The minute the Lake Jordan leg of Toyota Trucks All-Star Week ended Sunday evening in Wetumpka, Ala., everyone’s focus swung to the postseason’s final leg, July 29-31 on the Alabama River out of Montgomery.
Even Casey Ashley, the Lake Jordan winner, said his victory was not of consequence.
“All we did here was figure out who we’ll be up against on the Alabama River,” said Ashley, a first-time postseason qualifier. “That I won is beside the point.”
But he did gain another winner’s notch in his Bassmaster belt. He’s now a three-time Bassmaster Elite Series winner. The first was in 2007, his rookie year, on Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake. His second win was in May 2011 on Lake Murray in his home state, South Carolina.
The Jordan win made him the No. 1 postseason seed, meaning his will be the first boat out — although with just eight boats, that’s an advantage of only seconds. Seeding also is a fourth-level tiebreaker.
Ashley said he’d never competed on Lake Jordan before. Without experience on the lake, he decided to stick to his shallow-water fishing strength.
It worked. He caught all his Jordan fish shallow, even though the lake is deep in the throes of summer dog days. Some of the fish were so shallow, he could see them. He estimated the skinniest water he fished was less than 1 foot deep, and the deepest about 8 feet.
“I don’t care where you go in the country — clear water, dirty water, rivers, lakes — there’s always a shallow bite somewhere. You just have to find it. Most of the time, there is a real small window of opportunity to catch them shallow, and it opens first thing in the morning.”
The keys are looking for water temps that drop slightly, perhaps due to incoming water flow from a stream or rainwater runoff. Another key, he said, was the presence of baitfish.
The most common mistake anglers make in a summer shallow-water setup is fishing too slowly, he said.
“You have to keep moving while the bite’s good,” he said. “When the bite slows down, you can slow down with them.”
He found early fish up against homeowners’ seawalls, especially near grassy edges.
His winning technique was swimming a Jewel Bait jig, the 3/8-ounce Eakins Flip’n Jig in peanut butter jelly color. The trailer was a Zoom Creepy Crawler in green pumpkin. A few fish fell to his Rebel Pop-R presentation.
All his fish came in one shallow midlake creek of average size, he said. The first day, he had his five keepers by 10 a.m. The second competition day, the fishing got tougher. At 2 p.m., he did not have a limit, and doubt and worry started to creep in.
“I had a brushpile I thought I’d catch five in real quick. It didn’t work out that way, and I left (the creek). I came back later, and it was on.”
Come Friday, he vowed, he’d stick with what got him to the Alabama River.
“The river sets up with how I like to fish — all shallow. I’ll key in on flipping shallow cover — that’s what I do best.”