Hartwell’s hometown hero

Lake Hartwell champion Casey Ashley holds up his kicker largemouth to the hometown crowd.

SENECA, S.C. - With the disappointment of the 2008 Bassmaster Classic still fresh in his mind, Casey Ashley crafted a meticulous revenge strategy for the next major tournament held on Lake Hartwell - one that was bulletproof and could withstand cold, wind, rain and fog. In doing so, he had to fish against his shallow-water strengths. Armed with some of the best deep brush piles on the lake, Ashley crushed the second Walmart FLW Tour event of the year from start to finish. Just as Brent Ehrler dominated out deep in 2012, Ashley focused his time away from the bank - not wanting to compete for the same fish with the likes of Andy Morgan and Randall Tharp. But unlike Ehrler, Ashley fished small, isolated structure and not schools of bass. In many ways, the rollercoaster weather pattern played right into Ashley's hand as there was no dominant location - the bass were largely in transition. "I've also never fished a tournament on Hartwell with that many boats," said the 30-year-old Ashley. "I'd look towards the bank and there were boats everywhere. You can do well that way, but I don't think you can win that way. Those shallow fish just don't replenish." On days one and two, Ashley started on schooling spots - hoping to catch a few bonus bass before the sun came up. He also caught a couple largemouths shallow during the windy opening round, but by the weekend it was all about brush piles. Casey Ashley goes for the landing job without a net.Ashley had a handful of prime piles located on the lake's clearer south end. They were specific in that they were placed in water 25 to 40 feet and set up over ditches under boat docks. Once he stopped on these areas, Ashley fished incredibly slow, often taking several minutes with each cast. His technique resembled more of a vertical pitch in that he dropped the bait over the crossbars and continued to feed line until hitting bottom. "I only lost one single fish all week and that was today. And I caught the big one right after that. It was a magical thing. Every move I made this week was the right one." There was nothing fancy about Ashley's tackle. He employed either a 1/2-ounce Shooter Lures jig (green pumpkin) and a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. (green pumpkin) or a shaky head (custom Mountain Man Lures 3/16 or 1/8) with a Zoom finesse worm. His line for the jig was 20-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon and he downsized to 10-pound fluoro with the shaky head. "Most of the big ones came on the jig, but the shaky head was great for filling a limit. I learned a long time ago that gourd green is the best color (for a finesse worm) when the water is cold. The last two days I used watermelon candy, which is better in the sun. Anytime I have a jig in my hand I feel comfortable. And every tournament I've won a shaky head has helped me. Those two baits go hand in hand." Ashley reiterated that the key to his tournament was knowing the right areas to spend his time. Casey Ashley exhales and soaks in the moment as he hoists the champion"I need to thank of friend of mine, Roy Stuart. He's forgotten more about this place than I know. Because of him, I had key brush piles that I knew I was going to catch them on. I knew I could get a bite, not necessarily a big bite, but a bite. Once I got a limit I'd expand a little bit, but I still didn't want to get too crazy." With the exception of day one, Ashley brought mixed bags of largemouths and spotted bass to the scale. On day four he caught 10 bass and his best five weighed 15 pounds, 10 ounces, finishing the week with a four-day total of 68 pounds, 5 ounces. With a margin of victory that was nearly 15 pounds, Ashley's performance was domination from start to finish. When the Donalds, S.C., native saw that the 2014 FLW Tour schedule included two trips to the Palmetto state, he said he absolutely had to become a two-tour pro. "After Okeechobee I could not wait to get back here. I'm not taking away from any major tournament that I've won, but it really means a lot to win at home. I've got my revenge on Hartwell. Now I need to get to Lake Murray and fish for a half million dollars." Morgan runner up In typical Andy Morgan fashion, the reigning Angler of the Year started the week in decent shape and continued to steadily climb the leaderboard. With 12 pounds, 4 ounces on day four, Morgan rose to second with a cumulative weight of 53 pounds, 13 ounces. Largemouth assassin Andy Morgan took second place on Lake Hartwell with 53 pounds, 13 ounces. In many ways, this event was similar to Smith Lake last year where Morgan was among the first to adjust as the prespawn weather finally warmed. In both instances, Morgan tried to stay ahead of the fish and catch fresh ones that were just pulling up. "I thought it would really set up like that," said Morgan. "It did, but it was never game on like Smith; it was more spotty. Maybe I wasn't in the proper water. That big one made the day and really saved me." Morgan started each day fishing "deeper stuff" in 10 to 20 feet of water with shaky heads, jerkbaits and under spins. Around noon, his largemouth bite would turn on as he crept up to flatter water in 6 foot or less. Instead of forcing the largemouth bite, he