Let’s start by saying congratulations to Casey Ashley for winning the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. Winning that tournament is never an easy task, but winning any event in your home area is monumental. I have come really close a couple of times to winning at Clear Lake and the California Delta and have fallen short, so I know how tough it can be.

Casey did a great job of managing the attention and balancing the task of keeping current with the conditions while allowing local knowledge to help him when he needed it. He did a great job and really earned the title.

I had a neat moment with him after the final day in the boat yard. Our boats were parked next to each other all week, so when he got back, I asked him how it went. He told me that he was “nervous as a cat.”  I looked at his fish and said, “Congratulations, you just won the Bassmaster Classic.” He really killed ‘em that final day.

I’m very happy for him, he’s a great guy, a true gentleman, and I know that he is going to do a great job of being the sport’s biggest ambassador for the next year. I will say this; we’re gonna have to talk to B.A.S.S. about not letting him sing the national anthem at blastoff anymore. Every time he does, he wins the tournament.

I thought things were going to go a lot better for me; especially after my first day. It was frickin’ awesome to come into the arena with a big bag on the first day of the Bassmaster Classic. Everything went really well that day, and then, it all changed.

I had the kind of conditions I wanted on the first day. In spite of the cold and the frozen guides on my rods, the sun was out, and the big ones were positioned so that I could catch them easily. I caught a 20-pound bag, and was in second place – in great position to win the tournament.

I caught those fish by casting a spoon and throwing a swimbait around in creeks. It was the first time I got to throw my Pro Carbon rods with my new Double Trigger System in extreme cold. I was really impressed with how that second trigger gave me so much more control of the rod even with my fingers being numb and with gloves on.

I thought that I was going to be able to run the same program on the second day in spite of the cloud cover and went out there with the confidence that I was gonna get the bites I needed. I did, but I lost the two biggest bites I had. Either one of those would have had me right there even with Takahiro Omori for the second day lead. If I landed both of them, I would have been in the lead going into the final day.

I tried to adjust on the final day, but just couldn’t get on the deeper bite and had to scramble to bring something to the scales. I didn’t finish how I wanted to, but I gave myself an opportunity to be there on the first day. Lake Hartwell switched it up on me again, and I couldn’t get on the backup plan that I’d hoped.

Overall though, it was a good week. The cities of Greenville and Anderson, S.C., really did a great job and were great hosts. I went into the Classic Expo to check it out before the tournament started and was really impressed by the layout. I went into the Dick’s Sporting Goods booth and was humbled to see how much it was the Skeet Reese booth. They had my picture up everywhere, and that really meant a lot to me. I hear the traffic at the show was huge, too, and that is always a great thing for the sport.

We’re home now, after a couple of delays caused by the crazy weather that hit the South. So, I’ll spend some time with the family and get myself ready for the 2015 Elite Series season. As always, my goal is to win the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and of course qualify for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic.

Talk to you soon.

What have you caught lately?