Brent Ehrler: Story of the FLW Tour champion

College kid. Good-natured. New boat.

That’s my recollection of a trip back in 2001, early spring at El Capitan Lake in San Diego. That and the fact my partner put a couple of 7-pounders in the boat.

Brent Ehrler was having a good day. And he’s had several since.

We were pretty darn proud of the kid from Redlands when he took Angler of the Year title in the EverStart Series {now Stren} and then crossed the country to Cumberland Lake in Kentucky and won the series championship in 2004.

That $75,000 payday looked like it would jumpstart a great career, until two weeks later, when he told me the phone had stopped ringing. Chalk that up to such a crowded tournament calendar. There was only a flash of interest before someone else would be winning somewhere else, and sponsor opportunities disappeared.

Determined to move forward, however, Brent jumped into the FLW Tour—that organization’s highest level of professional competition, but he whiffed on the gold ring. “I had opportunity in ’05,” he told me, “but I was not able to capitalize on my opportunities. I had two chances {to make the cut} that year and I lost fish. I had one bad finish in 175th place, but I really should have been in the top 50, but I did not,” he confessed.

Curiously, as the reigning 2006 FLW Tour Championship winner, he said, “I did the same thing (as ’05). I honestly did not think I made enough good decisions, and yet, my weights were enough to get me in the championship.”

Ehrler’s somewhat negative assessment of his tournament year is understandable—and not just due to his endearing humility. In thinking about his own statement on the matter, he suggested, “I ended the season on a down note (after a fast beginning). If it had started the other way, I probably would have felt differently.”

One of the ironies of professional fishing is there is not always direct correlation to one’s success and that of one’s running mate. In Ehrler’s case, it has been Gabe Bolivar, a former Californian now living in Arizona, who stayed high in the Tour standings finishing 7th overall, while Ehrler slipped all the way to 40th.

Their cooperative efforts surely provided benefit to both, but in the end, there can be only one champion and Ehrler prevailed to the tune of $500,000.

So how does one individual, barely out of college (he graduated in 2001 from La Sierra University with a degree in business), working construction and limiting his tournaments to just a handful, emerge at such heights?

Of course, with every pro, there is a story. In Ehrler’s case, it’s clearly family.

“Dad originally got me fishing as a kid,” but he said, “My mom was the one with the patience to pick out rats’ nests and get up at 4 a.m. and drive me to the lakes. She sustained my interest in fishing.”

More to the point, Ehrler told of an unusual gift. “Someone gave me a bunch of old Bassmasters (magazines) even before I could read. Back then, we used to go to Lake Havasu in the summertime and spend a weekend out there, and on the way my Mom would read to me out of those magazines how to rig a plastic worm,” he said.

“We got to Lake Havasu,” he continued, “I rigged up and walked out on the dock and dropped it in and a fish came over and ate it. From that time, that was all I wanted to do.”

Of course, wanting doesn’t make it so. A chance meeting with an old acquaintance and now president of Lucky Craft, (Minoru Segawa) at the national trade show eventually matured into a full sponsorship.

Then the arrival of Keith Tripp as Ranger rep, said Ehrler, was, “the biggest thing for me when I won Angler of the Year. Ranger was aware of what I had accomplished and the direction to be with Ranger was right,” he explained. “Anglers Marine carried Ranger at the same time—I owe a lot to Rick (Grover) and Anglers Marine, they made it an easy jump (to the FLW Tour.) Lucky Craft, Ranger and Mercury were the big three that were able to get me back to fish FLW.”

Such storybook circumstances border on fiction, and yet, they are real, having been accomplished by the age of 29. But Ehrler knows it was more than good fortune, saying, “The guys see Gabe and me winning, but we’ve worked really hard and stayed with it.”

His advice, “You have to stick with it and be 100 percent committed.”