Photo: ESPN Outdoors
Casey Ashley's fellow Bassmaster Classic competitors are paying a lot of heed to his skills and his local knowledge this week.
Casey Ashley will be the hometown favorite in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, which gets under way today at South Carolina's Lake Hartwell. He's also a popular pick to win the tournament among the 49 anglers he'll compete against.
And believe it or not, the second-year pro is the angler that several in the field would like to see win if they can't turn the trick themselves. He's impressed his more-experienced co-competitors with his talent (he won an Elite Series event last year as a rookie), but even more so with the way he conducts himself.
On Classic Media Day, BassFan asked more than a dozen competitors to pick three anglers (excluding themselves) who they think have a good chance to win this week. Each was also asked to identify the angler they'd like to see win (again, they couldn't pick themselves).
Here's how they responded.
Likes their chances – "I'd say Gerald Swindle, because he's got some history here, and also Casey Ashley, because he's definitely got some history here. I've also heard a few things about Chris Lane, and I think he's got a pretty good shot."
Sentimental pick – "I really don't have a preference, but I'd like it to be somebody who hasn't won it before. It's a prestigious title and it'd change somebody's career."
Likes their chances – "Casey Ashley, because he's the local favorite, and Aaron Martens and John Murray because they're excellent deep-water anglers, and I feel like this thing is going to be won deep."
Sentimental pick – "I'd like to see Casey win it. He doesn't have a lot of sponsors yet, but he's a great kid and the kind of guy we need out here."
Likes their chances – "Casey Ashley, for obvious reasons. Jeff Coble (Bassmaster Weekend Series champion), because he spent a lot of time here doing his homework and figured out some things he thinks he needed to figure out to win. And Mike Wurm, just because I feel like I need to give Wurm some love."
Sentimental pick – "I'd love to see my roommate John Murray win."
Likes their chances – "Todd Auten, because he has familiarity with this place and he can catch them in these kinds of lakes. Jeff Kriet – he's a good deep-water fisherman and he's well-rounded. And Aaron Martens, because of the way he can finesse-fish and read a graph. He knows everything that's going on down there."
Sentimental pick – "Obviously, I'd pick my brother (Chris Lane).
Likes their chances – "Jeff Coble is one of the best fishermen in this part of the country and if the crankbait bite's on, it could be over. Mike McClelland's really good at catching suspended fish and really good in cold water, and we have those things this week. And Jeff Kriet, mostly for the same reasons as McClelland – he's a good nasty-weather fisherman."
Sentimental pick – "Gary Klein. I mean, how many times do you have to try before you get it?"
Likes their chances – "Casey Ashley's a (Classic) rookie, but he's come a long way over the last year and he knows this lake. Jeff Kriet and I have been pretty open with each other about what's going on and he's not whining a lot, so that tells me he's pretty confident. And Gerald Swindle has a lot of past knowledge of the lake and he understands the blueback herring pretty well."
Sentimental pick – "Mike Wurm would be the oldest to ever win the Classic and Gary Klein has been close so many times. Those are the two who stick out for me."
Likes their chances – "Mike McClelland has fished a lot of this kind of water in the wintertime and he knows how to adapt to the conditions. You can't rule Kevin VanDam out – he catches them wherever he goes and he'll figure something out. And I feel pretty good about Kevin Short because I'm sticking with my Arkansas guns.
Sentimental pick – "Charlie Hartley lives and breathes bass fishing and does everything on his own. I'd be ecstatic to see him win."
Likes their chances – "Aaron Martens is great on the deep bite, and that's really going to come on with this weather. Casey Ashley knows all the holes and can make the necessary adjustments. And Mike McClelland can fish a deep jig as well as he can a shallow jig, and that's where the weight's going to come from (on day 1).
Sentimental pick – "I'd like to see (Martens) win it. He's been close several times and he deserves it."
Photo: ESPN Outdoors
Jeff Coble isn't a tour pro, but he's regarded as one of the top anglers in the eastern part of the country.
Likes their chances – "Kevin VanDam, and I'm not picking him just because of who he is, but because I think this tournament sets up right for his style of fishing. Gary Klein is real good in bad weather, and the odds have to be stacked in his favor. And I think Todd Auten is a sleeper – he's a stick, he's from the area and he's been kind of flying under the radar."
Sentimental pick – "Stephen Browning – he's a good friend of mine and this is his first Classic in awhile. But I'm still picking him to finish behind me."
Likes their chances – "I like Ish (Monroe) and Mike Iaconelli to do well, just because they've told me they've been doing well (in practice) and the way they're fishing could be the deal. My other pick would be Aaron Martens, because of the conditions.
Sentimental pick – "I share a room with Ish, so I'd have to go with him."
Likes their chances – "If it comes down to the deep bite, Aaron Martens has to be high on the list. For a shallow guy, I'd have to go with Greg Hackney, and I'm thinking Casey Ashley might do well."
Sentimental pick – "Casey – he's real down to earth and he's a lot different than most rookies I've been associated with over the past 12 years. If he could win it, it'd be good for fishing in general."
Likes their chances – "I really don't have a clue because we've got guys fishing shallow, deep and everywhere in between. But you can't count KVD out, and if there's flipping fish, you can't count Tommy Biffle out."
Sentimental pick – "I guess I'd go with my old buddy (Biffle). In general, I'd pick one of the guys who've been around awhile and haven't won it."
Likes their chances – "Kevin VanDam, because he's Kevin VanDam. Aaron Martens, because he likes to fish deep, and Scott Rook, just because he says he's on them."
Sentimental pick – "Probably Gary Klein. He's been to so many of these things and I'm starting to feel that same feeling."
Likes their chances – "You've got to have VanDam in there always, because he's the one who's most able to make adjustments. You can't take Casey Ashley out of the picture, because of his local knowledge, and from what I've been hearing, I'm getting a feeling that John Murray's going to be a player."
Sentimental pick – "I'd like to see (Martens) have a shot at it. He's deserving, and this tournament suits his style of fishing."
Likes their chances – "Well, the obvious one is Kevin VanDam. Skeet Reese was the most consistent guy last year and he's always on fish, and Edwin Evers might do well – he's someone who likes to fish deep."
Sentimental pick – "There are so many good guys I like here, I'll have to pass on that one."
Likes their chances – "Gary Klein, just because he's so versatile. Aaron Martens, because he's such a great light-line fisherman, and I'll go out on a limb and mention KVD."
Sentimental pick – "Klein – he's been doing this a long time and he's due."
Likes their chances – "Edwin Evers knows some of my best spots and I think he's on the right patterns. Casey Ashley has a lot of knowledge of this area and the way the fishing is, it's probably one of his strengths. And Boyd Duckett, but I'm not going to say why because I might get in trouble.
Sentimental pick – "Todd Faircloth, because he gets so little press and you don't every hear from him unless he wins. This one would really help him out."