Casey Ashley took top honors the last time the Bassmaster Classic was held at Lake Hartwell, but the Donalds angler fell a little bit short this time around, finishing in eighth place with a total three-day weight of 42-pounds, 12-ounces.
Ashley, who loves fishing on Lake Hartwell, said the lake and weather conditions couldn’t have been more opposite of what he was hoping for during the three day event.
“Everything went exactly wrong for what I wanted in this tournament. I wanted the lake to stay low, I wanted it to stay cold, so it was the total opposite, and when you turn 52 of the world’s best bass anglers loose on this lake in those conditions, they’re going to catch them,” he said.
“I was catching all my fish shallow on docks with my signature Greenfish shakey-head that just came out in 1/8-ounce with a Zoom trick worm in pumpkin, and also in watermelon candy,” said Ashley.
Overall, despite having the conditions he wasn’t looking for, Ashley was thankful and pleased to get a top ten finish. Read Complete Story
Photo by: Andy Crawford - (12-07, 42-12) “I had high hopes going into the day. I looked at the weather and I knew the wind was going to blow out of the north/northeast and that’s terrible here. I thought even though it’s going to blow out of the northeast, it’s still going to be warm and slick. I thought maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t affect them like it normally does, but it did. The docks I was catching them on, whereI was catching largemouths, it was all little spots today.
"That’s the M.O. for this lake. I don’t care how good you’re on them, if you get that high-pressure day, you’ll roll into those places and all you’ll catch are spots. That’s what happened today and I knew a lot of guys were going to be in trouble, but I couldn’t change.” Read more
Photo by: Seigo Saito > Day 2: 5, 15-05 (10,30-05) - Ashley, the winner of the last Classic at Hartwell who's again fishing on his home lake, made a six-place jump in the standings on day 2. However, he knows he'll need a bigger bag on the final day in order to have a shot at prevailing again.
"The fish just aren’t doing what I want them to do …yet," he said. "I’m having to fish too slow to really cover any water – I’ve got a lot of stuff I haven’t even fished yet.
"Tomorrow, I've kind of got some key deals right now that seem to be replenishing, so I’ll run and hit that, but I’m going to cover some new water tomorrow. If I can get what I want going on, I can cover a lot more water and that will be good.”
What are his chances of catching the type of stringer he'll need?
“I know where 20 pounds is under one dock – if they’ll bite." Read more
Photo by: Andy Crawford > Day 1: 5, 15-00 - After serving his 38-minute penalty Friday morning, Casey Ashley said the fishing was tougher than he expected and he knows a big bag Saturday will be needed to stay in the hunt.
“Obviously some guys caught them, but I thought it’d be better all the way around,” he said. “The fish were finicky and I don’t why. We had sun and wind and on this lake that’s good, plus it was getting warmer.”
He admitted to being a little confused as to what the fish are doing, which makes his situation entering day 2 a little more challenging.
“In 2015, I knew the deal was a matter of timing and getting luck with the weather swing,” he said. “This deal, Saturday’s going to be cloudy and I’m not licking chops. I think lot of fish are in between right now. I need to catch them tomorrow. I think I’ll need 18-plus to be where I can manage it if the stars align.”
The 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series field has been set, and seven anglers from the Carolinas made the cut, including one rookie.
South Carolina has four anglers in the field, and they are all veterans of the Elite Series. Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg is back, as is Casey Ashley of Donalds, Marty Robinson of Lyman, and Jason Williamson of Wagener. All four qualified based on their points standings in the 2017 Elite Series.
The Tarheel State will be represented by Hank Cherry Jr. of Lincolnton, who has fished the Elite Series for several years and qualified through his overall standing in the 2017 season. David Fritts will also fish the series this year after gaining a Legends qualifying spot. Jake Whitaker of Fairview is the only Carolina newcomer to the series, and will compete for Rookie of the Year honors after qualifying through the Bassmaster Opens in 2017.
The 2018 field is made up of 111 anglers, including 99 who fished the series in 2017. Nine anglers who fished the 2017 trail failed to make the cut for 2018.
The Elite season begins in February, and will take a break for the month of March when many of the anglers will compete in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell in the middle of the month. The Elite Series picks back up in April and runs through August.
Three Carolina anglers who fished the 2017 Elite Series, Shane Lineberger of Lincolnton, N.C., Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, S.C., and David Williams of Newton, N.C. did not make the 2018 cut, and will compete in the Bassmaster Opens in hopes of reclaiming their spots for the 2019 season.
Other than the Classic on Hartwell, the Elite Series schedule does not have any regular stops on lakes in the Carolinas, but the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship will be held on the North Carolina/Georgia border. Lake Chatuge will host the postseason event Sept. 20 - 23, and will feature the 50 top-ranked anglers in the Elite Series based on points accrued throughout the 2018 season.
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