Sunday Slow Down

MONETA, Va. — Some people have to mow the grass on Sunday afternoons. Others get to fish. At Smith Mountain Lake on this particular Sunday, the top 12 Elite BASS anglers are "the others."

Traditionally reserved for worship and time spent with family in these Virginia hills, the last day of the Blue Ridge Brawl presented by Advance Auto Parts proved to be a slow-fishing, and at times, even leisurely family affair.

The weather on the Seventh Day, the fourth day of the tournament, was the most pleasant of the event. Early summer temperatures made it warm in the sun, but just perfect in the shade. A light breeze cut between the mountain passes, bouncing off the narrowed lake. Humidity had all but gone away, and fluffy, slow-moving clouds trundled overhead.

And boaters found the lake the most popular of all days. Traffic was up, yet boat pace was more of a country drive then a city commute.

In one sleepy cove, BASS pro angler Mike Wurm, heading into the tournament's last day in the 12th spot, worked his spinning rod to cast a green worm between docks laden with eager sunbathers.

"Hey Mike," came a voice from one particular dock. It was Donna and Danny Ashley, the proud parents of son Casey, who was fishing the other side of the point just minutes before.

"How's my boy doing?" Mr. Ashley asked. Wurm shrugged and smiled. "But it's pretty slow for me, so far," Wurm said.

Just then, Wurm's worm got hit. The angler pulled in a livewell-worthy bass, turned back to the Ashleys and smiled.

"That feels better," Wurm said. "Now, I just need some more hits."

Casey's parents wished good luck and headed toward their deck.

Casey Ashley was popular to more than just his parents on Sunday. Going into the final day, Ashley had a lead of more than 4 pounds over second-place Dean Rojas. But everywhere he turned, someone was watching. At one point, 14 boats surrounded the South Carolina native.

As Ashley threw a jig into deeper water, photographers, fans, former co-anglers and other family members followed his progress. One boater noted, "This is like an Iaconelli crowd," referring to the dynamic New Jersey angler. But Ashley appeared unfazed by the attention. He remained calm on the deck of his boat, casting methodically and purposefully.

John Crews of nearby Salem, Va., found his Sunday more calming than most. After sliding into the final with a handsome bag of fish on the previous day, Crews was able to find a way to escape the pressure and fish his game.

He had three fish already when he returned to the same spot where he had bagged a solid keeper on Day Three. Perhaps Crews found comfort in this hole by a bridge he had crossed so many times going to this lake. And sure enough, he soon found his bite.

Regardless of Sunday's results, the feeling on this slow day on the water and at the weigh-in was that of anxious relaxation.

But then again, it was only noon. The anglers wouldn't bring in their curious black bags to the waiting masses for three hours yet.

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