GREENVILLE, S.C. — Bassmaster Classic contender Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., will make his debut as a country music recording artist Saturday on ESPN2, as part of the first day of Classic coverage. The show airs at 7 a.m. ET.
The 24-year-old Bassmaster Elite Series pro flew to Nashville, Tenn., last weekend to cut "Fisherman," a song about a pro angler's life on the tournament trail. An ESPN2 camera crew filmed the session at Legends, the same Nashville studio that has been used by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and many other recording stars.
"Fisherman" was written by Rodney Clawson, whose credits include co-authoring "I Saw God Today," released this month by George Strait and already a Billboard Top 20 single.
Ashley first established himself as a considerable vocal talent when he performed the national anthem at several 2007 Elite events. He sang the anthem Thursday from the dock at Lake Hartwell's Portman Marina, just minutes before he and the other 49 contenders launched on the first day of the three-day competition.
Fisherman is now available at www.outdoormusic.com as a download or autographed CD.
MIKE & MIKE & SWINDLE
Friday on the popular ESPN Radio show "Mike & Mike in the Morning," there was as much banter about bass fishing as there was about baseball and basketball.
Hosts Mike Golic and Erik Kuselias broadcast from the shore of South Carolina's Lake Hartwell, beginning at 6 a.m. — just in time to interview Bassmaster Classic contender Gerald Swindle, before the 50 competitors took off at 7:15 a.m. for Day One.
When he was interviewed, Swindle, of Warrior, Ala., gave radio listeners the lowdown on just how tough anglers had to be to contend with today's rain and 27-degree wind chill factor.
Swindle: "It's drizzlin' and sleetin' and spittin' rain — it's going to be brutal. You play football, you can go stand by the heater on the sidelines. When we get wet, we're wet."
Golic: "You need the heart of a champion to catch a fish in this kind of weather."
Swindle: "You're going to need more than that. You're going to need some luck, the heart of a champion and warm feet."
PICKS TO WIN
While eight members of the Skeeter pro team compete in the Bassmaster Classic today through Sunday on Lake Hartwell, their fellow Skeeter pros on shore are watching.
Dean Rojas, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Lake Havasu, Ariz., said John Murray of Phoenix is his top pick. "Don't count out some of the power shallow-water anglers like Alton Jones or Todd Faircloth," Rojas added.
Elite pro Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., is leaning toward Murray, Faircloth or Kelly Jordon. "However, the cold and rainy weather favors a confident Kevin VanDam," Menendez said.
Skeeter is the official boat sponsor of the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.
BASSMASTER CLASSIC OUTDOORS EXPO KICKS OFF
The excitement of the Bassmaster Classic spilled into the 2008 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, held at The Carolina First Center.
In fact, when the doors to the expo opened, more than 200 people filled the aisles to see the latest products on the market.
From the newest Toyota Tundras to Yamaha's new F225 four-stroke engine, show attendees marveled as much as they milled.
"Not even cold, rainy weather is going to keep this group away from (fishing stuff)," one gentleman said as he entered the expo.
At the expo, fans can stroll through the history of BASS at the Wall of Fame, filled with rare photos from the 1960s to the present day.
Bassmaster Magazine editor James Hall will interview many of the legends of competitive bass fishing at the Bassmaster booth. The pros also will be available for autographs.
Fans can keep track of what's happening on Lake Hartwell via the big wall of plasma screens that show up-to-the-minute leaderboards, "Hooked Up" Webcasts and BASSCast Powered by ESPN. This new technology uses boat-mounted cameras that show the on-the-water action.
The expo has much more, from great BASS Stuff hats and shirts to a drawing to win a four-day, three-night Walt Disney World Resort vacation package, including a fishing trip with Bassmaster Elite Series pro Preston Clark.
The 2008 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo is at Greenville's Carolina First Center. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
TWO "HOOKED UP" HOSTS ARE COLLEGE STUDENTS
Two University of Illinois college students are living their dream of being on-camera hosts at the Bassmaster Classic.
Recruited for the Bassmaster Webcast "Hooked Up," Rob Russow and Steve Mui are interviewing Classic contenders and going behind the scenes to show viewers what the Classic is all about.
Both avid anglers, the students are members of the Fighting Illini Bass Club, which won the Big Ten Conference Championship to qualify for the College Bass National Championship in 2007.
Russow is a senior in speech communications. Mui is a junior studying fish and wildlife management.
"Hooked Up" can be seen throughout the three-day Classic on www.Bassmaster.com, where fans can watch the ArenaCam, LakeCam or EXPOCam daily, starting at 6:45 a.m.
REESE COMMITS TO BIOSONIX
Skeet Reese, the reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler Of The Year, has joined the Biosonix pro staff.
Reese said that since he has been using the product for a year, it was a natural fit to join the staff.
"Biosonix has been on my boat for over a year now, and can definitely tell the difference in my fishing," Reese said. "One day I went into an area on Clear Lake that I knew was holding fish, and worked the area hard without the Biosonix turned on, and I didn't get a bite. The I turned the unit on and (caught 'em). Ever since then, I've been sure to have BSX on board for every tournament."
The company is excited about the signing.
"We're really jacked up about this," said Wes Higging, company spokesman. "He's one of the best anglers in the world, and he's been fishing the product successfully. It just makes sense."
SEBILE IMPROVES PRESENCE
One of the hottest young companies in the industry, Sebile USA, recently signed two Bassmaster Elite Series anglers, Jeff Kriet and Todd Faircloth.
"Jeff and Todd are not just good fishermen, they are also good guys and that's important to us," said Keeton Eoff, Sebile's U.S. sales and marketing director. "Both men have qualified for the Bassmaster Classic annually for the past few years and they are back in it again in 2008. They are truly among the country's elite anglers and we're proud to have them on our team."
The company, an exhibitor at the show, has some hot new lures, including the Crankster MR, a crankbait that features a clear body cavity with a red liquid inside, making the offering look about as real as possible.
The company also has a lure that could wind up making a good showing at the event: The Magic Swimmer, a long and slender swimbait similar to the herring on Lake Hartwell, is quite popular among anglers in this area.
Official sponsors for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic: Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter and Yamaha.
Bassmaster.com will provide unprecedented live video coverage of the Classic this week, Feb. 22-24. We'll have live "Hooked Up," daily launches at 7:15 a.m. ET and live weigh-ins and real-time leaderboards starting at 4:30 p.m. ET broadcast live from the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C.