Ehrler Stunning in Finals
2012 Major League Fishing Challenge Cup, Lake Amistad, Nov. 6-11, 2011
Photo and story by Dan O'Sullivan
For complete event standings, click here.
DEL RIO, Texas – After five days of competition and the systematic elimination of 20 anglers, the four remaining anglers that scratched, clawed and kicked their way into the Championship round of the Jack Link’s Major League Fishing Challenge Cup presented by Busch Beer, had one more battle to fight before the war was over.
After grueling Elimination rounds, a stress filled Sudden Death semifinal and only one evening to think about a game plan, four anglers were about to see who could come out on top and claim the trophy.
The four anglers: Kevin VanDam, regarded as the best angler in the world and the first angler to qualify for the Championship round; Brent Ehrler, perhaps the number one pro on the FLW Tour and the second angler to fight his way into the finals; Kelly Jordan, a native Texan and winner of five tour level events; Mike McClelland, a perennial Bassmaster favorite and winner of six B.A.S.S. titles.
For the Championship round, the format returned to be just like Elimination rounds – the heaviest total weight at the end of the third period will be crowned the champ. The finals would require an angler to maintain steady performance all day, and they also would have to withstand potential runs by other anglers as the day wore on in order to claim victory.
|Championship Round Fishing Zone - Approximately 6,300 Acres|
Like it had done each of the previous five competition days, the weather conditions had changed once again. The previous day weather had light winds and blue skies, but championship morning greeted the anglers with gusty winds.
The anglers spent their 15-minute practice time looking for the area that would provide them a clue as to what the bass, in that zone, were doing under the current conditions. When 7:30 a.m. local time struck, the anglers were allowed to make their first casts.
It took 12 minutes for one of the anglers to post the first bass to the leader board, Brent Ehrler with 1.5-pound. Once the ice was broken, the floodgates were open, although not necessarily for all four anglers. Ehrler would go on to post two more keepers before VanDam scored with a 1.25 pounder at 8:02 a.m. Ehrler answered right back at 8:03 a.m.
It took McClelland another 17 minutes to get on the board, and Jordon didn’t make an appearance on the leader board until 8:46 a.m. By that time, Ehrler had posted eight keepers and didn’t appear to be slowing down.
That theme would continue for the first period as Ehrler continued to produce fish at a steady pace on a jerkbait along flat points that bordered creek channel bends. He would outdo his nearest competitor, Jordon, by more than 16 pounds with a total of 14 bass in the period
Ehrler returned to the rendezvous point at the end of the first period in command, leaving his competitors looking befuddled as to what he was doing differently.
The mid-morning period would prove to be slower overall for the competitors. While the first period produced 26 bass, the second period would produce a total of 21. Most of that difference would fall on the shoulders of the first period leader, Ehrler.
Jordon stuck first, when he put his first keeper in the boat at 10:35a.m. Ehrler followed next with a 1.75-pounder at 10:42 a.m., but had to watch the leader board light up over the next 25 minutes as his competitors each posted multiple catches. At 11:07 a.m., Ehrler was able to land another keeper. Hs painful wait between keepers would be more than doubled the next time as he would have to endure another down period of an hour and six minutes while each of his competitors slowly gained ground. McClelland and VanDam each posted two keepers during his lull.
While it appeared that Ehrler would be swallowed up by the charge, he was able to produce four more keepers that would stop the bleeding. While McClelland and VanDam mounted steady improvements, by the end of the period they were unable to erode Ehrler’s lead, in fact, they ended up losing ground.
Overall in the period, Ehrler produced six more keepers for 8.75 pounds, bringing his two-period total to 35.25 pounds. McClelland would prove to be the gamest competitor to the Ehrler onslaught, as he added 11 pounds to improve his weight, but not his position. McClelland remained well behind Ehrler at the end of the second period. VanDam had made a furious improvement of his own and would sit only a half of a pound behind McClelland in third, while Jordon was only able to add 5 pounds and sat in fourth place.
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With the day appearing to belong solely to Ehrler; the rest of the field returned to their fishing holes intent on proving that nothing was impossible in the Major League Fishing format. With each of them having been able to produce one period catches in excess of 20 pounds during the previous five days of competition, the truth of the matter was that anything was possible, but it would all depend on Ehrler slipping as well.
With each fish Ehrler caught, the chances of the other three anglers overtaking him lessened, and it wouldn't take long for them to get their answer.
Ehrler produced a 2.5-pound keeper three minutes into the period, then proceeded to steadily produce keepers through to the end. With every little run the trailing anglers mounted, Ehrler seemingly had a response.
Toward the end of the day, VanDam was able to find a large school of bass that was willing to eat his crankbait. Though he caught 27.5 pounds of bass in the third period, he was only able to come within 8.75 pounds of catching Ehrler. McClelland produced 16 pounds himself, but wasn’t enough to hang on to second place. Jordon started swinging for the fence, but wasn’t able to duplicate the success he had found in earlier rounds with the Alabama rig.
In the end, Ehrler added 17 pounds of bass to his total in the final period to shut the door on his competitors with a total weight of 52.25 pounds, which ended up being the second highest, single-day total weight of the whole competition.
As the lone FLW Tour angler in the field, Ehrler proved that he could withstand the pressure of his Elite Series counterparts en route to become the first champion in Major League Fishing history.
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