South Carolina’s two members of the Bassmaster Classic field had widely differing views of how Friday’s first day of the tournament on Lake Hartwell went.
Casey Ashley of Donalds, considered by many as the favorite to win the $300,000 first-prize money, checked in with a respectable 5-fish limit that weighed 15 pounds, 3 ounces, putting him in fifth place and right in the thick of things.
Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg had a limit that weighed 11 pounds, 8 ounces, and he was disconsolate, afraid that he’d ruined his chances of winning the “World Series” of bass fishing.
“You can’t win it on the first day, but you can dang sure lose it,” said Ashley, who weighed in four largemouth bass and one spotted bass, all of them roughly 3-pound fish. “I’m happy with it. That’s about what I thought I’d have if I didn’t catch a real good fish.”
Ashley, who caught seven keepers and culled one largemouth bass and one spotted bass, felt like a 90-minute delay in blast-off due to the single-digit temperatures cost him a chance to improve his catch, and with anglers scheduled to hit the water at 7 a.m. on Saturday, he’ll be able to do a little bit more.
“I didn’t have time to run around and fish the stuff I wanted to,” he said. “But tomorrow will be better for everybody. It will be overcast, and the fishing will be better. It was aggravating today that my rods kept freezing up. It’s hard to skip a dock when your rod is freezing up.”
Montgomery, on the other hand, expected to catch 15 pounds and didn’t, winding up in 18th place.
“If you’re going to be disappointed, you might as well be disappointed at the Classic,” he said. “I might be too far behind now. I needed 15 pounds today. I didn’t think there was any way I wouldn’t catch 15. I can’t believe I didn’t. I had such a good practice.”
Montgomery caught only five keepers, and the difference between a good day and a disappointing one might have been the two fish he hooked and didn’t get in the boat.
“I broke on off that I didn’t see, and I lost a 4-pounder at the boat,” said Montgomery, who caught his fish on a jig in 35 feet of water. “Everything was off – numbers of fish and size. I’m beside myself that I caught only 11 pounds. I had an incredible practice.”