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Casey Ashley has been saying for years that he doesn’t like smallmouth.
But given the fact the 2015 Bassmaster Classic Champ sits soundly inside the Top 5 of a Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race that’s tighter than the dry storage lids of his Triton, well, it’s fair to say, the soft spoken South Carolina pro is learning to live with the infamously ghost like bronze bombers that have dominated the summer portion of the Elite Series schedule.
Fact is, he’s more than just tolerating smallmouth, he’s figuring them out – mostly by taking his own approach with a plan that involves a lot of treble hooks, fairly shallow water, and perhaps most importantly – a mindset of finally accepting the fact that smallmouth are not largemouth.
“I still don’t like ‘em,” grinned the likeable Ashley minutes after dropping 18 pounds of smallmouth on the scales at Day 1 of the Advanced Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite Series on Lake St. Clair. “They’re still way too fickle to my liking. I found two spots late in practice Wednesday that were loaded with smallmouth, and today I never caught a single fish from either of those areas.”
“A southern largemouth fisherman like myself is programmed to finding and catching fish from targets like a brushpile, a laydown tree, stumps, docks, whatever – but with smallmouth, you can forget about all that,” says Ashley. “I’ve learned that you stand just as good a chance by tossing the lure behind your shoulder at smallmouth — especially on a massive, flat-bottomed lake like St. Clair, because they roam areas, instead of staying locked on targets,” explains Ashley.
Jerks, Cranks, and Less than 10-feet Deep
To explore expansive ‘areas’ Ashley has learned to lean heavily on faster moving lures like jerkbaits and crankbaits versus mega-popular drop shots and tube jigs.
“It seems like I catch bigger smallmouth on jerkbaits and crankbaits than I do a drop shot, and those horizontal moving baits give me a better chance to cover more water too,” explains Ashley.
“I’ve also learned to accept the fact that I’m way better at catching ‘em in less than 10-feet of water when at all possible. You force me to fish deeper than about 10-feet, and I feel like I’m out of my league,” admits Ashley.
Ashley has no strict allegiance to a crankbait sponsor, so the ‘free agent’ mixes a blend of brands that often include Lucky Craft Staysee jerkbaits, and Strike King 5XD crankbaits, but one shared constant is the mid-range gear ratio of the reels he throws them on.
“I use the 6.6:1 Quantum Smoke HD for cranking because it’s got a big spool with a lot of line capacity, and for the jerkbait, I use the brand new Smoke S3 in a 6.1:1, because it casts so far and smooth,” he explains.
Ashley uses 10-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line with his jerkbaits, but cranks with 12-pound Hi-Seas.
Surprised by his success?
When asked if he was surprised to be sitting so high in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points after a bevy of smallmouth tournaments, Ashley replied, “Maybe just a little surprised, but at the St. Lawrence River I was able to find fish in the current around structure, which makes me feel more comfortable, and at Champlain, I was able to blend a few largemouth into the mix.”
As for St. Clair, he caught every fish he weighed-in during the Elite Series event of 2015 on a jerkbait, and finished 13th. So don’t expect him to change much. It’s a shallow-water plan he’s comfortable with, and it gets great results … even though he still doesn’t like smallmouth.
BASSMASTER ELITE SERIES PRO FRED ROUMBANIS WILL REPRESENT AMMO INCORPORATED® A LEADING DESIGNER, MANUFACTURER AND MARKETER OF PERFORMANCE-DRIVEN, HIGH-QUALITY AND INNOVATIVE AMMUNITION PRODUCTS, AS HE COMPETES IN THE 2018 BASSMASTER ELITE SERIES.
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UTILIZING SUPERIOR GRADE COMPONENTS AND HYPERCLEAN TECHNOLOGY, AMMO INCORPORATED PRODUCTS WILL HAVE YOU SHOOTING MORE ACCURATELY AND SPENDING LESS TIME CLEANING. FOR MORE, VISIT WWW.AMMO-INC.COM
Lake St. Clair is one of America’s all time greatest smallmouth fisheries. But when the Bassmaster Elite Series visited the Detroit area fishery in 2013, Greg Hackney chose to fish for largemouth based on the fact smallmouth looked more like retired Pistons point guard Isaiah Thomas than current Lions left tackle Greg Robinson.
“I don’t know what the deal was on St. Clair four years ago, but the smallmouth looked sickly, like they were starving. You’d catch a fish that should have weighed 4-pounds and he’d only weigh 3-pounds,” remembers Hackney.
“After a couple days of practice, I finally stumbled into some healthy largemouth and decided I had a better chance to do well catching those than skinny smallmouth, so I pitched a Strike King Menace around on a ¾ ounce Texas rig and caught enough largemouth to finish 18th,” he recalls.
“But that ain’t the case this week – these Smallmouth are healthy right now – and I’ll be fishing for them exclusively with spinning tackle,” confirmed Hackney before Day 1 launch at the Advanced Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite on Lake St. Clair.
While he may be fishing finesse techniques this week, it won’t be with undersized spinning reels. Hackney is religious about his love of larger spinning reels – and for good reason.
“A lot of people buy size 25 and 30 spinning reels for bass fishing, but I use a size 40 Speed Freak from Quantum because it holds more line, and leads to far less twists and tangles than a smaller spinning reel – especially if I’m using straight fluorocarbon line with no braided line,” explains Hackney.
