So far, 2010 has turned into the year of streaks. On the BASS side, there's Skeet Reese, who made five consecutive Top 5s, two of which were wins. On the FLW Tour, Bryan Thrift scored three consecutive Top 5s, one of which was a win.
Then there's Brent Ehrler, who didn't string together a series of high finishes, but today achieved the oh-so-rare mark of winning two tour-level events in a single season.
Ehrler began the day as the leader at the Ouachita FLW Tour, but his dreams of a second tour-level win seemed to fade when he saw the water had dropped another foot out of the bushes. Meanwhile, crazy Memorial Day boat traffic ran willy-nilly around the lake and clearly, things had changed.
Ehrler managed to cobble together an 11-11 limit, but he didn't think it would be nearly enough against the likes of Ouachita expert Scott Suggs, fishing's "Million Dollar Man" David Dudley, or even wildcard Keith Monson or two-tour pro Ish Monroe.
But the entire Top 5 struggled, and in the end, Ehrler's limit was more than enough, and he sealed his second Tour win of the season.
His 58-01, 4-day weight was right about at the predicted winning total.
And for those keeping score, Ehrler also won the Shasta Western FLW Series in January, as well as the Havasu Western Series last year in addition to this year's Table Rock FLW Tour.
He's currently ranked 2nd in the world behind Reese, and was ranked No. 1 several months ago.
What's especially notable about the win was that Ehrler's topwater pattern beat Suggs on his home turf.
Suggs, who was overcome with emotion onstage, planted brushpiles around the lake prior to the off-limits, and worked his regular run of "breaking holes," but ultimately lost too many fish and finished 2nd. He weighed 11-01 today.
For Suggs, just being onstage was a triumph. Unbeknownst to most in the sport, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer last fall. Treatment was successful, but he later needed surgery to clear an obstruction. He wasn't even sure he'd he able to compete in the season opener at the Red River, which eventually was cancelled due to high water. Thursday was his 44th birthday.
David Dudley's finesse pattern faltered – recreational traffic forced him off his best areas by 10:30 – but he did weigh the heaviest bag of the day (12-01) and improved a spot to finish 3rd.
Keith Monson's shallow trick-worm bite basically disintegrated today. He went most of the day with two fish, but added three late rats to come in with a 7-12 limit. That dropped him a spot and he finished 4th.
And Ish Monroe's shallow topwater bite likewise took a nosedive. He shared some water with Ehrler but came up on the bottom end with a 9-04 limit and finished 5th.
However, Monroe's finish did give him a big bump in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year (AOY) race. Same for Ehrler.
Thrift still leads the race, but Ehrler's now 2nd and just 26 points behind Thrift, while Monroe moved up to 3rd, where he trails Thrift by 34 points.
Curiously, a two-tour pro is now within the Top 3 in both the FLW and BASS AOY races, as Edwin Evers is in 2nd place on the BASS side.
Ehrler: Feeling is 'Unreal'
When he came off the water today, Ehrler was mad at himself. He struggled all day and in the final 30 minutes decided to pull out to deeper water to see if the fish had moved out.
They did, and he culled twice within a 5-minute period to get to 11-11. He was out of fishing time and figured he blew it – there was no way that bag would hold up.
"I feel awesome – it feels amazing," he said after tonight's weigh-in. "It's just so hard to win one, and to have this happen – to win two – it's just crazy. It's just unreal. There's really no other way to describe it. It's just unreal.
"The way this one went down, it was so weird – completely unexpected. Things changed up out there and it was just all so weird because I was thoroughly convinced I didn't win. I was mad at myself that I didn't get on that outside stuff until too late."
His former No. 1 world rank, and the fact that he's a Forrest Wood Cup champ and a two-time champion in a single season – it all puts him in a small, elite group of anglers. But while his peers certainly put him in that class of angler, he doesn't see himself that way. He's more concerned, he said, with proving himself again and again.
"Fishing's always a proving ground. I never consider myself as having made it or as being this or that. When you're fishing you always have to prove yourself and I'm always going to try to prove myself. I'll go and stress out all over again next week about how to catch them at the Delta. I'm never going to be have a satisfied feeling. I'll just keep trying and I'll never consider myself to be the best or better than anybody else. It's fishing and you're up and down every day."
It was also a timely win. He's sponsored by the National Guard and this is Memorial Day weekend. The Guard held a special place of honor at today's weigh-in, and Ehrler said the importance of the weekend hit him during this morning's National Anthem.
"It really kicked in this morning. I was sitting there and they were doing the National Anthem and it was all pretty amazing. Representing the National Guard on Memorial Day weekend – it was a weird moment when I realized it all, and it was a pretty neat feeling."
From everyone involved in fishing to all the Guardsmen and women who never returned and their families: You will never be forgotten.
Ehrler's win hinged on a key day-2 decision. His outside Senko bite was sucking wind, so he decided to go into a pocket and check things out. He saw tons of fish cruising around and decided to try a topwater in the afternoon, instead of just the morning as he'd been doing. He culled up to a 13-11 bag, then went back into the area the next day and busted nearly 19 pounds.
And he ground through a difficult day of fishing today with a topwater.
His two main baits were a Lucky Craft Gunfish 115 and a Brian's Prop Bee (a bait he threw for the first time ever on day 2 of the event).
