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YAMAHA PROS COMPETE FOR FLW ANGLER OF THE YEAR TITLE

Posted 7/10/2009

Brent Ehrler  Clark Wendlandt  Luke Clausen

Yamaha pro anglers have performed very well during the 2009 FLW® tour. So well, in fact, that the top three contenders for Angler of the Year are all Yamaha pros. A brief profile of each is included below. The 2009 Angler of the Year will be named on July 12 and Yamaha wishes all three contenders the best of luck.

Making the Right Decisions Has Been Key to Erhler's Success

Throughout his FLW® career, which includes a victory in the 2006 FLW® Tour Championship, Brent Ehrler has placed more emphasis on decision-making than pure fish-catching ability. Now, as he heads into the Tour's final event on Lake Champlain as the leader in the season-long Land O'Lakes® Angler of the Year race, the Yamaha pro believes making sound decisions will be more critical than ever.

"Lake Champlain offers so many options to fishermen, not only because it's so large but also because it has both largemouth and smallmouth," says Ehrler, who finished a distant 97th when the FLW® Tour last visited the lake in 2006. "It is entirely possible to find the winning fish but then not be able to get to them if the weather turns bad, so do you gamble anyway, stake out the heavier largemouths 70 miles from the launch, and hope the wind doesn't blow?

"I don't know, and I probably won't know until the end of the final day of practice."

Also clouding Ehrler's decision just may be the fact he lost the 2008 Angler of the Year title by just one point – one single fish – on the last day of competition on Michigan's Lake St. Clair.

"I was in 9th place heading into the St. Clair tournament," the Yamaha angler remembers, "and all of the top five in the AOY standings had a bad tournament. David Dudley, who was in 6th, won the title, and when I had a good tournament, I jumped into second.

"Being so close hasn't really influenced my fishing this year. I'm not the type of angler who swings for the fences and tries to win every event. Instead, I try to be consistent, and this season that's definitely what has put me right back into the race."

Ehrler's best finish during the 2009 season has been a 6th place finish at Table Rock, where he caught many of his bass on a jerkbait. Champlain smallmouths also like jerkbaits, so he'll certainly have those lures with him; he also plans to try drop shotting, another of his favorite techniques and which also works well for smallmouth.

And what about the lake's heavier largemouths?

"I'll definitely spend some practice time looking for them," the Yamaha pro concludes, "as I'm sure a lot of the other anglers will. After that, it will be decision-making time for all of us."

"Every Tournament Has Been a Turning Point This Season"

For Clark Wendlandt, every stop on the 2009 FLW® Walmart® Tour tournament schedule has been a "turning point." That's because the veteran Yamaha pro, seeking his third Angler of the Year title in FLW® competition, has continually suffered through surprisingly poor practices prior to each event and been forced to scramble during competition, something no bass pro ever enjoys.

"I'm as surprised as anyone at how consistent my year has been," laughs Wendlandt, winner of prestigious FLW® Angler of the Year titles in 1997 and 2000, "because my practices on all the lakes we've fished this season have just been terrible. I'm thrilled and excited to be in second place heading into the final tournament at Lake Champlain."

Because of his poor practice record, as well as his strong desire to add a third title to his resume, Wendlandt has already spent time on Champlain for the July 9-12 tournament. True to form, the early practice did not answer the question every FLW® contender always faces on the scenic 271,000 acre, 125-mile long lake along the New York-Vermont border: go after largemouth or smallmouth?

"If you fish for largemouths on Champlain, which tend to be larger and thus win tournaments, you usually have to find a specific spot or area and hope it lasts for four days," explains the Yamaha pro, "whereas you can usually pattern smallmouth in a lot of different areas, but they're almost always smaller.

"At this time of year, I think it will take at least some largemouth to get a top 10 finish and win the Angler of the Year title. I know when we have our official practice, I'll spend a couple of days looking specifically for each species."

Wendlandt actually left his boat at Champlain following his practice, so he couldn't spend the month between the last tournament at Kentucky Lake (June 11-14) and Champlain totally immersed in bass fishing. In fact, he and his family, along with his brother and his family and their parents took a week-long cruise to Alaska up the fabled Inside Passage.

"It certainly was relaxing," he smiles, "because it's the only state in the Union I could go to and not even have access to bass fishing, since there aren't any up there. I will admit I did think about the Angler of the Year title from time to time, but never for very long."

The Yamaha pro is also spending his time relaxing at his parents' ranch in west Texas where he and his brother Scott have managed a successful hunting operation for more than a decade.

Come July 9th, however, when competition begins on Lake Champlain, the Yamaha pro will be totally focused on bass fishing once more.

"My Life is a Dream Come True"

If anyone was ever truly born to be a bass fisherman, that person is probably Luke Clausen.

The Yamaha pro, now 30, has been fishing seriously since age five, when he was still in kindergarten. He'd get out at noon and then spend the rest of the day fishing with his father on a lake near their Spokane, WA home. He was fishing team tournaments by age nine, and he kept it up through college, where he scheduled classes at night at Eastern Washington University so he could fish by day. He then won the 2004 Forest Wood Cup FLW® Tour Championship and, at the ripe old age of 28, won the 2006 Bassmaster® Classic.

"Winning the FLW® Tour Angler of the Year title would certainly fulfill another goal I've set for myself," says Clausen, now third in the standings with only the final FLW® Tour event on Lake Champlain July 9-12 remaining, "but this year I'm trying hard not to think about it too much."

If that sounds unusual, it's only because Clausen has been close to the prestigious Angler of the Year title before, including second in 2006 and fourth in 2008. Losing last year has been especially difficult to accept, because he needed only to finish in the top 80 in the season-ending tournament on Michigan's Lake St. Clair, but instead finished a dismal 106th.

"Last year, after the first day at St. Clair when I realized how close I was, I started to over-think things and I let it slip away," remembers the Yamaha pro. "This year, I plan to try to catch as many fish as possible but I'm not going to gamble. I'm going to do my best to treat it as a regular tournament."

Clausen isn't worried, either, about having to make a choice between largemouth or smallmouth, both present on Champlain but each requiring different fishing techniques and locations. He plans to divide his practice time between the two and see which offers his best chances for success. He's also versatile enough to try for both if he chooses.

Even with his success in recent years, during which he's won more than $1 million, Clausen remains the ultimate bass fishing gypsy. When he's not competing in an FLW® tournament, he's either on the water somewhere fishing or driving to a place where he can fish. It's not quite as severe as the year he spent after college during which he competed nearly every weekend and slept in his truck, but he still puts at least 40,000 miles on his truck annually.

"Really, it seems like all I've done, or really ever wanted to do, was fish," the Yamaha angler laughs. "Thanks to my father, who took me fishing with him at such an early age, my life today is really a dream come true."