BassFan Staff

Going a year without a victory apparently didn't sit too well with Brent Ehrler.

The California standout, who won twice on the FLW Tour in 2010 but failed to claim a trophy or an oversized cardboard check last year, caught a 20-05 sack today to notch his fourth career tour-level triumph at South Carolina's Lake Hartwell in the first Tour Major of 2012.

The feat also gave him the early lead in the race for the Angler of the Year (AOY) – the title that's somehow eluded him thus far in his still-young but increasingly brilliant career.

Today's bag was a nice opposite bookend for the 20-04 he caught on day 1 and gave him a 4-day total of 74-13. There were only seven 20-pound-plus stringers weighed during the event.

Micah Frazier, a second-year pro from Georgia, boxed a tournament-best 21-14 today to climb 4 places and finish as the runner-up with 71-11. Marty Stone, in just his second event back after a brief retirement during 2011, caught a 17-08 bag today and ended up 3rd with 68-05.

A couple of home-state anglers snatched the Nos. 4 and 5 slots – Todd Auten caught a 15-08 sack that gave him a 66-01 aggregate, and Anthony Gagliardi brought in 12-07 for a 61-01 total.

Here's a look at the bottom half of the final Top 10:

6. Jay Yelas: 61-00
7. Dan Morehead: 58-14
8. Tom Monsoor: 56-06
9. Andy Morgan: 55-07
10. Brett Hite: 54-09

It was another brutal final day for day-3 leader Monsoor, who brought just one fish to the crowning weigh-in for the second year in a row. It's of no consolation, but at least this one was more than twice as big as the lone specimen he caught last year (1-13 compared to 0-13).

FLW/Gary Mortenson
Photo: FLW/Gary Mortenson

Micah Frazier's tournament-best sack was topped by an 8-pounder.

Dan Morehead, who led after each of the first two weigh-ins, also had a sub-par day. His weights fell off steadily throughout the course of the event and culminated with an 8-05 sack today.

The Tour will take a 2-week break before the March 29-April 1 event at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

Ehrler Amazed

> Day 4: 5, 20-05 (20, 74-13)

Ehrler, who ended up a distant 2nd here last year when Jason Christie turned in a dominant performance, never led until today, but seemed to be in control of his destiny throughout the event. He was never lower than 3rd place after any weigh-in and never more than 10 ounces out of the top slot.

"It feels amazing," he said. "It was a good time to win one after I had that terrible tournament in Florida (121st at last month's Okeechobee FLW Tour Open).

"I'm always happy to come here – I really like this lake. It's a fun pattern lake because you can run around doing the same thing in multiple areas."

He finally hammered his best areas today after babying them through the first 3 days and caught about 30 keepers. His bag contained three spotted bass and two largemouths and his best fish was a 5-pounder.

"My smallest one was probably about 3 1/2 pounds. I had a decent stringer by 10:00, and then I culled twice between 1:00 and 2:00.

"I thought it was going to be enough (to win). You never know, but I felt pretty good about it."

FLW/Gary Mortenson
Photo: FLW/Gary Mortenson

Marty Stone went from having nothing in his livewell at noon to having a limit less than 40 minutes later.

He fished both deep and shallow locales each day with a variety of offerings that included an umbrella-type rig, a couple of different jigs and a Senko. Details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be published soon.

2nd: Frazier Stoked

> Day 4: 5, 21-14 (20, 71-11)

The 23-year-old Frazier was thrilled to catch the tournament's top bag and make a big final-day move. His stringer included an 8-pound brute.

"I'm stoked, dude," he said. "This gives me a lot of confidence and I needed the good check. Having this good start, I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year."

He went through about nine keepers on the day. He caught the big one at about 9:30 and had a limit by 10:45. He said he lost one that "felt big," but he doesn't know whether it would've helped him.

He had everything he weighed by noon.

"I thought there was a chance I could move up to 2nd or 3rd. I didn't think I could go any higher than that because I figured Ehrler would catch them again and because of the type of fish he was on."

3rd: Stone Rallied

> Day 4: 5, 17-08 (20, 68-05)

Stone's finish was his highest in a tour-level event since he won a Bassmaster Tour stop at Florida's Harris Chain in January 2004.

