> Day 4: 3, 4-09 (18, 56-08) Photo by: B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito - It was a disappointing final day for Ashley. On the bright side, he picked up a lot of AOY points and is up to 34th in the standings, which is inside the cutoff for next year's Classic.
"It was just one of those days," he said. "It sure would've been nice to win it, but I'm not going to worry about it. That's just fishing.
"With it being overcast all day, the fish didn't get in the bushes all that great. I tried throwing a bunch of stuff – a topwater, a spinnerbait, a buzzbait, a Pop-R – but I couldn't get anything going. I thought I'd still be able to catch some one way or another, but I just didn't figure it out."
His primary baits for the week were a Zoom Z-Craw and a Strike King Slither Rig, but attached to a half-ounce weight.
"I had some more bites today and some short strikes, but even if I landed every fish that bit it wouldn't have mattered." Read more
Photo BASS/Overstreet Story by Steve Wright
DURANT, Okla. — And to think Casey Ashley turned down a chance to be a country music star for this – four days of heated competition on Lake Texoma in a bass boat.
But it's Sundays like this one that make Ashley even firmer in his belief that he made the right decision in shaking off that Nashville country music scene a few years ago.
"I love to sing, and I love music," Ashley said Saturday, prior to festivities at the GEICO Bassmaster Bassfest presented by Choctaw Casino and Resort. "But if I had somebody telling me where to be and what time to be there all the time, day after day, I just wouldn't enjoy it anymore."
"I don't like people telling me what to do," he added, with that million-dollar smile. "That's why I fish for a living, and I'm out there on a boat by myself."
It's when you see that smile and think about how beautifully Ashley can sing – he knocked it out of the ballpark singing the National Anthem before winning the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell – that you're reminded this wasn't some country music fantasy Ashley had five years ago. He had a legitimate shot.
"He's good-looking, got a great personality and he can sing. He's got all the tools," said Nashville songwriter Rodney Clawson. "It's just a matter of time. You don't just show up and do this. You've got to put in the time. And I don't think Casey wanted to put up with all the B.S., and the asses you've got to kiss."
> Day 3: 5, 17-05 (15, 51-15) Photo by: B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito DURANT, Okla. — Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., bounced back to reclaim the lead today after bringing 17 pounds, 5 ounces to the scale during the semi-final round of GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino and Resort at Lake Texoma.
Ashley's limit of bass bumped his three-day total to 51-15, which is more than 3 pounds ahead of Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., who now sits in second.
"The morning hours are very important to producing a solid limit," Ashley said. "Once the sun gets high, the fish seem more reluctant to bite. It's flat-out challenging to cull up during the afternoon."
Even after three days of competition and several official practice days, the 2015 Bassmaster Classic champion said that he still isn't locked in on a specific pattern, but the fishing remains good in his area.
"During most tournaments you can often predict when and where the fish will bite, but here it's not that way at all. The fish are setting up in submerged bushes that are typically on dry land. When one does bite, it's very random compared to how and where the last fish did."
Ashley said that covering water and keeping his lure in the brush is the best way to find and catch active fish.
Swindle caught 16 pounds today pushing this total weight to 48-5, and he attributes his success to fishing ultra slow and giving the brush-hugging bass several opportunities to see and eat his presentation.
"I missed a lot of fish today. They were biting it, but not fully eating it, which makes it hard to get a good hookset," Swindle said. "I personally believe that the receding water makes the bass uncomfortable, which results in half-hearted bites. I am catching good fish, though, and with a weather change in the forecast, I bet it gets even better on Sunday"
Each day of competition, Swindle has improved his placement in the daily standings. The only way to better today's finish is to win on Sunday, and in order for that to happen, he thinks at least 19 pounds will be required.
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., weighed in a five-bass limit for 12-7 and fell two spots to third place today. He is currently 3-12 out of the lead.
"I didn't get the big bites today, but to be honest I'm very happy with how things have gone so far," Hackney said. "I came here to finish strong and improve on my Angler of the Year standings, and now I've got a shot at winning this thing.
"I'm glad we have a day off, which I believe will help me and the fishing. There is a pending weather system pushing through by the end of the weekend, and I think that will help what I've got going on."
Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., caught a bass that weighed in at 7-6, which is the derby's new Phoenix Boats Big Bass. If a bigger bass isn't caught during Championship Sunday, Tharp will take home a $1,500 bonus.