would intentionally lay off - hitting it only at peak times with a jig. "I would start in Seneca Creek and work my way down towards the dam. Really it was junk-fishing 101. I caught some good ones on a 1/2-ounce War Eagle jig with a Zoom Chunk, some good ones on an 1/8-ounce shaky head with a Zoom finesse worm and some good ones earlier in the week on an old-school 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait." For his record 56th top-10 finish, the Dayton, Tenn., native earned $30,000. "You know it's been tough anytime you see me with a spinning rod in my hand, but I like the lake. It's diverse and it spreads out real nice." Davis drops to third Davis leans into his first keeper.Coming into the Hartwell tournament, Clent Davis figured he'd be fishing 35 or 40 feet deep. But he found an unreal dock bite almost immediately the first day of practice and then continued to expand on it. In practice, it was mostly spotted bass, but during the tournament some healthy largemouths unexpectedly showed up and helped the cause. While he was still seeing quality fish in the clear water on the lake's lower end, the bite deteriorated the last two days and Davis broke a few key fish off on boat cables. "It was one of those days for me," said the 2012 Rookie of the Year. "I don't know what I could've done different. Eight-pound test and boat cables don't get along." Despite catching only four fish weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces, Davis only fell one spot, finishing the tournament third with 50 pounds, 9 ounces. The Montevallo, Ala., angler earned $25,000. "The bass were relating to brush under docks and walkways, but the key was the flatter banks. I threw a shaky head and a swimbait some, but I caught everything on a wacky-rigged Mr. Twister Comida in water 15 feet or less." Davis used an O-ring and his color of choice on the soft stickbait was green pumpkin. Meyer retains fourth Cody Meyer finished fourth on Lake Hartwell with a four-day total weight of 49 pounds, 14 ounces.Cody Meyer failed to catch a five-bass limit for the first time in four years and exactly 50 tournament days. Still, he remained in fourth place with four good fish (three spots, one largemouth) weighing 9 pounds, 14 ounces. "The streak is over," said the Repel pro. "But at 1 p.m. I caught my first fish so four really isn't that bad." Meyer's pattern was productive, but it did not produce numbers. On days one and two he caught six keepers. On day three he caught five and today he lost a few fish as he failed to boat No. 5. "I couldn't catch them like I was. They pulled up under docks today with the sun. You could actually see them swimming around there, but it was so hard to get them to bite." Meyer's main pattern was drop-shotting brush in water as deep as 40 feet. Today he switched at noon to depths of 15 to 20 feet under the docks, with the fish suspending in the first 5 or 6 feet. Earlier in the week Meyer had 10 really productive piles on the lower end of the lake, some located on red-clay points (which heat up quicker) and others under docks. His bait of choice on the drop-shot was a wacky-rigged Jackall Flick Shake worm. Occasionally, he mixed in a G Money jig on his deepest water. For fourth place and 49 pounds, 14 ounces, the Auburn, Calif., native earned $20,000. "If you would have told me I would make the top 10 in each of the first two tournaments I would have said you're crazy. I couldn't be happier." Cox finishes fifth John Cox finished fifth on Lake Hartwell targeting largemouths in shallow water with a lipless crankbait. John Cox started the day in sixth place and finished fifth after catching a 13-pound, 6-ounce limit. Anchoring that limit was a fat prespawn largemouth in the 5-pound class. The Debary, Fla., pro finished the tournament with a total weight of 48 pounds, 14 ounces. "I started the week mixing up some baits, but I caught pretty much everything on a trap," said Cox. The 2011 Red River champion spent most of his time in nearby Seneca Creek. Today, he started in a pocket down by the dam. With only one bass at 10 a.m., he ran back up and finished the day once again in Seneca. "When that big one bit, I thought it was a grass carp. I was mad that he was going to take my trap." Cox used both a 1/2-ounce and a 3/4-ounce Excalibur Xr50 lipless crankbait in foxy shad color. "I was yo-yoing the trap, ripping it through the stick-ups and popping it off like it was grass. I don't know why it didn't work the third day - maybe I wasn't working the bait right. I think it had more to do with them being there. They were just trickling back at the end of the day and that's when it got good." For fifth place, he earned $19,000. "Okeechobee was a reality check. I was wondering if I could even still fish, so I'm super excited about this tournament." Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell: 6th: Brett Hite of Phoenix, Ariz., 46-14, $18,000 7th: Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., 43-15, $17,000 8th: Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., 43-14, $16,000 9th: Ryan Davidson of Huntington, W.V., 41-4, $15,500 10th: Charlie Ingram of Centerville, Tenn., 40-2, $14,000 The next event of the season, stop No. 3 on the FLW Tour, takes place March 27-30 on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Lufkin, Texas.