"I'm tickled," he said. "I had a crazy day. I could've had a really big sack of fish, but it was fun.

"At noon today I didn't have a keeper, then at 12:39 I had a limit. They would not take the bait right until the sun got high, but I ended up getting to catch them the way I like to."

He had a 5-pounder today and lost one that he thinks was considerably larger than that.

"I'd finally gotten a limit and at my next stop, I made the same cast I'd used to catch all the other fish. A tub came out and got it and I never turned her."

4th: Auten on a Roll

> Day 4: 5, 15-08 (20, 66-01)

Auten, the reigning PAA Tournament Series AOY, has also been on a roll in FLW events since finishing 6th in last year's Forrest Wood Cup. He started 2012 with a 16th at Okeechobee.

FLW/Gary Mortenson
Photo: FLW/Gary Mortenson

Todd Auten capitalized on a limited number of bites over the final 2 days.

"Yeah, I'm real happy with it," he said. "I've got a good little roll going and if I can keep it up, it'll be really good by the end of the year.

"This was my kind of fishing and everything set up perfectly for me."

He caught seven keepers today after bringing in just five on day 3. His bag was headed up by a 5 1/4-pounder.

"It was a grind every day, but I got most of the ones that counted into the boat."

5th: Good Start for Gags

> Day 4: 5, 12-07 (20, 61-01)

Gagliardi moved up two places in the standings today despite weighing his lightest bag of the tournament. The high finish was welcome after a poor 2011 that saw the former AOY finish 88th in the points.

"It feels good, especially after a not-so-stellar year last year," he said. "It's nice to get off to a good start."

Unlike some of the other top finishers, he didn't bounce around a lot. He did most of his damage from a single locale.

"It was definitely tougher today. I only got four keepers off my main spot, then I had another place where I could catch keeper (spotted bass), so I went there and picked up one or two. Then I ran up the river and caught my biggest one on a swimbait, but I also lost a 5-pounder.

"My best place was real close to a shallow spawning flat, and I think today most of them had moved on in there."


> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 8 limits, 1 three, 1 one.

> After a 13th at Okeechobee and a 6th here, BassFan Big Stick Jay Yelas is off to one of the best starts of his career – he's normally a strong closer. His competition wrapup report can be found here.

Day 4 (Final) Standings

1. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, Ca -- 20-04 (5) -- 16-02 (5) -- 36-06 (10) -- 18-02 (5) -- 20-05 (5) -- 74-13 (20) -- $100,000 + $25,000

2. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, Ga -- 19-07 (5) -- 16-14 (5) -- 36-05 (10) -- 13-08 (5) -- 21-14 (5) -- 71-11 (20) -- $35,000

3. Marty Stone -- Fayetteville, NC -- 13-14 (5) -- 20-01 (5) -- 33-15 (10) -- 16-14 (5) -- 17-08 (5) -- 68-05 (20) -- $30,000

4. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 17-04 (5) -- 18-01 (5) -- 35-05 (10) -- 15-04 (5) -- 15-08 (5) -- 66-01 (20) -- $25,000

5. Anthony Gagliardi -- Prosperity, SC -- 15-10 (5) -- 17-12 (5) -- 33-06 (10) -- 15-04 (5) -- 12-07 (5) -- 61-01 (20) -- $20,000

6. Jay Yelas -- Corvallis, Or -- 18-05 (5) -- 13-09 (5) -- 31-14 (10) -- 15-00 (5) -- 14-02 (5) -- 61-00 (20) -- $17,000

7. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 20-14 (5) -- 16-01 (5) -- 36-15 (10) -- 13-10 (5) -- 8-05 (5) -- 58-14 (20) -- $16,000

8. Tom Monsoor -- La Crosse, Wi -- 17-15 (5) -- 15-00 (5) -- 32-15 (10) -- 21-10 (5) -- 1-13 (1) -- 56-06 (16) -- $15,000

9. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 13-05 (5) -- 17-00 (5) -- 30-05 (10) -- 15-05 (5) -- 9-13 (5) -- 55-07 (20) -- $14,000

10. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, Az -- 17-07 (5) -- 15-00 (5) -- 32-07 (10) -- 15-09 (5) -- 6-09 (3) -- 54-09 (18) -- $13,000