Monday, February 23, 2015

Carolina Favorite Prevails Again

Casey Ashley, 2015Bassmaster Classic Champion
Yesterday seemed familiar. As local favorite Casey Ashley hoisted the 2015 Bassmaster Classic trophy, I couldn't help but think about a similar scene, seven months ago, when Anthony Gagliardi won the Forrest Wood Cup on his home waters of Lake Murray. The sport's two championship events, both held on South Carolina waters, were both won not only by in-state anglers but by legitimate local anglers.

If you follow pro bass fishing at all, you already know all about Ashley's win, and you likely know the details of his pattern and quite a bit about his road to victory. Having gotten to watch it unfold and to be close to all that was happening, though, I have to offer a few impressions.

One of the coolest aspects, in my mind, is the fact that Ashley's preparation for this event has been going on since 2008. In a way it goes back even further, because he has fished tournaments with his dad since he was 8 years old and he can't even remember the first time he ever fished Lake Hartwell. However, in 2008, when the Bassmaster Classic was first held on Lake Hartwell, Ashley took note of the event's enormous success and became convinced it would return to Hartwell at some point. Since that time, he has been a student of the lake, and he was quick to point out that he's learned an enormous amount about it from many top local anglers over the past several years.

Ashley also talked about learning so much from his dad, who began handing over boat control and decisions for team tournaments when Ashley was in his early teens and who would question decisions to force Ashley to think about them and to learn. Ashley's dad also put also put together the locally popular spinner heads Ashley used to win the Classic.

I also enjoyed seeing Ashley's calm confidence and his patience in answering the same questions again and again throughout the tournament. It seemed everyone wanted him to feel the weight of being the local favorite, but he didn't allow that. He wanted to win and did all he could to prepare himself to win, but he never accepted the weighty notion that he was supposed to win. He said that it was only after he put his boat on the trailer on day three, when everything was taken out of his hands, that he got nervous.

Going back to those similarities with Anthony Gagliardi, Casey Ashley will be an outstanding champion who will represent the sport exceptionally well.

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