Pre-spawn bass can be a difficult nut to crack. As fish transition from winter locations to spawning habitat, frigid water temps and drastic weather changes can turn finding a bite into a formidable game of chess.
Yet, for anglers like bass pro Brent Ehrler, knowing how to use your electronics can definitely put the odds in your favor-like at the recent Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake, Alabama, where the Californian took top honors in the form of a $125,000 giant cardboard check.
“I knew the fish were going to be deeper, staging for a move up shallow. And although pre-spawn fish can be difficult, I knew Down Imaging would find them,” says Ehrler.
Indeed, Ehrler found money fish bellied into brush and tickling tree-tops in 15- to 30-feet. He says it was simply a matter of putting in the time to fill his livewell with what he spied on the screens of his three Humminbird 1198s.
“One of the spots I found with Down Imaging was an inside channel swing with three brush piles that I wouldn’t have won the tournament without. Although I never got a bite on it during practice, I saw lots of fish. So I made a waypoint; just looked too good. Then, when the tournament started I drove by around noon, made a U-turn, pulled up, made a couple of casts and watched a couple fish float up off the bottom on my electronics,” says Ehrler.
He says the next five minutes were exactly what you hope for when big money is on the line.
“My first bite was a 4 ½-pounder. I put that fish in the box, got right back down there and pulled up a 3 ½-pounder. Then I knew I looking at a whole school of money fish, so I floated off the spot, re-tied, and slid back up nice and slow with the Minn Kota, saw another fish on the graph and pulled a 3-pounder. I then told my co-angler it was time to split, I had to save the spot for later in the week,” says Ehrler.
By the end of the tournament, Ehrler weighed in six fish over 3-pounds off this spot.
“That’s the great thing about Down Imaging. I idle over brush piles and actually pick out the individual fish,” says Ehrler.
Ehrler says there’s a lot more to the game than simply having electronics on your boat. Every angler should spend the time to think about what set-up works best for his/her application and customize the installation to match those needs.
“I run a unique set-up. I have an 1198 on the bow, an 1198 in the console, and an 1198 on the side of the console. I run classic 2-D sonar and mapping on the unit on the bow, 2-D sonar and mapping on the main console, and Down Imaging/Side Imaging on the 1198ci HD SI off the side of the cockpit,” says Ehrler.
“But here’s my secret: I run two transducers for my side unit. While I use the Side Imaging transducer that’s included, I also run an XNR-9-DI-T Down Imaging transducer to get the most detailed picture of what’s straight down. The DI transducer comes with a switch so I simply run that toggle to instantly switch between the best Side- and Down Imaging views possible,” says Ehrler.
Depending on what SI and DI units you use, you can also accomplish the same thing with the Humminbird TS3 transducer switch.
In terms of settings, Ehrler says he doesn’t do anything fancy.
“Other than switching to Advanced Mode to change the readings on the bottom of the screen, like depth, time, speed, etc., I run the settings pretty much as they come out of the box. Although a lot of guys have it in their head that you have to change everything, you really don’t. I run my 2-D in Clear Mode nearly all the time and occasionally adjust sensitivity, but that’s about it. I don’t change anything with Down Imaging, and with Side Imaging I only tweak the view distance. Sometimes it’s as little as 40 feet, sometimes a full 150,” says Ehrler.
Ehrler says his trifecta of Humminbird electronics-especially Down Imaging-is a huge confidence booster. “Lewis Smith is a good example of how electronics help keep me on my A game. I knew there were fish there, I just had to take my time and get ’em to bite,” says Ehrler.
When everything was said and done, Ehrler weighed an impressive 20 fish for 60-09, finishing nearly 8 pounds over the second-place finisher Jacob Powroznik.
Not only is it another notch in Ehrler’s cane, making it his fourth Walmart FLW Tour win, it’s also a good start in the Angler of the Year race, an honor Ehrler has yet to achieve.
This recent win brings Ehrler’s career winnings close to $2 million.