Ashley starts Classic in penalty box

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Casey Ashley is considered by many to be one of the favorites to win the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

But if he wins, he’ll do it with 38 minutes less fishing time than the rest of the field. Contrary to unverified published reports of 40 minutes, B.A.S.S. officials confirmed the penalty is 38 minutes. 

Ashley was 38 minutes late checking in for Wednesday’s official practice period at Lake Hartwell — and as a result, he’ll start Friday’s opening round by sitting for that amount of time in the "penalty box."

“It was completely my fault,” said Ashley, a Donalds, S.C., pro who considers Hartwell his home lake. “We’re just so locked in out there to the idea that we can’t use our phone, can’t look at it. I was just going off the GPS.”

Trouble was Ashley didn’t change the time on his GPS last weekend when everyone sprang forward an hour for Daylight Savings Time.

“I’m just glad it happened Wednesday and not Friday once the tournament started,” Ashley said. “That would have meant a disqualification.”

During tournament competition, B.A.S.S. rules call for 1 pound to be deducted from an angler’s weight for every minute he’s late. After 15 minutes, his entire weight for the day is disqualified.

The good news for Ashley is that he knows the lake very well, having fished it most of his life and having won the 2015 Classic here. He also said the kind of fishing he’s likely to do this week won’t depend heavily on an early-morning bite.

“If we were bed fishing or something like that, it could really hurt,” he said. “But with what’s going on out there right now, it’s not a big deal.”

In the 2015 Classic on Hartwell, the same thing happened to Arizona angler Dean Rojas, who was 28 minutes late for practice check-in. He did his time in the penalty box and then went out and led the first round with five bass that weighed 21 pounds, 2 ounces.

Though not happy about the situation, Ashley said he certainly isn’t going to complain.

“You can’t get mad when it’s your fault,” he said with a shrug.