When Casey Ashley, a 31-year-old angler from Donalds, hoisted the Bassmaster Classic trophy over his head in front of a packed house at Bon Secours Wellness Arena this past Sunday evening, it was the culmination of a lifelong dream.
The dream was reaching the highest point in professional bass fishing.
All human interest facets aside, and there were plenty — winning in front of a hometown crowd, using a fishing lure that was hand-made by his father and enduring single-digit temperatures — Ashley is likely to go down in history as one of the last "old-school" bass anglers to win the Classic. Full Story
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
It certainly didn't rain on Casey Ashley's parade.
Ashley shrugged off the pressure of being the home-lake favorite to reach the pinnacle of piscatorial prowess Sunday, staging a big comeback on a rainy final day to win the 45th Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell.
Ashley is from the small Abbeville County town of Donalds – population 348 when Casey's not on the road – and it appeared that number and considerably more joined a crowd of more than 10,000 bass fishing fans who packed the Bon Secours Wellness Arena for Sunday evening's final weigh-in.
They didn't go home disappointed.
Ashley became just the third angler to win a Classic held in his home state and the first to win on what what would be considered his "home water."
The 30-year-old angler earned $300,000 from a purse of $1.05 million, pushing his career winnings to $1.15 million since launching his Bassmaster career in 2006.
"I've dreamed of this since I was a kid," Ashley said. "You always dream of fishing the Bassmaster Classic on your home lake, but to be able to win it on your home lake? This is a dream come true." Read Full Story
GREENVILLE, S.C. - On Sunday evening at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Casey Ashley completed a journey that began more than three decades ago and seemed to drag on forever these past few weeks.
The 31-year-old South Carolina native, who has lived just a few miles from Lake Hartwell all his life, caught five bass that weighed 20 pounds, 3 ounces to cap a moving victory in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on his home waters with a three-day total of 50-1.
The weight was enough to help Ashley past Florida pro Bobby Lane, Jr., who finished second with 46-15, and Texas angler Takahiro Omori who placed third with 44-3.
The end of the weigh-in meant Ashley could finally take a deep breath after seven weeks when the lake was mostly off-limits due to B.A.S.S. rules and when virtually everyone he saw wanted to talk about him being the favorite to win.
“I worked a show in Greenville at the TD Convention Center (in mid-January), and I bet I thought about the Classic 50,000 times while I was standing there,” said Ashley, who won the event on his sixth try. “My first Classic was here (in 2008), and ever since then I’ve been saying I’d like to have that one back.
“I wanted to win so bad here at home, and I had a long time to think about it. It was pretty rough.”
Once it began, Ashley made the most of his opportunity.
GREENVILLE, S.C. — The final day of the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Lake Hartwell is shaping up to be a free-for-all with a handful of former Classic champions sitting atop the standings with the coveted trophy and $300,000 first-place prize well within their grasp.
Takahiro Omori, an Elite Series pro from Japan who now makes his home in Emory, Texas, caught five fish that weighed 16 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday and claimed the lead going into Sunday’s final round with a two-day total of 31-11.
The 2004 Classic winner holds a razor-thin lead over Elite Series pro Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. (31-9); 2003 Classic winner Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J. (31-0); 2014 Classic winner Randy Howell of Springville, Ala. (30-11); and Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C. (29-14).
Based on his backyard knowledge of Lake Hartwell, and a big FLW win here a year ago nearly to the exact calendar date, if Las Vegas made odds for the Bassmaster Classic, there’s a real good chance Casey Ashley would have been their favorite.
But according to Ashley just before Day 2 blast-off, don’t let history be the basis of any heavy bets. Ashley says his favorite honey holes, the locations on this massive lake that yielded most of his key bites for the big win a year ago, are pretty much a useless non-factor this week at the 2015 Bassmaster Classic Read More