Casey Ashley won the Bassmaster Classic on his home turf for the first time in the championship tournament’s 45-year history.
Ashley won on Lake Hartwell in weather-torn northwestern South Carolina, locking up the $300,000 title with a 20-pound, 3-ounce performance on Sunday, the third and final day of the event.
He finished more than 4 pounds ahead of the field and did it with a bait his father made and his Mercury 250 Pro XS.
The field of 56 anglers started on Friday in single-digit temperatures, thanks to a record cold front that caused boats to freeze tight to trailers at the launch and delayed takeoff for two hours.
“I’ve never fished in a tournament this cold, so without having any experience, I really didn’t know any better,” Ashley said in a statement. “I had a little bit of water in the bottom of my live wells, and they were frozen solid. I had to go out into the middle of the lake and do doughnuts backwards just to get some water through them to thaw them out. The Mercury service guys told us to at least go a mile or two before you ‘power down on your engine,’ but all of my equipment worked flawlessly.”