Classic caddies — they play an important role in driving competitors to and from the boatyard for practice and tournament days, launching and trailering, loading gear and providing all the assistance and support needed for a busy Classic week.
It has to be someone you trust, and often a close friend or relative gets the call.
This year, Jacob Powroznik’s caddy, Darryle Ashmore, brings a ton of memories and meaningful moments of where it all began. And where it all began is where Powroznik hopes to solidify his career — Greenville, S.C., host of the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk on Lake Hartwell.
Ashmore’s sister, Cindy, is Powroznik’s mother, and that uncle-nephew relationship helped spark an interest that blossomed into one of the most driven and competitive anglers ever to spool a reel. For this story to come full circle at the 52nd Bassmaster Classic — priceless.
“He’s going to drive me to and from the boat ramp and hang out with me and enjoy the experience that I get to experience,” Powroznik said. “That’s one thing that’s going to mean a lot to me.”
Powroznik said that feeling’s amplified by the road that lead him to a Classic berth.
After five years on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Powroznik took a two-year break but soon realized where he belonged. Dead set on qualifying for an Elite return, he signed up for all nine of the 2021 Bassmaster Opens. Facing an all-or-nothing mission, Powroznik kept his head down and earned that Elite invitation, along with the Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year title.
“It takes a lot to get into the Elites, so I had the most intense pressure you could ever imagine,” Powroznik said of his Herculean undertaking. “I mean from the first day of the first tournament, to the second day of the last tournament (Powroznik did not make the top 10 cut in the season-ending event on Grand Lake), you’re never fishing clearly. Those nine tournaments were the most challenging year I’ve ever had in bass fishing.”
Along the way, Powroznik won the Open on Lewis Smith Lake and landed an automatic Classic berth. As soon as he earned his spot in the sport’s grandest event, Powroznik knew who he wanted driving his rig. Conversations in the cab of that Toyota Tundra will, no doubt, reflect the significance of the road that led him to his sixth Classic appearance.
“It felt like I had two 400-pound cinder blocks sitting on my shoulders (throughout the 2021 season),” Powroznik said. “When I won at Smith Lake, was I excited? Absolutely — but the second day at Grand Lake when I weighed in five bass for 11-14 and earned an Elite qualification, it felt like someone took a ball peen hammer and broke those 400-pound weights off my shoulder.
“I could breathe.”
Powroznik’s maternal side of the family hails from the Greenville-Spartanburg area, and while he grew up in North Prince George, Va., where he currently resides, Upstate South Carolina will forever hold a special place in his heart. Many of Powroznik’s relatives have relocated — several to Virginia — but about 10 still reside in the Palmetto State.
The demands of a professional fisherman’s life have limited the visits, but Powroznik enjoys reminiscing about childhood traditions that helped develop his fishing interests. Some of his favorites were family trips to Lake Keowee. Notably, this reservoir impounds water from the Keowee and Little rivers, with the outflows from their namesake dams forming the Seneca River.
The confluence of the Seneca and the Tugaloo rivers create the Savannah River, home to Lake Hartwell.
Small world, huh?
“We used to to go to Lake Keowee all the time,” Powroznik said. “My grandfather and my Uncle Hayward used to have a cabin on the lake, and my family would drive our camper up there for two weeks. That’s where we used to spend our summers for about two weeks at a time — on Lake Keowee.
“We’d go fishing every day or troll. That’s what my grandpa liked to do; we’d go fishing for a little while in the morning, and then we’d put on a crankbait and troll.”
Fun times, for sure, but Powroznik’s particularly thankful for his late father, David, and his uncles for introducing him to hunting and fishing. Turning that early interest into a successful career has been his way of saying “thank you.”
“My dad passed away about six years ago and I wear his initials — D.A.P. — on the shoulder of my jersey,” Powroznik said.
Having fished Hartwell 25 to 30 times, Powroznik said he feels he understands the lake well. Notching fifth-place finishes at the 2015 and 2018 Classics supports the premise.
“The weather will dictate a lot about this Classic,” Powroznik said. “If it stays cold, there will be about six guys competing for the win, but if it gets warm (as the forecast indicates), any of the 55 competitors can win.”
Seeking to maximize the moment for his local relatives, Powroznik said he’s taking a measured approach to this year’s Classic.
“You have to stay consistent and put yourself in position on that third day,” he said. “To have a chance to win, you have to make the top 25, and in my opinion, anybody in the top 25 can win the Classic.
“So that’s my goal — to make it to the top 25 and just see where it leads.”
Only one person can win a Bassmaster Classic, but winners often lift the sport’s most coveted trophy in honor of those they hold dearest. For Jacob Powroznik, just having a pile of joyfully boisterous kin cheering him on will make his Classic.
“It’s awesome, man,” he said. “The Classic is the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, and to have a bunch of family there to support me during the weigh-ins, that means a lot. I think I have 10 to 12 people coming from Virginia too, so I’ll have a big cheering section.
“When those curtains open and you can hear them screaming and ringing cowbells, that’s what it’s all about. Those fans mean everything to us.
As the years revealed Powroznik’s professional fishing course, he’s found his family roundly supportive. Topping the list are his sister, Cassie, who helps him with logistics and clerical tasks and his ever-encouraging mother, Cindy.
Powroznik’s going back to his roots, and he’ll do his best to put on a show for those who know him best. Each of those clapping, shouting, cowbell-shaking relatives and friends matters deeply to him, but there’s always the one — the person who stands out among the sea of faces.
The one you specifically try to locate. The one who puts that lump in your throat.
In a hushed tone, Powroznik identified his one: “My mom. She started with me, and she’s been with me the whole time.”