Casey Ashley opened the annual Bassmaster Classic last weekend at Lake Hartwell by singing the national anthem.
The fisherman from little Donalds, S.C., population 348, finished it in victory, earning $300,000.
Ashley, 31, boated five bass weighing 20 pounds, 3 ounces on Sunday to rally for a three-day total of 50-1.
His final-round catch enabled him to move up from fifth place to first and overtake, among others, Floridian Bobby Lane Jr, whose second place weight was 46-15. Takahiro Omori of Texas took third with 44.3.
The weigh-in was held at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., with an estimated 10,000 attending, most of them cheering for the local pro.
Donalds is in Abbeville County near the big lake in Western South Carolina. “It’s almost in my backyard,” Ashley said of Hartwell, where he has fished most of his life. “I wanted to win here badly.”
An accomplished singer, songwriter and musician, Ashley used a homemade fish-head spinner created by his dad, Danny. He rigged the lure with a pearl white Zoom Super Fluke Jr.
The weather was rainy and overcast Sunday. “Textbook conditions for me,” said Ashley, who now has earnings of $1.2 million in a nine-year pro career.
He is only the third fisherman in the Classic’s 45-year history to win the event in his home state. Observer News Services
▪ Alan and Brad Long teamed Saturday to catch three catfish weighing 91.27 pounds and win a NC-Cats tournament in frigid weather at Lake Tillery. Their big fish scaled 31.85. However, the largest single fish in the event was a 42.11-pounder boated by the trio of Kevin Custer, Michael Hinson and Matthew Jordan.
▪ The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will open the immensely popular striped bass season Sunday on the Roanoke River near Weldon. It tentatively is scheduled to end April 30, depending on various conditions as the fish move upriver to spawn. The creel limit is 2 daily. Minimum size limit is 18 inches and no striper between 22-27 inches may be kept. Only one in excess of 27 can be harvested daily.
Catch of the week
▪ A 37-pound blackfin tuna off Hatteras Village by Andrew James of Parksville, Md. He was fishing from the Godspeed with skipper David Wilson.