The 2016 Bassmaster Classic starts tomorrow, and three anglers from the Palmetto State are looking to finish atop the field of 55 anglers. With a $300,000 first place prize on the line, this year’s Classic is being held at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Casey Ashley from Donalds has a lot of eyes on him this year. He qualified for the 2016 Classic by winning last year’s Classic at Lake Hartwell, and would love to have a repeat performance. This is the 32-year-old’s seventh appearance at the Bassmaster Classic.
Ashley has won over $1.1 million while fishing professionally since 2006, including eight years on the BASS Elite Series. He has won two Elite Series event, has 15 top-10 finishes in Elite competition, and placed 8th in the Elite Series’ Angler of the Year race in 2011.
When asked if he feels pressure as the defending Classic champion, Ashely said he doesn’t.
“Some people might ask if I think that’s going to be a distraction, but honestly, the answer is no. I’m going to handle it the same way I handle any tournament – I mentally separate what I’m doing from what’s going on around me,” he said.
Marty Robinson from Lyman, who once had to rely on Ashley for some first aid on his ankle while fishing on the Elite Series Trail, makes his fourth Bassmaster Classic appearance, and is hoping for his first win. He finished 20th in the 2013 Classic.
Robinson missed last year’s Classic by one spot. He finished 41st in the Angler of the Year points standings from the previous season. The top 40 make it to the Classic. He qualified this time around by finishing 35th in the most recent Angler of the Year points. Robinson has career winnings of over $486,000 in 113 BASS events, and has been fishing professionally for the past 10 years.
John Proctor of Conway makes his first appearance at the Bassmaster Classic after qualifying by winning the BASS Nation Southern Division Championship. This is also Proctor’s first trip to Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
While Proctor said making the Classic is a dream come true, he isn’t satisfied with just being there.
“I don’t want to be satisfied just being there. I am going to approach it with an attitude that it is my one chance, so I am going to try to win the tournament. I am not going to be just content to be there,” he said.