Casey Ashley’s got it made. The 32-year-old Carolina boy is truly living the dream. Way back in 4th grade, Ashley wrote a paper about his dream job – being a professional angler. He became a pro angler shortly after high school, won a ton of local bass fishing tournaments, his share of Bassmaster Opens and Elite Series tournaments and in 2015, he won the Bassmaster Classic.

Along the way, Ashley teamed up with Rodney Clawson to record a country music CD entitled “Released,” adding to what any small-town Carolina boy would surely call a dream life.

He’s one of the most likable professional bass anglers, he has an infectious smile, and he’s admittedly having one of the toughest weeks of his life right now. After bombing in several Elite Series tournaments this season, including one in his home state, Ashley is scratching and clawing to stay alive in the Angler of the Year hunt, and struggling to make it to next year’s Bassmaster Classic.

Currently in 41st place among Elite Series anglers as the last tournament of the season gets underway today in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Ashley needs to finish in the top 39 for the year in order to qualify for his 8th Classic. And if you think it should be easy to bump up two places in one tournament, you need to know that another dozen or so anglers are within just a few points of Ashley, and are scratching and clawing just as hard to make next year's Classic.

About his situation, Ashley said “this is the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, down by one run.”

And if what happened in practice earlier this week is any indicator, it’s not going to be easy for Ashley to make it.

Heading in after practicing on Monday, Ashley hit a shallow sandbar, beaching his boat in a way that left 99 percent of the boat visible. He was so shallow, Ashely said a raccoon waded past him without getting its belly wet.

“It was so shallow that just before dark, as I sat there waiting on help, I had a raccoon wade past me and he didn’t even get the fur on his belly wet. I’m dead serious,” Ashley said, grinning his signature smile.

Ashley had to leave his boat on the sandbar through the night, and got back to his hotel at 1:45 a.m., then had an air boat pull his boat free several hours later, squeezing 4 hours of practice in on Tuesday.

Ashley also needs to finish in the top 50 to stay alive in the Angler of the Year Championship, so even if he doesn’t make up the two crucial spots needed to creep in to the Classic, he can at least stay alive in the AOY. If he bombs this week, his season is over, and he’ll miss the Classic.

“The pressure is really high. You’re supposed to go out there, just relax, and fish, but it’s tough with this much stuff going through your mind. I’ll have to bring my A-game every day, but I love fishing this kind of event. I guess the added pressure brings out my best performance,” he said.