Casey Ashley – How I got here
Having done many “How I Got Here” interviews, every professional fisherman seems to have a story. Whether they were given an opportunity or they won a tournament, there is always a turning point in their career and for B.A.S.S. Elite pro Casey Ashley things are no different.
“My Daddy fished all his life and when I came along he took me fishing too. Even when I was 5 – 6 years old I wanted to be a professional fisherman. Regardless of how old I was, everyone would laugh at me but I knew I was going to get there someday.”
Ashley’s tournament experience goes back to the age of 10! That’s right 10 years old! He started fishing tournaments with his Dad at such a young age, Ashley remembers him and his Dad being turned away because Casey was too young.
“I’ve been running the front of the boat since I was about 12 or 13 years old,” says Ashley. “My dad just kind of put me up there and say have it! So, I did and I think I took full advantage of it.”
“Fishing is all I’ve ever wanted to do, but I still went to school and through school I fished a lot of BFLs when I was 18, 19, 20, I also fish some EverStart (Rayovac) tournaments and the Strens series. In 2006 when I qualified for the Elites, it’s not like I woke up one day and said I’m going to qualify for the Elites, I had to work for it. That year the Stren series opened up on Lake Okeechobee and I had a good tournament there, and two weeks later the B.A.S.S Opens were scheduled to be there. Since I made a decent cheque in the Stren series I thought I would go back and fish the Open. Back then, I traveled with Marty Robinson and Jason Willamson because that’s the only way we could afford to do it. By the end of the season, we had all had a good year fishing the Opens and we all qualified for the Elite series, but personally I wasn’t ready.”
Fishing the Elite series is not an inexpensive endeavor. Between tournament entry fees, travel costs and a place to lay your head, for a full year you could end up spending between $80,000 – $125,000, depending on how comfortable you live of course.
The year Ashley qualified for the Elites, he had won a boat in September but to be able to afford the entry fees for the Elites he had to sell the boat, but he couldn’t find any takers.
“If you haven’t tried to sell a boat before, it’s not easy,” says Ashley. “When I qualified for the Elites, not selling the boat would mean I couldn’t fish. I had to come up with a lot of money. It was a grind, it really was. I had a boat but didn’t have the money to fish the tournaments I qualified for. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the boat, but it was tough.”
“At that time I didn’t have any sponsors. I worked for Chatterbaits. Before I turned, what you could say “pro”, I sat in that office making those baits, packaging them up and shipping them out. Chatterbaits was with me in the start, but I didn’t have any other sponsors.”
“My rookie season fishing the Elites, I was able to come up with the first couple of payments, and I didn’t do to badly fishing, so I was able to come up with the next couple of payments. Half way through the season my boat sold, so that gave me a little more of a cushion for the next payment. Then the next tournament was on Clarks Hill, I finished 8th and got big bag of the tournament and that paid really well back then. That 8th place finish gave me a little more leverage and then two events later I won and that set up for the following year.”
“There definitely have been some great stories out there and mine, well I guess I just went fishing and kept fishing until I got to where I wanted to be!”
Like many professionals and many aspiring professionals, the beginning of Ashley’s career was tough. Nothing was given to him, everything was earned and if you find yourself at the beginning of your career, just remember; there will always be others a little further along but they have been in your shoes at one point or another. Keep your head down and keep on fishing. Good things will happen.