Hometown favorite Ashley wins 2015 Bassmaster Classic

Homemade lure the ticket for 31-year-old South Carolina pro

This time, Mighty Casey didn’t strike out.

Casey Ashley, a 31-year-old bass pro from Donalds, S.C., hit a home run on Sunday on his home water and won the 2015 Bassmaster Classic with a great final-day catch of more than 20 pounds.

Ashley mined the waters of Lake Hartwell –  which is around 30 minutes from his home – for a five-fish limit that weighed 20 pounds, 3 ounces. His three-day total of 50 pounds, 1 ounce, gave him a winning margin of slightly  more than 3 pounds to win the $300,000 first-prize.

“I’ve been out there all week struggling, nothing going quite right, and I knew I had to catch ‘em today, and I had the perfect conditions for me to catch a big bass,” said Ashley, who had a limit fairly early in the day and cemented his win with a 4-pound bass an hour or so before fishing came to an end. “I probably caught 20 fish today, and every one I caught, I could see it getting closer and closer.”

Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., had a great 19-pound, 1-ounce catch to move from ninth place to second, finishing with 46-15. Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., the first-round leader, was third with 43-13 after bagging a 12-pound, 4-ounce limit. Takahiro Omori, the Japanese pro from Emory, Texas, who led after the second day, finished fourth with 43-3 after catching a 12 ½-pound limit on Sunday. Virginia angler Jacob Powroznik caught 18-15 on Sunday to jump to fifth place with 43-1.

Ashley, who has won three times on the BASS Tournament Trail, had been pointing to Hartwell and the Classic for much of the year. He expected to catch fish during the tournament on a jig, his favorite  bait, but he couldn’t catch a big bass all week. So on Sunday, he went in a different direction.

“I won this tournament on a homemade lure,” Ashley said. “My daddy made this bait two weeks ago – he made about 24 of them – and he told me I’d win the Bassmaster Classic on them.”

Ashley fished a white Zoom Super Fluke Junior on the homemade “spinhead” – a leadhead jig with a spinnerblade twirling from a swivel molded into the jig. The style of lure is popular on reservoirs that have a big population of spotted bass, which 56,000-acre Hartwell does.

“It’s nothing special; we’ve made them for years,” Ashley said. “I was going through, getting my tackle ready about a month ago, and I was super busy. I called (my dad) and told him I’ve got to have some of those “Blade Runners.” He gave me a Ziploc bag with 24 of them in it.”

The spinhead was a basic “pony head” jig, with a 4/0 Mustad hook and a No. 3 ½ nickel-colored willow-leaf blade attached to the head with a swivel.

But Ashley had to overcome his expectations before he turned the bait into a winner.

“Going into the tournament, I’d never have believed it would be the way I won it,” he said. “The conditions have to line up perfectly to catch a big bag of this on that bait.”

Ashley boated limits that weighed a few ounces on either side of 15 pounds the first two days with the spinhead and Fluke, then he’d spend several hours fishing brush piles and docks with a jig, looking for a big fish that never bit.

Catching an overcast day on Sunday, he stayed with those fish the entire day. He had a limit quickly and culled three fish to upgrade his weight, culling a 3-pounder about an hour before he had to be in.

“I spent way too much time the first two days trying to make it happen on a jig,” he said. “I would have never been behind if I’d stayed on those fish there.”

Ashley has been looking forward to fishing the Classic on his home lake since the 2014-15 BASS schedule was announced.

“Fishing the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell was the only thing that mattered to me all year,” he said.