predict how they are catching them today," he added with a wry smile.
As Ehrler sat in his boat putting the finishing touches on tackle before the 15-minute ride around time began, I asked one of the best pros in the business how he planned to go about catching them on Eufaula today.
With a shrug of his shoulders, Ehrler admitted that he wasn't totally sure just yet.
"I don't know yet if it will be a fast deal or a slow deal, meaning reaction baits versus slower baits," he said. "I'll use a combination of both if that's what it takes to do well."
While other Challenge Cup anglers might have a more specific game plan already in mind as the boats prepared to back into the water, Ehrler was comfortable with his approach to have a good number of baits tied on rods and reels littering the front deck of his bass rig.
Along with an open mind about how the day would go and a positive mental approach to a day where the MLF pros are likely to grind it out.
And since Ehrler has a gleaming MLF Summit Cup championship trophy already sitting on the mantle back home in California - not to mention five Championship Round appearances in nine events - then who can argue with such an approach?
Perhaps only the moody early autumn bass currently swimming around in Alabama's famed Lake Eufaula can.