QUITMAN – The 2015 Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Fork has a winner, and his name isn't Keith Combs.
After battling high water and rain for two days, four fishermen ran off from the field of 10 early Monday morning before California angler Brent Ehrler broke away from that pack about 12:45 p.m. with a tournament big bass weighing 10 pounds, 11 ounces. At the time the bass gave Ehrler 89 pounds, 12 ounces, allowing him to leap frog Andy Morgan and take the lead for the first time in the tournament.
Because of heavy rains Saturday night and Sunday, the tournament site was closed to visitors again on the final day. That meant Ehrler was awarded the grand prize package of $100,000, plus a $50,000 Nitro boat rig with only the other nine fishermen watching. His Monday big fish, the only bass over the slot brought to shore, also was the tournament's big bass, winning him a Toyota Tundra.
Ehrler caught the 10-pounder on his first cast at his last stop of the day.
"I caught it on a swim bait. I caught it on a spot I knew was holding fish. The big fish were coming in late in the day," Ehrler said.
He punctuated the afternoon with a 6-pound bass that solidified his championship lead.
Jason Christie led the tournament both Saturday and Sunday. The Oklahoma fisherman said during the tournament that Saturday was the first time he had caught fish in the morning on Lake Fork. His morning troubles came Sunday, and really haunted him Monday as he ended up second with 87-12.
Christie started Monday with 48 pounds, but didn't catch his first bass until 9:30 a.m. That fish weighed 7-12 and put him at 55-12 for much of the remainder of the morning. However, Christie again finished strong late, boating four bass after noon totaling 16-4. In all, he had 23-12 for the day.
Tennessee's Morgan led much of Monday before dropping to third with 83-12. Chris Lane of Alabama was fourth just four ounces back.
Ehrler ended the Sunday's round in fifth with 58-4. His Monday catch totaled 31-8 and also included a 7-12, two 6s and a 5. He was able to cull a 4-2 a half hour before have to weigh-in when he caught the six. On a day when bites were hard to come by, Ehrler weighed only eight fish the last day.
"I was a little disappointed with my starting spot. I only caught 23 pounds there. I thought I would do better. I stayed there a little longer than I should have, then came down the lake and was able to cull a couple," he said.
Morgan started the morning one spot behind Ehrler with 57-4. He was hot early. He caught his first bass at 7:15 within 45 minutes he had six in the boat totaling 33 pounds.
After that he only caught four more bass, including just one after 9:45 a.m. One weighed 5-12 and allowed him to cull a 4-pounder.
Lane started Monday in second with 59 pounds. His hot streak Monday came between 9 and 10:30 when he boated eight bass, the largest being a 7-4 that was his first fish of the day.
Shad Schenck of Indiana was the only other fisherman to break 80 pounds, finishing fifth with 81-4. Schenck started his day with a 5-pound bass on his first catch, but was only able to find four more fish all day.
Texan Keith Combs, who won the tournament last year on Lake Fork with a record 110 pounds, and in 2013 and 2011 on Lake Conroe, struggled most of Monday. After squeaking into the top 10 late Sunday with a two-day total of 48 pounds, Combs struggled Monday catching just four bass weighing 17-12 for a tournament total of 65-12 and ninth place.
Ehrler, who also fished the 2014 TTBC, came away impressed with Lake Fork's quality.
"I am amazed at this lake. I am amazed at how many big fish group up in some spots," he said.
Others final weights Monday included: 6. Casey Ashley, South Carolina, 79-4; 7. Joe Crews, Virginia, 78-8; 8. Mike Iaconelli, New Jersey, 72-8; 10. Brandon Palaniuk, Idaho, 51-12.