Tags: headline-story  brett-carlson 

/news/2015-04-25-morgan-maintains-his-lead

Morgan Maintains His Lead

One of Andy Morgan’s fishing mottos is to make the best of what you have got “in front of you” to survive and fish another day. Beaver Lake doesn’t give much. So when an angler as resourceful as Morgan gets to a lake that doesn’t give out many resources, the two work well together. Instead of worrying about hitting it out of the park or putting immense pressure on himself to come up with a grand winning strategy, Morgan just scraps, scrapes and claws at the ground right in front of him, making the best of what he’s got. Morgan’s performance on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake was a prime example of his “make the best of it” attitude. After burning up the spawning fish he had located in practice during the first two days of the tournament, he was forced to fish by the seat of his pants today – something he thoroughly enjoys. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-beaver-lake-day-3-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-make-way-for-morgan

Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 2

At halftime of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five reads like a who’s who of Beaver Lake. Leader Andy Morgan is a former Beaver Lake champion. Behind him, Darrel Robertson has been very close to winning here with a runner-up finish in 2005. In third is 2014 Beaver Lake champion Matt Arey. Bryan Thrift, in fourth, has never won on Beaver Lake, but has led here before. And finally, fifth-place pro Stetson Blaylock knows his way around this lake pretty well, too, with a couple of top 10s. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-heckman-heads-up-tbf-championship-field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-beaver-lake-day-2-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-wheeler-with-a-slim-lead

Wheeler with a Slim Lead

Jacob Wheeler has a plan to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake this week. That plan involves primarily the largemouth species, a target weight of 14 pounds per day and a lot of fish management. Today, Wheeler surpassed his target by nearly 2 pounds with a 15-pound, 14-ounce catch that puts him in the driver’s seat at Beaver Lake, in the lead by just a scant 5 ounces over second-place pro Bryan Thrift. “Largemouths are the way to win here at Beaver Lake,” Wheeler says. “They are the fish to go the distance here, and that’s what I’m focusing on.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 1

Though there were plenty of fish caught off beds at Beaver Lake on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five is rounded out by a group of anglers who relied on sight-fishing very little. Opinions on where exactly bass are in the spawning cycle at Beaver Lake vary greatly from angler to angler, but a few common denominators did come to light on day one. For starters, most agree that one major spawning cycle has already occurred. Plenty of empty beds and a lot of gaunt, postspawn fish at the scale were evidence of that. Second, there are still some bass (of all species) trying to spawn, but the ones left on beds are extremely wary. Finally, the order of difficulty to catch each species ranks as follows: smallmouth bass – extremely easy; spotted bass – not as easy; largemouth bass – extremely difficult. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-griffith-grabs-tbf-lead-

Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-beaver-lake-day-1-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-tbf-championship-tips-off

TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-top-10-baits-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Baits from Lake Murray

Competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship mostly targeted bass feeding on spawning blueback herring on shallow points and main-lake pockets. Across the board, herring-imitating baits such as soft jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwaters, wake baits and umbrella rigs dominated the event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-jig-bite-carries-holmes-on-wateree

Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-bryan-slows-down-for-chickamauga-win

Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-morfis-dominates-with-34-pound-limit

Morfis Dominates With 34-Pound Limit

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Joshua Morfis of Cape Coral, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 34 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Morfis earned $6,336. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-salzman-cracks-31-pounds-on-guntersville

Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-lanter-wins-on-rend-lake

Lanter Wins on Rend Lake

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-19-top-10-patterns-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Murray

As contestants in the FLW College Fishing National Championship on Lake Murray discovered last week, fishing the blueback herring spawn can be backbreaking work. All that stooping over to grab a different rig to cast at bass busting their favorite forage, and then quickly straightening, is hard on the old spinal column. Flexing up and down is what it took to contend in the championship, however, as bass couldn’t make up their minds whether they wanted their grub served on the surface or closer to the bottom. Typically, the collegians were fan-casting Carolina rigs, umbrella rigs, hard jerkbaits and even crankbaits to likely looking points and broad flats. Sometimes they caught fish with such random prospecting, but perhaps more bass were taken when anglers found themselves within casting distance of blowups and were quick enough to grab a soft jerkbait rig or topwater lure and virtually spoon-feed it to the fish. READ MORE »