Photo by: B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito
> Day 3: 5, 19-05 (15, 62-01) The place Ashley had relied on the first two mornings for a solid 18-pound limit was a ghost town today, but he was able to fall back on other areas to stay in the top 5.
“I’m happy to be where I’m at,” he said. “Any time you’re in the top 5, you can’t complain. I need to stay there with the way the points situation is now.”
With Palaniuk charging into the top 3 today, Ashley ceded the AOY points lead to him (Palaniuk leads by 5 points entering Sunday).
Ashley thinks the lack of wind may have prompted the fish at his key area to move around. He’s hopeful they come back Sunday or he can relocate them.
“I have other stuff, but I just have to work a little harder for them,” he added. “That place was easy.”
Everything he weighed today was caught on a dropshot. He said the calm conditions allowed him to basically sight-fish in the crystal-clear water. He knows he’ll need to catch his biggest bag of the tournament Sunday to overcome his 4-plus pound deficit.
“I haven’t seen many 5s where I’m fishing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there,” he said. “I just haven’t seen them.”
PHOTO: B.A.S.S./SEIGO SAITO
> Day 2: 5, 20-14 (10, 42-12) In 2015, Ashley targeted largemouth and wound up finishing 29th at the St. Lawrence. This week, with smallmouth scattered between deeper and shallow water, he’s leaving the largemouth alone.
“In years past, the fish have been pretty deep and I’m not good at that,” he said. “Right now, they’re deep and shallow so the smallmouth are more in the wheelhouse for me.”
Now he finds himself sandwiched between smallmouth mavens named VanDam entering the weekend.
“I’ll take it every time,” he said.
He’s been able to build a good foundation each day off one particular spot he’s had to himself. He caught a limit there Thursday and left. Today, he sacked 18 pounds and caught his upgrades elsewhere. He’s yet to go back to it later in the day.
“There are a lot of good fish there – 3s and 4s, but no big ones,” he said. “I’ve been done with it by 8:30 each morning and it’s an hour ride to get there.”
If it’s good to him again tomorrow, he said he’ll probably leave with the hope to fish it hard on Sunday
“I have other places with good ones, but there’s been a lot of pressure on those spots,” he added. “The field got cut in half so we’ll see. If I can’t cull, I might go back and see what happens.”
He’s relied on standard smallmouth tactics (dropshot, tube, swimbait, jerkbait) so far and sees no reason to change the rest of the way.
“I’m not reinventing the wheel. I just found a good spot,” he said. Read more
> Day 4: 5, 17-03 (20, 70-06) Photo by: B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito Ashley figured he’d hold his ground in 2nd with the bag he caught Sunday, but he gave up two spots in the standings.
“I thought I had 16 or 17 pounds and thought I’d stay where I was, but those boys caught ‘em,” he said. “Hats off to them. It just goes to shows with the Elite Series, you can’t count them out.”
After not generating much confidence during a practice that saw him spend a bunch of time offshore, he was more than happy with his first top-5 since his Classic win at Lake Hartwell in 2015.
“I’m happy with it,” he said. “I went into the tournament on the first day and had no idea what bait start with or where I’d throw it.”
As the event progressed, he developed a one-two punch of morning topwater and spinnerbaits around bream beds before slow-rolling a football jig in some deeper water around logs and laydowns.
“I did everything I could,” he added. “I fished off shore all practice and that’s why I didn’t have a good practice. They’re not out there that great. I hung in there on day 1 and kept myself in contention and just kept my options open with an open mind.” Read more