Mercury pro Casey Ashley puts together “magical” week at FLW Tour event
Mar 10, 2014
In some circles, Mercury pro Casey Ashley is known equally well as a country singer as a professional bass fisherman. Maybe that’s why when asked to describe his performance at the FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell this week, he replied: “If I was going to write a song about it, I’d call it “Magical Moment’.”
“Magic” and “magical” where words that Ashley used frequently at Hartwell – his home lake – where he dominated a field of over 150 FLW pros on the way to a wire-to-wire victory, a $100,000 payday, and 200 critical points toward Angler of the Year standings (and a major leap forward on the trail to the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup). The Donalds, S.C. native opened the tournament with 21 pounds, 7 ounces of Hartwell spotted and largemouth bass on Day 1, backed it up with 15-13 and 15-7 on the next two days, and then dropped 15-10 on the scales on Championship Sunday for good measure to rack up 68-5.
Second-place finisher Andy Morgan, the defending FLW Angler of the Year, trailed Ashely by nearly 15 pounds, with 53-13.
“Every decision I made this week was the right decision,” said Ashley, who entered the tournament with the momentum of an 11th-place finish at the Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville two weeks prior. “It seemed like everything I did was right, every move I made was right. I can’t really think of a better word to describe it than ‘magical’. I fished the way I like to fish on a lake that I love to fish, and caught the fish I needed to win on a lake that’s 45 minutes from my home. I’ve won some major tournaments before, but never close to home, with this many of my family and friends watching me.”
Ashley wasted little time establishing himself as the angler to beat on the first day of the tournament, bagging nearly 22 pounds on a combination of Zoom Trick Worms on shaky heads and jigs, fishing a series of marina docks and pockets on the south end of Hartwell. Weather and water conditions fluctuated wildly on the second and third days of the tournament, with heavy rain and wind pushing increasingly colder, muddier water down Hartwell’s creeks and causing several successful Day 1 anglers to fall flat.
By Championship Sunday, the weather system had blown through, and the towns of Clemson and Seneca were bathed in 70-degree sunshine. And Ashley adjusted the best way he knew how: by not adjusting much at all.
“I’m not doing anything special,” he said before blasting off on Sunday. “I’m fishing a few basic baits and focusing on water I know holds fish. I guess that’s one advantage of knowing this lake really well: I don’t waste much time fishing dead water.”
Ashley did, however, spend a little anxious time swapping boats on the final day. As per FLW rules, anglers competing on the final day fish out of sponsor boats, which meant that Ashley started Sunday by transferring gear from his Triton/Mercury to a Ranger powered by a 250-horsepower Mercury OptiMax Pro XS. Roughly three hours into the morning, the Ranger’s live well pump was howling so loudly that Ashley had to call for a backup boat.
“I didn’t know where anything was on those boats: lights, switches, gauges,” Ashley laughed. “I wanted to make darn sure I was running a Mercury. I just wanted to know that I was going to get to where I wanted to go, and get back when I needed to.”