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
I’ve been fishing tournaments since I was 10 years old. My daddy and I spent a lot of days on the water, and although some turned out better than others, I learned one thing early on – nothing good comes out of living in the past.
That’s how I’m dealing with my 77th-place finish on the St. Johns River. Finishing in the 70s stinks, but it could’ve been worse. I could’ve finished in the 90s or lower.
Yeah I didn’t get a check, but it’s not like it was catastrophic for the season. So you just move on. I’ll try to do everything I can do to make up those lost points in the remaining events.
Looking back, I think a couple of things hurt me on the St. Johns. First off, I never got a big bite.
That’s the thing with Florida – you have to catch a big one each day. I was looking for bed fish, but I didn’t find any big ones that were locked on good enough to catch.
It seemed like the majority of anglers fished the west side of Lake George, but I always try to get away from the crowds for a couple of reasons. First, fishing pressure can really wear on an area. Also, if your day starts slowly and you’re watching guys in other boats slinging 5- and 6-pounders, it can really jack with your head. Full Story
Photo by: Seigo Saito
> Day 2: 4, 11-02 (9, 26-07) Reigning Classic champion Casey Ashley thought he could do some early damage with a jerkbait, but that plan was a bust.
"I gave it 45 minutes or an hour, but I didn't get any bites," he said.
The four fish he weighed were all caught within a 1-hour span. The two biggest (both in the 3 1/2-pound class) were enticed by a jig and the other two bit a crankbait.
He also caught three short bass, two drum and a buffalo.
"The areas I got bit in have good fish. I'll have to start there, but I won't linger very long. I might have to start over again."
He knows his chances of retaining his title for another year are slim.
"If it was anybody but Jason Christie, they'd be a whole lot better, but he doesn't stumble. Especially not on Grand." Read more
Photo by: Gary Tramontina
> Day 1: 5, 15-05 Reigning Classic champ Casey Ashley senses the warming water is going to trigger more fish to start moving shallow over the weekend and he thinks he’ll be able to capitalize, thanks to an adjustment he made today.
“Things changed more today than they had in practice with the water temperature warming up,” he said. “Tomorrow, if everything goes like it did today, I’ll have more time to try to find the same stuff. The fish are changing for sure.”
He said the lack of a breeze allowed him to fish more effectively, but it was a late-day change to a crankbait that proved critical.
“I figured something out today that I really hadn’t done so I’ll have to go hunt for some of that,” he said. "I think they’re moving up everywhere. I’d come in around the ramp with about 5 minutes to fish and culled one Read more
Six members of the Triton Boats Pro Staff will be among the pack of elite competitive anglers vying to be the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic Champion. The annual bass tournament, the most prestigious event in the sport, will be held March 4-6 at Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, Oklahoma.
Triton Pro Staff members who qualified for this year's Classic include defending 2015 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Casey Ashley. The Triton Team is proud to boast back-to-back Classic Champions and 2014 winner Randy Howell also qualified through the B.A.S.S. Elite Series Angler of the Year point standings along with Brandon Card and Boyd Duckett. In addition, Triton pro Albert Collins punched his Classic ticket through the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship tournament and Thomas Martens earned his from winning the Team Championship Classic Bracket.
"We couldn't be prouder of our Pro Staff Classic qualifiers," said Triton founder Earl Bentz. "The competition on the B.A.S.S. Elite Series and B.A.S.S. Nation tournament trails has gotten so fierce; it's a mind-boggling accomplishment for our Pro-Staff members to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. To have 6 pros representing Triton at the Classic demonstrates just how competitive and dedicated these fishermen are."
All six (6) of the Triton Pro Staff Classic qualifiers will compete for the event's $300,000 first prize from a Triton 21 TrX bass boat, a tournament model that has earned countless rave reviews for its state-of-the-art fishing features and extreme performance. "The Triton 21 TrX is truly awesome!" said 2015 Bassmaster Classic Champion Casey Ashley. "Besides its incredible speed and handling capabilities, the front deck is so huge; you could practically land a helicopter on it. It is absolutely the most competitive and versatile tournament bass boat on the water."
Triton builds a complete line of fiberglass and aluminum fishing boats for pro anglers and weekend fishermen alike. For more information, log onto the company's website www.tritonboats.com