Ehrler: Rookie of the Year riddles

Okay, by now most folks who follow the sport of pro fishing know I won the Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year (ROY) award for 2015. And, by now you might also know that this has created a bit of a buzz on Bassmaster.com. The fact that I have fished 10 full seasons on the FLW Tour, won five FLW Tour events, including the Forrest Wood Cup, and I am now accepting a Rookie of the Year award at B.A.S.S. has some people baffled. So here are my thoughts on the issue.

I think B.A.S.S. giving a ROY award is really a cool thing. Some have suggested that because of guys like me, Jacob Powroznik and Ott Defoe coming from FLW to BASS and winning ROY awards, it should be done away with altogether. I don’t agree with that at all. B.A.S.S. has the right intentions in wanting to recognize outstanding performance in a newcomer to the Elite Series. Completely getting rid of the ROY award is not the answer. I don’t want to be the last guy to win the ROY and have people say, “Yeah, B.A.S.S. got rid of ROY thanks to that Ehrler guy.”

Do I consider myself a rookie in the sport of professional fishing? No I don’t.

In my opinion, anyone who has completed a full season on B.A.S.S.’s top tier circuits (Elites, Top 100’s etc.) or on the FLW Tour is not a rookie. Jordan Lee is a rookie. This year was his first season competing on a national level tour of any kind. And this was an extremely challenging season for a first timer, from the western swing to the Great Lakes, this was a true test of fishing ability all the way around.

Am I happy I won the Rookie of the Year? You bet I am, and here is why. When I was deemed a “rookie” at the beginning of the year, I put pressure on myself to win that award. Why would I do this when I just said I don’t consider myself a rookie?

I’ll answer this with another familiar situation that pros sometimes find themselves in. Let’s say a top full-time pro decides to fish a local charity event for a good cause on his home lake. What happens? If the pro wins the event, there are rumblings from guys who say, “Full-time pros shouldn’t be allowed to fish local events.” But if the pro gets beat, then there is the whole, “Well, the big timer didn’t do so well did he?” It’s a never-ending deal.

I found myself in this same kind of conundrum this year. I am a competitor: If I’m eligible to win a title, I want to win it. I don’t want to get beat. I would have been a little embarrassed if I didn’t win ROY. So, yes, I did think about it, I did strive for it, I did put pressure on myself to win it. But at the same time, if I won it, I knew I was going to be in for the whole, “A rookie, really?” kind of thing.

So all I can say is I think the Bassmaster ROY is a great thing with great intentions. I was classified as a rookie at the beginning of the season so I went for it – that’s my job as a competitor. Do I feel bad for beating Jordan Lee in the points this year? No, I don’t. Do I think Jordan is a true rookie and that I am not a rookie? Absolutely. Do I deserve the ROY award? Who really knows? It’s a Rookie of the Year riddle that has no end.