In his own words: Casey Ashley

The guaranteed Bassmaster Classic spot (if you win a regular season Elite Series event) is really something. The Classic is special. It isn’t just the money. It’s the only tournament where we all stay in the same place and do the same things. We get to talk and spend time together. I enjoy that.

It’s good for our sponsors, too. We get to talk with them and, in some cases, put a face to a name. We also get to pay them back with a lot of exposure. Nobody misses anything when we walk across the stage and hold up our fish.

I’m telling you, last year just about killed me. I qualified for three in a row and then missed the one in New Orleans. It brought it all home to me. Even though I’m having a pretty good year, this takes a big load off my mind.

Let’s face it, you can never be sure in fishing. These guys are real good. All it takes is a couple of bad tournaments or something to go wrong, and you’re in big trouble. This takes that off my mind.

It was even more special being about an hour and a half from home. My family was here — dad followed me on the water and watched me catch every fish — as well as a ton of my buddies from back when we fished local tournaments. You have to love that. I’m almost as happy for them as I am for myself.

It’s a big deal, really. You don’t get that many opportunities to win, so it’s nice to know that you did it when you had the chance. I think that’s pretty much the way we all feel about these events. If you mess up, there’s no telling how long it’ll be before you get another chance.

This gives me some new opportunities for the next two events, too. I don’t have to protect my Classic standing, so I can fish to win. That’s what I’ve always dreamed about, being able to ignore the points and the standings and just go for it.

I’m not going to get crazy, though. You’ll not see me come to the scales with two fish — not if I can help it, anyway. I like to catch fish too much for that. My goal now is to do the best I can to try to win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year contest. I know I’m down a ways, but anything’s possible if you start catching fish. I’d at least like to qualify for All Star Week.

And, I’m not going to deny that the money matters. I have great sponsors, and I’m not hurting, but this is a real shot in the arm. It’s not mentioned very often, but this is the way we earn our living. We have to eat. This makes that a lot easier.

Maybe we’ll talk again after the Arkansas River tournament.