MONETA, Va. — Boyd Duckett and Casey Ashley are sharing accommodations this week on Smith Mountain Lake. But they won't be sharing water on Day Three of the Blue Ridge Brawl presented by Advance Auto Parts.
"We're doing two totally different things," said Ashley, who trails Duckett by 13 ounces. "It won't even be an issue."
Duckett has been in the driver's seat since Day One, when he hauled in 19 pounds, 5 ounces — a feat that most anglers considered unlikely, if not unattainable, on this tight-fisted fishery.
Although Duckett's pace slackened on Day Two, he still weighed enough (14-9) to keep a comfortable advantage. Comfortable, that is, until Ashley showed up at Friday's weigh-in with 22 pounds.
"I told [Duckett] what I had when I came in, and he said, 'You're lying," said Ashley, who moved all the way from 49th to second. "Honestly, though, I didn't think his 19 pounds would be touched."
As roommates this week, it wouldn't be unusual for Duckett to share fishing advice with his young friend. After all, Duckett is the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion. But the two anglers are using different tactics, and Duckett's input thus far has been mainly friendly encouragement.
Ashley has been tight lipped about his approach, saying only that he gave up fishing boat docks after the first day in favor of deeper water on Day Two. He also revealed that he switched from a finesse worm to a jig. Today, he'll continue that approach, he said.
Duckett also switched gears on Day Two, going to shallow water when his deep-water fish quit biting. He started Saturday by fishing a topwater lure, and he said he'll run that pattern the first few hours before heading back to deeper water, where he'll use a drop shot to entice bass in about 20 feet of water.
"I had to go shallow [Friday] because my deep fish just weren't biting," Duckett said. "But I really want to fish deep because I'm getting better quality bites out there."
A cold front moved through the area late Friday night, bringing with it rain and slightly cooler temperatures. But most pros said the change was too minor to affect today's bite.
That doesn't mean there won't be changes today. For one, recreational boat traffic will be intense. How much it will affect the competition depends on who you ask.
"I'm actually looking forward to the boat traffic," Duckett said. "It may help me. A lot of my fish were suspended [on Friday], so the traffic might help push them back to the bottom so I can get the bites I missed."
It isn't just a matter of the traffic helping Duckett; it's also a situation where it could hamper other competitors.
"The traffic could affect them by killing or shortening the bite for topwater and boat dock fish," Duckett said. "If that bite ended, it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all."
Dean Rojas, currently in third place, said the traffic wouldn't get in the way of his pattern, either. He's fishing shallow, even finding a few bedding fish on Friday.
But Duckett and Rojas are in the minority in dismissing the traffic's effect. Ashley said it could destroy his pattern.
"I'm going to hit my main lake stuff early and pray they bite," he said. "If it gets too bad, I've got some boat docks to fall back on."
Shaw Grigsby, who's in fifth, isn't looking forward to the traffic, either.
"But you just deal with it," he said. "It may be a rough day on the water. You can't feel your bait; you don't know if you're getting a bite or if you're not. It's going to be interesting. And it will definitely be a different day."
Today's competition will be without one of the local favorites, Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va., who was disqualified following Friday's weigh-in. BASS officials said Morris, who was about 9 pounds off the lead, violated Rule 14 by leaving his boat to land a fish. Morris contended the rule is vague and that he did nothing wrong, saying he plans to appeal it.
"This cost me the Classic and a lot of money," he said. "It's wrong, and I don't agree with it."