BASS Seigo Saito
Record-breaking cold. Plummeting water temperatures. A massive lake smack full of bass in a state of flux as a result of the arctic blast.
Everything about this year’s Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell seemed to line up against the anglers to make it one of the most grueling Classics in the 45-year history of the tournament. The pressure and intensity of the event is one thing when conditions are prime and the fish are chewing, but it may be a while before this particular Classic is surpassed in terms of the unique variables the competitors had to deal with on the water.
Ice on rod guides, ice on reels, frozen livewells, boats frozen to trailers – things bass anglers typically don’t have to deal with on a regular basis – were just some of the headache-inducers the Classic qualifiers encountered during the event. For Casey Ashley, a three-time Elite Series winner who also won an FLW Tour event at Hartwell early last March, he had to deal with all of that plus the burden and expectations that come with being the hometown favorite.
Ashley displayed an unflappable confidence all through the event and, in fact, believes the ever-changing weather conditions – temperatures ranged from a low of 10 on Friday to a high of 55 on Sunday – worked in his favor. When the stakes were at their peak on Sunday, Ashley had made-to-order conditions for his under-spin pattern in the form of clouds and off-and-on rain. The low-light conditions were prime for him to target fish hanging on a creek channel edge near Party Island.
“I knew the first day I had an area with a good many fish in it and they were the right size,” he said. “Did I think I could win out of that? No, but I knew I could go in there and get a solid limit to start with and then I’d have a chance to go run my deal with a jig fishing docks the rest of the day. After two days, that checked up very short so (Sunday) with it being so overcast and raining, that is the day you want to pick to throw that (under-spin). The weather played into my hands big time.” Read More