Ashley simply hates sight fishing
Casey Ashley, who won the $100,000 top prize when BASS visited Smith Mountain Lake in June of 2007, couldn't recapture that same magic Thursday. He fell one fish short of his limit for 12-11 and is currently just inside the top 50 cut at 49th.
Despite his prior success here, Ashley didn't have any spectator boats following him. No one had their eyes on him, and if he had his way he wouldn't have had to depend on his eyes, either. It's common knowledge that most of the field is depending on a sight fishing bite. Accordingly, he said that he'd rather be here "any time but now."
"I hate sight fishing," he said. "You see people going out in practice just looking for them for three days without a rod in my hand. It hurts me to do that. It kills me. I can't stand it."
Fortunately for Ashley's sanity, he believes that he stumbled onto a shad spawn pattern late Thursday that he might be able to exploit Friday — and thereby give his aching eyes a rest.
Polarized-peering not popular with Brauer, either
Like Ashley, former Bassmaster Classic champion Denny Brauer fell short of his limit Thursday.
While not known as a sight-fisherman, he succumbed to the pressure to catch bedding fish and may have been lulled into a false sense of security by what he said was an exceptional prefish period.
"I might've had too good of a practice," he said. "I probably only had 12 pounds on Monday, but I easily had 18 pounds on both the second and third practice days. It was totally different conditions and it's totally frustrating."
When the weather changed he had no choice but to fall into line with his polarized-peering competition.
He echoed Ashley's words precisely by saying "I hate sight fishing," then elaborated on the reasons: "It's not necessarily because I'm not good at it. I caught 27 pounds doing it at Santee. But I don't like to spend the whole practice finding them and then you come around the corner and someone is on them. When it's the dominant pattern, there's an awful lot of pocket jumping. You hear a lot of motors all day from all of the running around."
Nevertheless, he'll succumb to the temptation to chase bedding fish for at least part of the day before giving into his inner jig flipper.
"I know where there's a couple of good ones," he said. "But after that I'm going to find me some muddy water and get away from the zoo."
Herren's rookie lead grows
Alabama's Matt Herren sacked 17-11, and sits in fourth place. But if he can maintain that position, he'll likely to extend his already substantial lead in the Rookie of the Year race.
Heading into the Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl, he had a 61-point lead over fellow Alabama rookie Greg Vinson.
Vinson won't give up without a fight, though. He ended Day One in 16th place, well poised to make a charge and close the gap if Herren stumbles.
Chad Griffin, who was in third in the rookie race, 101 points behind Herren, struggled. If he doesn't improve upon his 97th-place status, he'll likely lose substantial ground.
Herren, for his part, professed not to care about the race among the first years: "I just want to make the Classic," he said.
He was in 22nd in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race headed into this week's event, so at the halfway point he promises to be well on the way to that goal. With a top-12 finish, and a few choice poor finishes by those currently ahead of him, he could also make a charge at the two invitation-only events that the top 12 will fish after the conclusikon of the eight-event regular season.
Not bad for a rookie.
"I pulled up in the back of the first pocket and said, 'Oh my God.'" — Kelly Jordon
"I think a 30-pound sack is doable, I really do." — Kelly Jordon
"A smallmouth is the best fish to try and catch off a bed, they just bite instantly." — Randy Howell
"They're getting plucked like chickens out there." — Jeff Reynolds on the sight bite
"Mine is not a story of the one that got away, more like the one that wouldn't bite." — Byron Velvick
"Sight fishing is an exciting way to fish, but you can be a hero or a zero." — Dave Wolak
"I like sight fishing but just have a hard time finding them." — Tommy Biffle
"I spent until 11 o'clock running from big fish to big fish I had marked on my GPS. They were all gone or caught." — Alton Jones
"They sucked up all the good fish." — Jeff Connella
"There's a lot of empty white spots out there now." — Marty Stone
"I got me a new Power Pole that I really like, I love that thing. I've been running around the lake putting it up and down all day. I call it my crawdad stabber." — Gerald Swindle
"I sight fished all day too. Every time I saw a tree or a bush I threw at it." — Guy Eaker
"Can I weigh six tomorrow?" — Peter Thliveros, after weighing only four fish on Day One
"It's a comedy of errors when I try to bed fish." — Denny Brauer