Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 07/30/2014

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush

Moore, OK - Through five Bassmaster Elite Series regular season events this year, Casey Ashley is sitting in 12th place in the Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings, and has rattled off four consecutive Top 30 finishes after opening the season with an 89th place finish on Lake Seminole.  In June, he kept the ball rolling with a 7th place finish at BASSfest on Lake Chickamauga.  Even though the showcase tournament didn’t count for TAOY points, the Top 10 pushed his career earnings to over $800,000 with B.A.S.S.  

On the FLW Tour side, Ashley appeared to navigate the six-tournament schedule with ease.  Coincidentally, he finished the year in 12th place in the AOY standings.  Ashley had three Top 10 finishes in 2014 on the Tour, including a victory on Lake Hartwell in his home state of South Carolina to go along with a 5th place finish on Beaver Lake and a 10th place finish on Pickwick Lake.   

All of Ashley’s success in 2014 has led up to August, where the South Carolina pro will admittedly fish his way through the most important month of his professional career that began nearly eight years ago in 2007.  

The journey begins the first full week of August with the sixth regular season stop for the Bassmaster Elite Series on the virtually unknown Delaware River.  From there, Ashley will rush back to South Carolina to compete in the Forrest Wood Cup and a shot at the $500,000 first place prize.  Immediately following the Cup, he’ll venture over 800 miles north to close out the Elite Series regular season on New York’s Cayuga Lake.  

With two solid Elite Series performances in August, Ashley will not only sew up a spot in the 2015 Classic (which is on Lake Hartwell at virtually the same time of year when he dominated the FLW Tour earlier this season), but he will also potentially be in position to make a run at the Toyota Angler Of the Year title at the Elite Series AOY championship this coming September on Michigan’s Bays de Noc.  

Sandwiched in between the two Elite Series stops exists the opportunity for Ashley to make it a clean sweep in his home state this season with FLW and keep the Forrest Wood Cup in The Palmetto State with a victory on Lake Murray (a fishery where he notched his second Bassmaster Elite Series victory in May of 2011).    

The BASS ZONE caught up with Ashley while he was relaxing at home and doing a little pond fishing before hitting the road for a hectic month of nonstop action:  

Ashley on the importance of August:
“It’s absolutely going to be the most important month of my career.  I have a lot going on this next month, but I’ve had a lot going on all year with fishing both tours. Now it’s down to the wire.  One interesting thing is that both of the Elite Series tournaments in August are up north, so that’s totally different than what I’m used to.   

“There are Classic and AOY points on the line in the Elite Series, and then I have the chance to fish for a half-million dollars right here in my home state smack-dab in between the two Elite Series tournaments. It’s going to be interesting, that’s a fact. Yea, there’s a whole lot going on in the next month.”    

Ashley on his mindset entering the 2014 season:
“The FLW Tour schedule was really the only reason why I decided to fish both tours in 2014.  Once I saw Hartwell on the schedule and knew that the Cup was on Murray, I knew that it would be tough to sit back and watch that go down without being a part of it.

“I really didn’t know what to expect though, because I’ve never fished both tours in one season before.  It’s been a grind, but it’s been worth it.”   

Ashley on when he realized that August would be so important for his overall season:  
“There was a six-week run that started back in March where I was either fishing an Elite Series or an FLW Tour event, and I really didn’t have the time to think about anything else other than doing well in the current tournament and getting to the next one to do it all over again.  

“After that string of tournaments was over, I kind of peeked ahead and figured that I had a chance to be in pretty good shape coming into August.  Starting out the year, I really didn’t know what to expect fishing both tours, because my main focus was still on making the 2015 Classic on Hartwell. At any point, I was prepared to drop out of the FLW Tour if it started to interfere with my Elite Series performances and my chance to make that 2015 Classic."

Ashley on the travel logistics this upcoming month:
“I think that I’m going to be doing all the driving in August.  I know that I’m driving to Philadelphia for the Elite Series on the Delaware River, and then I’m going to drive myself back home for the Cup. With the way Murray has been fishing, it really won’t bother me if I only get one day of practice going into the Cup.   I do have a buddy lined up who is willing to drive me back up to New York after the Cup, depending on how I feel.  Right now, I’m just going to see how it goes.”  

Ashley on what he has learned about fishing top level tournaments on his home fisheries:
“You really learn how to fish four-day events on all the other lakes around the country and not on your home fisheries.  I’ll tell you the same thing that I tell everybody about fishing a big tournament on one of your home lakes – it either helps you a lot, or it hurts you a lot and there’s no in between.  It helped me a lot this year when I won on Hartwell. Once I figured out what the fish were doing, I was able to spend a whole lot of time fishing the right stuff instead of having to search for it like the rest of the field.  

“Fishing the Forrest Wood Cup on Murray in a couple weeks is going to be a completely different story, though.  The fish are going to be caught multiple ways, and I honestly believe that the guy who wins may not even weigh-in a limit every day.   I fished down there four days before the cut-off, and it’s super tough.  There aren’t a lot of fish shallow and the deep fish are suspended.  The water color is so dingy that you can’t really call them up out of that deep water.  The lake is in a funk right now and it’s hard to even get a bite.”

Ashley on whether he would rather go into the final day of competition with a chance to win the Forrest Wood Cup in his home state or have two good Elite Series finishes and be in position to make a run at the Elite Series AOY in September:
“Both of them would be pretty special.  Winning the Cup at home would be a big thing, especially when it comes with a $500,000 check.  Winning an AOY title is the ultimate title to me, though.  You make a lot of money when you win a Cup or Classic, but to be able to say that you were the best during an entire year says a lot.”  

Ashley on how quickly the 2014 season has passed:
“It seems like it was just yesterday that I was trying to figure out how I was going to get from place to place.  Thinking back to my rookie year, time has flown by – especially when you’re traveling all the time and you’re here and there. Months go by and you don’t even realize it because you stay so busy.  When you’re practicing from daylight to dark and fishing every day for a week straight and then you drive to the next place and do it all over again, time just flies by.”  

Ashley on how much time he has spent preparing for the upcoming month:
“For the last two weeks, I’ve done nothing but order baits and make sure that I have everything that I need for each tournament.  With next two Elite Series tournaments being on unfamiliar fisheries, it’s kind of a challenge to prepare.  I’m just thankful that it looks like both the Delaware River and Cayuga could be largemouth tournaments.  If the Delaware River was nothing but smallmouth, I probably would have gone up there and practiced.”