06.Mar.2014 by Brett Carlson
SENECA, S.C. – Casey Ashley may be fishing his first Walmart FLW Tour season, but he’s no stranger to big-time tournaments on Lake Hartwell. One in particular still sticks with him and not for good reason. Today, he put some big-time revenge on the Hartwell bass – catching a 21-pound, 7-ounce stringer on a day where less than half the field cracked double digits.
With temperatures in the mid-40s and a steady 20 mph northeast wind, the conditions made a tough bite even tougher. Right as the day-one weigh-in commenced, the rain started and isn’t supposed to let up until Friday afternoon. None of this affected Ashley, who fishes Hartwell often and knew the bite was screwy thanks to a cold and unpredictable spring.
“Four weeks ago the lake was on fire and you could catch them any way you wanted to, from 2 feet to 50 feet,” said the 30-year-old pro leader. “ Now they are just roaming. I had some good stuff that I found in practice and I caught some pretty good fish. I fished some stuff that had gone well in practice and didn’t get bit today. I caught my better fish today on stuff that I didn’t even practice. And the wind was so bad I didn’t get to fish all my stuff. I really only hit what was protected.”
Ashley said he fished two or three different creeks, received 20 bites and weighed all largemouths, despite catching several spotted bass. He started the day on what he termed a schooling spot over deep water. He caught three there, then moved to a different area and caught a 3-pounder. After another move and another 3-pounder, a pattern was clearly established. Ashley was reluctant to discuss that pattern other than mentioning he used only three rods and that a jig played a major role.
“By nature I’m a shallow-water fisherman, but I caught some deep too. When the lake gets really clear like this, those big ones get up there shallow and you can catch them when you get some nasty weather. I just know where they live. I had no clue though that I could catch that much. This morning was actually a little disappointing. I expected to really catch them there. If that schooling bite happens, you can get right real quick.”
Ashley said while he’s been looking forward to this tournament, he also has his sights set on the schedule’s other South Carolina tournament – the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray.
“After finishing 116th at Lake Okeechobee, I needed this today. This is revenge.”
The top 10 pros after day one on Lake Hartwell are: