Casey Ashley from Donalds, S.C. didn’t win the La Crosse Bassmaster Elite Series tournament this past weekend, but he probably wouldn’t be any happier if he did. He finished 10th, and gained plenty of valuable Angler of the Year points, and secured himself a spot in the 2017 Bassmaster Classic.

Ashley was in a tough spot going into this tournament, the last of the Elite Series regular season trail. He needed to finish well to make it to next week’s Angler of the Year Championship, which only the top 50 anglers compete in. Ashley was in 41st place. 41st out of 50th sounds like a sure thing, but not during the last Elite Series tournament of the year, where a dozen other anglers were within just a few points of Ashley. 

He admitted this week that he knew if he stumbled at La Crosse, his season would be over. He did anything but stumble, leading after Day 1, and staying the in the top 10 throughout the entire 4-day tournament.

He was also two places out of making the 2017 Bassmaster Classic, but with his 10th place finish at La Crosse, Ashley rocketed up to 30th place.

Ashely was the only Carolina angler fishing on the final day of the tournament. Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn. took the lead on Day 2, and never looked back, winning the tournament with 63-10.

Jason Williamson of Wagener, S.C. barely missed the Day 4 cut, finishing 14th overall. Hank Cherry Jr of Maiden, N.C. took 19th place, and Shane Linebarger, also of Maiden finished 23rd. Blacksburg, S.C.’s Andy Montgomery finished 43rd, and Britt Myers of Lake Wylie took 61st. 

Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C. couldn’t recover from his struggles on Day 1, when he only managed to bring three small fish to the scales. Despite his strong Day 2 total of 17-9, he finished 65th. Marty Robinson of Lyman, S.C. struggled as well, finishing 72nd.

The other Carolina anglers who finished in the top 50 and are moving on to next week’s Angler of the Year Championship are Montgomery, Williamson, and Cherry, the highest finisher among Carolina anglers at the number 10 spot.