The full details of his winning pattern, plus pattern information for the other top finishes, will be posted soon.
2nd: Suggs Emotional
"Yeah, it was a pretty emotional week," Suggs said. He had difficulty even talking during the weigh-in proceedings, and paused several times to collect himself. "To fight back from all that (cancer and surgery), and be up there in that position, that soon, and in front of a hometown crowd with the opportunity to win – it was a pretty crazy week.
"I left too much out on the table," he added. "When you do that, you're not going to beat these guys. The first day I lost three fish over 3 pounds – one was probably close to 4 pounds. I fished flawless the second day and today, but the third day, I lost a fish that was probably 3 or 3 1/2 pounds. I weighed a 14-inch spot on day 1 and some small fish yesterday.
"So it's not like I didn't have the opportunities. I had plenty. I just left too much out there."
He also expressed his respect for Ehrler, and the game he's brought over the past several years.
"Brent's just nuts – he's just crazy. I mean, he's out of his head. He's fishing unbelievable and if I'm going to get beat, I'd just as soon get beat by him. He's not only a winner, but a class act in the process."
3rd: Dudley Happy
Dudley lost fish like everybody else. He noted that, but didn't dwell on it when he discussed his finish.
"It's easy for me to look back at the could-have-beens and a few key fish I lost," he said. "Pros always like saying, 'I could have won the tournament,' but this week, everybody can cry that same cry. Can I honestly say that I had enough on to win? Yes, but what about the ones Scott Suggs lost?
"I'm happy with the finish. I hate to lose – everyone knows that – but I had the strongest bags yesterday and today. I was making a comeback, but things got a little tougher. The fish were sitting out in front of the bushes a little more than normal, and the boat traffic was horrible. A lot of the stuff I was fishing was main-lake stuff so I knew that pretty much by 10:30 what I had was going to be toast."
After that, he was forced back into the pockets to escape the recreational traffic.
"That's just the way it is," he said. "You have to deal with what's dealt to you."
4th: Monson Mixed
This was Monson's second FLW Tour cut, but his first Top 5 (prior to this year, the Tour cut to the Top 10).
But given the fish he saw this week, and how little he weighed today, he's got some mixed feeling about his finish.
"I'm a little disappointed because I thought I could weigh 13 pounds today to make it interesting," he said. "But things really changed up. The water dropped another 6 to 8 inches overnight and that really messed them up. There was a lot of boat traffic and the fish just weren't there. I scrambled and caught two early, and right before we quit I went back to flipping and caught three quick in a row – I didn't want to be the only one without a limit.
"This was my best Tour finish ever, so I'm pleased," he added. "Sometimes when you don't make the cut, you start batting yourself. It pleases me to have been in there, especially with the fishermen I was in there with. Those four guys are all top-notch and it was very self-satisfying."
5th: Monroe Hunting AOY
Monroe, who's now en route to next week's Potomac AFS, is stoked to have a shot at the AOY title.
"I'm happy with the finish," he said. "I gained some points on Bryan Thrift. Brent got a few points on me, but it makes the race a little closer and anything's possible. Plus, I pretty much guaranteed myself a spot in the Cup – I'm 99.9% locked in with a shot at AOY. If I can crack a Top 10 at Guntersville and Bryan's a Top 40, it's going to be close."
About his light bag today (9-04), Monroe said: "I never saw them today. They dropped the water a foot last night and it scattered those fish horribly. I came up on one little wolfpack of fish and they weren't even that big.
"I tried a few little other things – I went and flipped for a little bit, and I went back to a swimbait and tried a smaller swimbait to see if it could fire some fish up. It didn't. Then I just hammered it out with a topwater. I had nine keeper bites and landed five."
> Day 4 stats – 5 anglers, 5 limits.
> Ehrler finished 3rd in the AOY race last year and 2nd the year before. When he finished 2nd, Dudley beat him.
> About the AOY race, Ehrler noted: "I really do (want to win it). I've been close the last couple of years. It's hard to do that – be consistent over six tournaments. Bryan's an amazing fisherman. He's got a really good lead. It's going to be tough to do, but that's my ultimate goal this year."
> The last pro to win two FLW Tour events in a single season was Shinichi Fukae in 2006.
> Dudley made a crack on stage to the effect that he won diaper money today. He has five kids and the oldest is just 6 years old.
Day 4 (Final) Standings
1. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, CA -- 5, 14-00 -- 5, 13-11 -- 5, 18-11 -- 5, 11-11 -- 20, 58-01 -- $120,000 + $25,000 + $2,000
2. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 5, 17-11 -- 5, 17-02 -- 5, 10-13 -- 5, 11-01 -- 20, 56-11 -- $36,356
3. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, VA -- 5, 12-08 -- 5, 12-12 -- 5, 18-13 -- 5, 12-01 -- 20, 56-02 -- $27,223
4. Keith Monson -- Burgin, KY -- 5, 16-00 -- 5, 15-02 -- 5, 13-00 -- 5, 7-12 -- 20, 51-14 -- $18,090
5. Ishama Monroe -- Hughson, CA -- 5, 14-05 -- 5, 13-11 -- 5, 14-02 -- 5, 9-04 -- 20, 51-06 -- $16,263