6th: Tough Day for Ashley


> 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


On the Water With Casey

On Texoma with Casey by James Overstreet 


Casey leading going into final day

Casey Ashley

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."

It's when Ashley was an Elite Series rookie in 2007 and Clawson was fishing as a co-angler that Ashley's singing career took root. Clawson had moved to Nashville from a small town in the Texas panhandle and was in the process of establishing himself as a successful songwriter, when he heard Ashley sing the National Anthem before an Elite Series event.

With that love of bass fishing and country music in common, Ashley and Clawson became friends. Clawson wrote a song entitled "Fisherman," which Ashley recorded in Nashville in 2008. They teamed up on a six-song demo recording in 2011, but by then Ashley had swallowed his fill of Nashville.

Now, nine years into a professional bass fishing career with $1.2 million in B.A.S.S. tournament winnings, two Elite Series titles, plus that Classic championship, Ashley doesn't even think about country music's bright lights anymore.

"I spent enough time in Nashville," Ashley said. "That's a cutthroat business. And there's more to it than what people on the outside know."

There is one good story about Ashley and kissing rear ends in Nashville, or, more accurately, his refusal to do so. When he walked into the recording studio wearing Rocky boots, blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, one of the studio executives asked where were Ashley's cowboy boots and cowboy hat.

"I said, 'I ain't never claimed to be no cowboy. I'm a country boy, and this is about all I can give you,'" Ashley recalled.

When video producers wanted to add some choreography to Ashley's George Strait, stand-still style, he said, "I don't dance for nobody."

Ashley will take fishing on Sunday in the Top 12 of an Elite Series tournament and be just fine with that. No cowboy hat, no cowboy boots, no dancing.

"Music is just something I enjoy doing, and I want to keep enjoying it, not make work out of it," Ashley said

Bass fishing at Lake Texoma this week sure looks like work to most. It has been hot, the bites have seemed to come at random and every day has been a struggle. But Ashley hasn't stopped smiling. He's just glad to be fishing on Day 4 of an Elite Series event again.

Ashley finished 64th in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings last year following his Classic victory. That's a normal drop-off for most anglers following a win like that, which entails so many obligations to both the sport and personal sponsors.

But Ashley has struggled to get back on track this year, as well. Coming into Lake Texoma, he was ranked 59th in AOY points, with a season-best finish of ninth at Bull Shoals/Norfork and a season-worst of 109th at Winyah Bay in his home state of South Carolina.

The BASSfest title carries an automatic berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic. Suddenly Ashley is one day away from another Classic berth, with a 3-pounds-plus lead over his two closest competitors.

"I love to sing," Ashley said. "But fishing is where my heart is."


Ashley Leading Day 3



> 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 Two Grinding it Out

> 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


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