Rounding out the Top 10 are Rick Clunn (44-0), Chad Morgenthaler (43-8), Brandon Card (43-1), Randall Tharp (42-9), Bradley Roy (42-3), Ott DeFoe (41-10) and Keith Poche (41-6).
Following today's weigh-in, the field will be cut to the Top 12 anglers who will compete on Sunday for the $100,000 first-place prize and a berth to the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
Takeoff will be held Sunday morning at Dam Site Park in Denison, Texas, at 6:15 a.m. CT, and weigh-in will take place at 3:45 p.m. at Choctaw Casino in Durant, Okla.
There will be no fishing on Saturday, as Bassmaster University will take place at Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant, Okla., in the same location as daily weigh-ins. Gates open at 10 a.m., and it's completely free to the public. Bassmaster fans will have opportunities to visit sponsor booths, attend pro seminars, ask their favorite anglers questions and even gather autographs.
Also on Saturday, the Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team has been invited to participate in a special tournament Saturday on Lake McGee. Each All-American angler will be paired with an Elite Series pro for the one-day derby with weigh-in at Choctaw Casino Resort beginning at 2:30 p.m.
> Day 2: 5, 14-09 (10, 34-10) Ashley got far fewer quality largemouth bites than he had on day 1 – something that wasn't entirely unexpected.
"It's hard to catch 20 pounds here right now," he said. "But if they keep the water moving, I honestly think it'll get better. You can catch one off a bush, and then the next day catch another one of that same bush. You might catch a largemouth one day and a spot the next."
He caught a 6-pounder on day 2 from the same piece of brush that had given him a 5 1/2 the day before. That was his only high-quality bite of the day, however.
B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito PHOTO: B.A.S.S./SEIGO SAITO Gerald Swindle's 17-10 stringer moved him up 12 positions. "I feel like I need to catch 14 or 15 pounds every day to stay up there (near the top), and that's not easy. Getting that one good bite a day is the key.
"I've been whittling down my bait selection, and I might go out tomorrow with just two or three rods on my deck instead of seven or eight like I've been doing." Full Story
Photo by: B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito - DURANT, Okla. — Flooded shorelines and muddy water didn’t stop some Bassmaster Elite Series pros from finding big bass during the GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino and Resort at Lake Texoma.
After a very difficult and unproductive practice, Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., “just went fishing,” and put together the day’s heaviest five-fish limit of bass that weighed 20 pounds, 1 ounce. His lead eclipsed Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., who is in second place by only 11 ounces with a total of 19-6.
Ashley’s limit included the tournament’s current Phoenix Boats Big Bass that tipped the scales at 6-15. If the 2015 Classic champion can hold the big-fish lead for the duration of BASSfest, he’ll earn a $1,500 bonus.
“I had no idea I was going to catch them that good today,” Ashley said. “The first bite of the day was my big one, and when you start things out with that kind of momentum, it really helps you to settle in and make good decisions for the rest of the day.”
The South Carolinian is unsure if he can replicate today’s success on Thursday, but he’s sure going to try.
“All I can do is just put the trolling motor down, keep my head down and go,” he said. “I’ve found that there really isn’t a good way to predict where the bites will come from. Covering water quickly and making accurate casts seems to be the key to finding the big fish, and I’m going to do my best to make it happen again tomorrow. “
Unlike Ashley’s unproductive practice, Morgenthaler located his fish earlier in the week.
“I started my day on what I felt was my best spot, but it didn’t turn out that way. I relocated to another spot that I found during practice and caught a limit pretty quickly. Being able to make some key upgrades as the day went on really helped me put together a solid limit,” Morgenthaler said.
He said that he caught a lot of fish today, and will be starting Thursday off with “comfortable confidence.”
He thinks the receding water should improve his pattern, but the lake is changing by the hour and he knows that he’ll have to adapt quickly to stay on the bass.
As of 5 p.m. CT, Texoma was measured at 625.48 feet (above sea level) with normal full pool measuring at 619 feet. The reservoir’s current release rate is 41,900 cubic feet per second, which has created quite a riffle below the dam. That means the lake level will be steadily decreasing. Those who adapt the quickest will likely finish the strongest.
> Day 1: 5, 18-12 Ashley said his practice was dismal until late on the final day.
"I figured out how to get bit yesterday afternoon – at least well enough to catch some keepers," he said. "I wasn't whacking on them or anything and I really didn't think they were that size, but you never really know."
