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Brent Ehrler is one of professional bass fishing's young rock stars, the FLW Tour equivalent to the Bassmaster Elite Series' legendary Kevin VanDam.
With a Major League Fishing win, eight career FLW Tour wins, a Forest Wood Cup Championship in 2006, two runner-up FLW Angler of the Year finishes, and career earnings already over the $2-million mark, there isn't much Ehrler hasn't already done in his young but stellar career.
Except, perhaps, to fish in a hurricane.
That appears destined to change as Hurricane Sandy approaches the Florida coastline with the tempest's outer bands expected to impact Lake.
Ehrler admits that so far in his career, there isn't much for him to fall back on as far as experience that has been gained during a tournament held as a tropical cyclone rolls inches closer by the minute.
That means that the California pro will be fishing somewhat by the seat of his pants as Sandy brushes Istokpoga, site of Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 GEICO Challenge Cup.
"It's hard to plan ahead, it really is, because we don't know what to expect," said Ehrler. "Right now (this morning), it's a little overcast and a little breezy but it (the wind) is supposed to really pick up and blow hard later.
"We don't really know how to plan other than knowing that you're going to have to plan something different.
"I won't know what I'm going to do until I see the area, see the conditions I'm going to be fishing, and plan (to adjust) accordingly while I'm out there."
Ehrler does say that even with the weather's unknown wild card being played for the first day of Sudden Death, he personally doesn't see this round being any different from the other MLF rounds he has competed in to date.
"To put the pressure on early, that's always what you want to do," he said. "It really doesn't matter what the conditions are later because you want to get out ahead, you want to get that jump (early on the leader board), you want to get keyed on something that will get you going the rest of the day.
"Once you get keyed on something, then you can fish the whole day that way. That's my game plan, it's always my game plan, to hopefully get clued into something early."
That game plan, as MLF fans will remember, is exactly how Ehrler won last fall's inaugural event on Texas' Lake Amistad. Ehrler figured out the day's pattern early, built a sizable lead over finalists Kevin VanDam, Kelly Jordon, and Mike McClelland during the first and second periods, and then held off a hard charging KVD in the third period to claim the win at the end.
Against the five other Challenge Cup competitors fishing in the first Sudden Death Round prior to the championship, Ehrler is as concerned about the other pros and what they are doing as he is about the fish and how they're reacting to the changing weather.
"It's going to me against the other anglers, a little bit against the fish," he said. "When you're out there and you don't have practice and you can't find the productive areas yourself, it really is me against them."
Meaning that the real-time leader board will be something that Ehrler is constantly paying attention to as the day wears on.
"We're in a small zone and I have to beat them (in that zone)," he said. "It's Florida, there are several ways that the fish are going to be caught, and it's just a matter of me hopefully catching them better than the other guys."
Zone 2: 4.2 miles primary shoreline, 2.5 miles island shoreline, 2,822 acres
During his Elimination Round appearance, Ehrler fished well and exonerated himself a bit from past less than stellar performances in the Sunshine state.
He hopes to continue building a new Florida fishing legacy, hurricane or no hurricane.
"I think so," said Ehrler. "I want to say that I learned a few things the other day. I was fortunate and found an area that was productive early on.
"It kind of clued me in to maybe slowing down a little bit. I think I tend to fish too fast in Florida. So if I can slow down and fish a few areas thorough, I think I can do ok."
No matter what kind of windy, rainy, squally punch that Hurricane Sandy may throw to Ehrler and his fellow MLF competitors by the day's end.
Because in Ehrler's angling mind, somebody is going to figure things out, catch 20 pounds of bass and punch their ticket to the championship.
And he thinks it might as well be him.
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