Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., bounced back to reclaim the lead today after bringing 17 pounds, 5 ounces to the scale during the semi-final round of GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino and Resort at Lake Texoma.
Ashley’s limit of bass bumped his three-day total to 51-15, which is more than 3 pounds ahead of Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., who now sits in second.
“The morning hours are very important to producing a solid limit,” Ashley said. “Once the sun gets high, the fish seem more reluctant to bite. It’s flat-out challenging to cull up during the afternoon.”
Even after three days of competition and several official practice days, the 2015 Bassmaster Classic champion said that he still isn’t locked in on a specific pattern, but the fishing remains good in his area.
“During most tournaments you can often predict when and where the fish will bite, but here it’s not that way at all. The fish are setting up in submerged bushes that are typically on dry land. When one does bite, it’s very random compared to how and where the last fish did.”
Ashley said that covering water and keeping his lure in the brush is the best way to find and catch active fish.
Swindle caught 16 pounds today pushing this total weight to 48-5, and he attributes his success to fishing ultra slow and giving the brush-hugging bass several opportunities to see and eat his presentation.
“I missed a lot of fish today. They were biting it, but not fully eating it, which makes it hard to get a good hookset,” Swindle said. “I personally believe that the receding water makes the bass uncomfortable, which results in half-hearted bites. I am catching good fish, though, and with a weather change in the forecast, I bet it gets even better on Sunday”
Each day of competition, Swindle has improved his placement in the daily standings. The only way to better today’s finish is to win on Sunday, and in order for that to happen, he thinks at least 19 pounds will be required.
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., weighed in a five-bass limit for 12-7 and fell two spots to third place today. He is currently 4 pounds, 13 ounces out of the lead.
“I didn’t get the big bites today, but to be honest I’m very happy with how things have gone so far,” Hackney said. “I came here to finish strong and improve on my Angler of the Year standings, and now I’ve got a shot at winning this thing.
“I’m glad we have a day off, which I believe will help me and the fishing. There is a pending weather system pushing through by the end of the weekend, and I think that will help what I’ve got going on.”
Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., caught a bass that weighed in at 7-6, which is the derby’s new Phoenix Boats Big Bass. If a bigger bass isn’t caught during Championship Sunday, Tharp will take home a $1,500 bonus.
Rounding out the Top 10 are Rick Clunn (44-0), Chad Morgenthaler (43-8), Brandon Card (43-1), Randall Tharp (42-9), Bradley Roy (42-3), Ott DeFoe (41-10) and Keith Poche (41-6).