Newport Beach bass angler Brent Ehrler was the first-round leader at the prestigious Bassmaster Classic at Houston’s Lake Conroe.
Here’s more from Friday’s first round from B.A.S.S.
After finishing 29th or lower in 10 of his last 12 tournaments with B.A.S.S., Brent Ehrler has been open about his recent frustrations.
“It’s really been bugging me that I haven’t been able to put myself in position to win,” Ehrler said. “To me, that’s the thrill of tournament fishing — just being in position as the tournament is coming to an end — and I have not experienced it at all on the Elite Series.”
On Friday, Ehrler put himself in that position — and he did it on the biggest stage professional bass fishing has to offer.
The 40-year-old pro from Newport Beach, Calif., caught five bass that weighed 23 pounds, 3 ounces and took the opening-round lead in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. His catch was anchored by a giant 9-12 largemouth that ranked as his biggest in four trips to Lake Conroe and claimed the lead in the race for the Berkley Big Bass of the event.
“I’m definitely in position, but we have a lot of tournament left,” Ehrler said. “What I really like to do is start a little back in the pack, then jump up a little bit and have a chance to be there at the end. I don’t like jumping out in front, but a 9-12 will do that.
“I basically had a 16- or 17-pound limit today with a 9-12 that really bumped me up.”
Ehrler had a successful career on the FLW Tour, winning more than $2 million before moving to the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2015.
In two-plus seasons since then, he’s done well enough to make the Top 50 cut and earn a check in 12 events, and he’s qualified for the Classic both years he was eligible. But he has yet to claim a victory with B.A.S.S.
He said Friday’s big fish was a complete surprise, and he isn’t certain his pattern will hold up for three days.
“I had one big bite and a bunch of solid fish,” Ehrler said. “I wasn’t expecting to catch any big ones like that. I’ve fished three Toyota Texas Bass Classics here, and I haven’t caught a big bass like that — not even in practice. I didn’t catch one in practice for this tournament.
“I’ve learned something here, and I can do it in multiple areas. But I don’t know how strong.”
The kicker fish in Ehrler’s bag provided a slim margin over a crowded leaderboard that included seven bags of 20 pounds or more. Kentucky angler Bradley Roy is in second place with 22-1, followed by Cliff Crochet of Louisiana (21-8), Michael Iaconelli of New Jersey (21-2), Clifford Pirch of Arizona (20-11), Dave Lefebre of Pennsylvania (20-6) and James Elam of Oklahoma (20-1).
The tournament’s second round is in progress today.