Ehrler awarded 2007 Ranger Cup
Kissimmee Lakefront Park, Kissimmee, FL (March 2, 2008) – The 2008 FLW Tour season opener on Lake Toho is in the books and several Lucky Craft pros are happy to be getting out of Florida with a solid start in the points race.
Though none of Lucky Craft’s Pro Staff started the year with a top 10 at Toho, none crashed and burned, either.
The biggest Lucky Craft news of the week in Florida was that pro staffer Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., was officially awarded $50,000 for winning the 2007 Ranger Cup bonus program.
Ranger pros were allowed to take their best five 2007 tournament finishes – either from the FLW Tour or the FLW Series – to stand as their entry into the Ranger Cup program. For Ehrler, that meant taking his consistent year in the FLW Series Western Division, with finishes of 7th, 4th, 28th, 21st and 4th – a total of 191 points – as his best of the two.
His point total was the highest of other qualified Ranger Cup participants.
“That’s a great bonus program that Ranger puts on, and I’m proud to have won it from the FLW Series West,” Ehrler said. “Several Lucky Craft baits played a role in my high finishes in 2007 including an LV-500, a Staysee 90, a BDS-3 and a Pointer 100.”
As for Ehrler’s performance at Toho, he scratched out a 101st-place finish with a two-day total of 10 pounds, 9 ounces.
FLW Tour anglers enjoyed a warm, balmy practice round, but on the first day of the event they were greeted with a brutal cold front which brought overnight air temperatures down into the high 30s and knocked the water temperature down 10 degrees.
Anglers who did not practice for the cold front conditions were caught off guard when their shallow fish developed a post-cold front hangover.
“I kind of had all my eggs in one basket at Toho,” Ehrler said. “I found one really good shell bar offshore in Toho where I caught some good ones on an LV-500 and by the time I got there on the first morning, there were already 12 to 15 boats on it. I couldn’t believe that many people found that spot. It was such a small area that I didn’t even bother fishing it.”
From there, Ehrler went to his back up areas, shallow Kissimmee grass beds in Toho.
“I tried to make a living in those grass beds with a watermelon Zoom Fluke and a Skinny Dipper swimbait,” he said. “I was taking a tiny 1/64-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight and putting it on the nose of the Fluke, which gave it a perfect action in that grass; it would glance and glide off those grass clumps real nicely.”
Ehrler’s Fluking ways, however, only produced four keepers per day.
“In retrospect, I should have spent a little more time looking for that offshore stuff in Toho,” Ehrler added. “I needed some more areas like that to do well.”
Lucky Craft team member Gabe Bolivar finished 80th with a two-day total of 12 pounds, 12 ounces.
“I had a terrible practice, and I never really got on anything solid all week,” Bolivar said. “On the last day of practice I did find one little area where I got a bunch of bites. The only problem was when that hard north wind started blowing on the first day of the tournament, it blew right into my area making it really tough to fish.”
Like Ehrler, Bolivar was counting on a Fluke fished slowly in the grass to produce, but the wind hindered his fishing.
“I had to stick it out in there because I really had no where else to go,” Bolivar added. “I put a 1/16-ounce weight on my Fluke to help get it down in that wind, and I ended up with five keepers on day one.”
On day two, Bolivar had an empty live-well with two hours to go in the event when his roommate Ehrler gave him a little tip.
“He told me to try a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper, and I managed to boat three keepers before weigh-in,” he added.
“I’m not pleased at all with 80th, but I’ve never been to Toho before and it was a learning experience,” he added. “I’m just hoping that’s my bad tournament for the year and I’ve gotten it out of the way.”
Next up the ladder was team member Joe Thomas who finished 55th with a two-day total of 10 pounds, 9 ounces. Thomas earned a $2,500 check and missed a $10,000 payday by just two ounces.
Like other team members, the strong cold front that pushed through Central Florida on the last day of practice foiled Thomas’ plan.
“Practice was warm and stable and very deceiving when compared to the tournament,” Thomas said. “I was catching some good fish in practice, but when the front hit, I headed for the most stable water I could find.”
Thomas’ cold-front hideout was a 10-foot deep canal in Lake Toho.
“I learned years ago that the best way to survive a cold front in Florida is to find some depth and fish slow,” Thomas noted.
He fished the canal on day one with finesse gear: 10-pound test Vanish line tied to an Arkie Shakey head with a Berkley Power Finesse Worm in junebug color.
“For some reason my partner caught a really good limit behind me in the canal, and I ended up with just two keepers,” he said.
With the start of day two, Thomas sought to make up lost ground by going out into the middle of Lake Toho and slow rolling a white spinnerbait over deeper submerged hydrilla.
He was quickly rewarded with a five-pound bass.
“At that point, I figured I better get back into the canal with my finesse stuff to see if I could bang out four more keepers to go with it,” he explained.
Thomas’ plan almost worked, but he ended up one fish short of the limit, weighing in four bass for 10 pounds, 4 ounces on day two.
“I was crushed to miss the $10,000 by just two ounces,” Thomas lamented. “But I got some decent points out of the deal, and I’m ready to move on to the next one.”
Finishing in the highest spot among the Lucky Craft pros at Toho was Anthony Gagliardi.
Gagliardi finished in the 48th spot with a two-day total of 15 pounds, 5 ounces earning him a check for $10,000.
The 2006 FLW Tour Angler of the Year was very pleased with is finish at Toho. And if Gagliardi being satisfied with a 48th-place finish sounds odd, consider Gagliardi’s week just before leaving for Florida.
For starters, he was trying to finish building a house in his home town of Prosperity, S.C.
Then, on February 18, just four days before he was suppose to leave for Florida, Gagliardi’s wife, Kristin, went into labor with the couple’s first baby, Laken Gagliardi, who was delivered healthy and happy.
Understandably, this put Gagliardi a day behind schedule. Then when he reached Florida, he came down with a bad flu bug which put him in the bed for an afternoon. When he finally got on the water Sunday, he had battery issues that cost him even more practice time.
“I’m telling you, 48th place may not sound like a whole lot, but after all I’ve been through the last few weeks, I’m pretty happy with it,” Gagliardi said. “Especially given the fact that the Forrest Wood Cup is going to be on my home lake (Lake Murray), and I definitely did not want to dig myself a hole at the first event.”
Gagliardi spent most of the tournament in Toho fishing a Senko in grass to knock out a limit each day.
“I did have one spot outside of Toho that I locked down to each day,” he said. “I only ended up catching two keepers there but one was a 2-3/4-pounder that I caught on an LVR D-7.
“Like I said, I know I did not burn up the track at Toho, but given the circumstances, I feel like I got off to a pretty solid start.
Article & Photos by Rob Newell / Provided byCox Group