He sorted through 20 keepers and caught his big one at mid-day. He took two largemouths and three smallmouths to the scale.
"I lost one early that felt like a good one, but I'm pretty sure I caught it later. It was a 4-pound smallmouth.
"I just hop-scotched around – there's a lot of other guys fishing the same stuff. Where I was it's fishing pretty small, like a bathtub. I saw John Crews a lot."
He figures he has a 50/50 chance of catching another strong bag on day 2.
"A lot of those fish got hammered today, so it's one of those deals where I just can't say." Read more
The shad are spawning at Lake Wheeler, so a lot of Bassmaster Elite Series pros have a baitfish-imitating willow-leaf spinnerbait tied on – most of them provided by sponsors.
But no surprise, just like the underspin horsehead lure he used to win the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, the spinnerbait Casey Ashley has tied on is one he and his dad Danny make themselves.
“The art of spinnerbait fishing has gone away,” said Ashley who slapped 19 pounds on the scales to sit in second place after day 1 at Wheeler, including the biggest bass of the day – a 6-14 beast.
“Very few tournaments allow us to think we can tie on a spinnerbait, ride it for 4 days and win with it, but if I need one, I can build it using components from a couple plastic jars I carry in my boat. And when I build it, I’m confident the blades are always gonna spin, no matter how slow or fast I retrieve it.
“The spinnerbaits Daddy and I build came from my buddy Trad Whaley. His dad’s name is Danny too, and he fished B.A.S.S. events back in the Hank Parker era. If there was a fish to be caught on a spinnerbait, Trad’s daddy was gonna catch it – and usually big ones – using this bait right here that they built, and called the 'the Big Train.'
“Dad and I pour our own heads from that original Big Train mold, and Trad was kind enough to have some plated for us. But a lot of times, I’ll just fish it with no paint at all on the head – just plain lead."
> Favorite size: “Most of the time, I’ll start with a 1/2-unce, but if I realize I need to keep it shallower, then I’ll move to 3/8. On a rare occasion, if I need to get deep, I’ll go with a 3/4, but day in and day out, I use a 1/2-ounce.”
> Blades and beads: “I put a lot of beads between my blades for a reason. That keeps those blades separated, spaced apart – and always spinning – that’s really key. I like a No. 4 size in gold up front, and a 4 1/2ilver as the main blade in the back – and almost always throw the smooth finish, even though I carry a few hammered ones in this jar.”
> Speed of retrieve: “A lot of people wind a spinnerbait way too fast in the springtime. It’s a tool you can get more bites with if you’ll take your time and make contact with cover. A lot of that comes from choosing the right reel. I use a 6.6:1 Quantum Smoke.”
Ashley concluded: “Spinnerbaits may not get a lot of use anymore, but they still catch fish – good fish. And there just aren’t many lures you can tie on that flash, replicate shad and offer the versatility they do."
He just simply prefers to make his own. Read more
Photo Alan McGuckin - Casey Ashley walked out of a cozy cabin near the shores of Bull Shoals Reservoir and prepared for the last long, rainy day of practice at one of the most unique events of his illustrious young career.
Instead of competing on a single body of water, this week’s tournament kicks off at Lake Norfork on Thursday then goes to Bull Shoals on Friday and Saturday, with the final day back at Norfork on Sunday.
No surprise, Ashley was singing the first words to “Lucky Old Sun” which begins, “Up in the morning. Out on the job. Work like the devil for my pay.” His voice so soft in the Ozark predawn that only an avid Kenny Chesney fan could have recognized his song choice to begin the day. Read Full Story
Photo by Sergio Saito - You would think that the five rivers that empty into Winyah Bay would be enough fishing waters for the 110 competitors who will begin competing Thursday in the Huk Performance Bassmaster Elite tournament headquartered at Georgetown’s Carroll Campbell Marine Complex.
But the Cooper River, famed for its big springtime largemouth catches and reachable via the Intracoastal Waterway through Charleston Harbor, is as much a topic of conversation among the country’s top bass anglers as the more readily accessible Waccamaw, Pee Dee, Sampit, Santee and Black rivers.
“To be honest, I don’t really consider this a homestate tournament,” said Casey Ashley of Donalds, the 2015 Bassmaster Classic champion. “This time last year was the first time I’d ever heard a bass even lived in Georgetown. I don’t think (any of the pros) have ever fished there before. It’s going to be a fun tournament. The playing field is going to be even, that’s for sure.” Full Story