“Like most guys, more times than not, I’ll use braid with a 7 to 8 foot long fluorocarbon leader on my spinning reels, because braid doesn’t twist nearly as bad, especially when you’re fishing a nose-hooked drop shot bait that’s spinning downward with each vertical drop you make,” he explains.
“But no matter what line you use, a bigger spinning reel just offers you better line management, and faster line pick-up. With that 6.2:1 gear ratio, you’re picking up about 39-inches of line with every turn of the handle,” he explains.
Known as a gritty shallow water stick, the Louisiana pro admits his favorite two ways to catch a bass are top water froggin’ and pitching to heavy cover, but what you love, verses what pays the bills are two very different things.
“That’s the life of an Elite Series pro, if you’re not willing and able to be versatile out here, this bunch of anglers will eat you alive. And if you can’t fish all the different techniques, you’ll starve,” concludes the highly accomplished Hackney.
The Advance Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair begins Thursday near Carhartt’s longtime headquarters in the Detroit metro.
The 128-year-old manufacturer of quality clothing for hard working people graciously hosted the Wednesday Elite Series angler meeting, and fed all pros and ride-along Marshals a great dinner.
Between bites of BBQ chicken, we caught up with Terry “Big Show” Scroggins, along with Jordan and Matt Lee, to learn what to expect from the fabulous fishery this week.
What will be the toughest challenge of this week’s tournament on Lake St. Clair?
Jordan Lee: Staying in productive areas, because the smallmouth don’t seem to be as grouped-up as I wish they were.
Matt Lee: Getting around schools versus single fish here and there.
Scroggins: The wind. It’s been big time rough water out there in practice.
What do you love most about Lake St. Clair?
Jordan Lee: The weather up here is awesome compared to the Deep South in late August.
Matt Lee: The number of fish per surface acre is as good or better than anywhere I’ve ever competed. It’s a pretty awesome fishery.
Scroggins: The number of fish in this lake is pretty phenomenal.
Name three lures fans at home can expect to see pros use the most this week.
Jordan Lee: Drop shot, tube, and a Strike King 5XD
Matt Lee: Tube, drop shot, and a 5XD
Scroggins: Drop shot, tube, and a jerkbait
How much weight will a pro need to average each day in order to make the final Top 12 cut?
Jordan Lee: 18 pounds
Matt Lee: 18 pounds
Scroggins: 20 pounds
We’re in Carhartt’s backyard this week. Name one piece of Carhartt clothing you never leave home without.
Jordan Lee: Carhartt Force Extremes Shoreline Angler rainsuit
Matt Lee: Carhartt Force Extremes Shoreline Angler rainsuit
Scroggins: Carhartt Force Extremes pocket t-shirts
MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 22, 2017) – Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today the 2018 Costa FLW Series schedule, which will consist of three events in each of the five divisions – Central, Northern, Southeastern, Southwestern and Western – along with the no-entry-fee Costa FLW Series Championship to be held on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.
The top 40 pros and co-anglers in the final point standings in each division after three qualifying tournaments will advance to the 2018 Costa FLW Series Championship, provided they fished all three qualifiers in a division.
The highest finishing pro from each of the five Costa FLW Series divisions based on final results at the 2018 Costa FLW Series Championship qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup, along with the highest finishing pro from the championship’s international division. A total of six Costa FLW Series pros will advance to the 2019 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of professional bass fishing.
Complete rules and entry dates will be announced soon.
2018 Costa FLW Series Season Schedule:
Central Division Fishery City Local Host
- April 19-21 Table Rock Lake Branson, Mo. ExploreBranson.com
- June 7-9 Lake Barkley Cadiz, Ky. Cadiz-Trigg County Tourism
- Oct. 11-13 Lake of the Ozarks Osage Beach, Mo. Tri-County Lodging Association
- June 21-23 Lake Champlain Plattsburgh, N.Y. City of Plattsburgh
- July 26-28 Lake Erie Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission
- Sept. 6-8 1000 Islands Clayton, N.Y. Clayton Chamber of Commerce
- Jan. 4-6 Lake Okeechobee Okeechobee, Fla. Okeechobee County Tourism Development Council
- March 1-3 Lake Seminole Bainbridge, Ga. Bainbridge Convention and Visitors Bureau
- April 5-7 Santee Cooper Summerton, S.C. Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce
- Feb. 15-17 Sam Rayburn Reservoir Jasper, Texas Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce
- March 22-24 Grand Lake Grove, Okla. City of Grove
- Oct. 4-6 Fort Gibson Lake Wagoner, Okla. Wagoner Area Chamber of Commerce
- Feb. 8-10 Lake Havasu Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau
- May 10-12 Clear Lake Lakeport, Calif. Konocti Vista Casino Resort and Marina
- Sept. 27-29 California Delta Bethel Island, Calif. Russo’s Marina
Costa FLW Series Championship
- Nov. 1-3 Lake Guntersville Guntersville, Ala. Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau
The full schedule and details for each fishery can be found at FLWFishing.com.
For complete details and updated information visit FLWFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Costa FLW Series on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.
FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money in 2017 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 258 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea. FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW” television show, broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, while FLW Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros. For more information visit FLWFishing.com and follow FLW at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.