The 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series field has been set, and seven anglers from the Carolinas made the cut, including one rookie.
South Carolina has four anglers in the field, and they are all veterans of the Elite Series. Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg is back, as is Casey Ashley of Donalds, Marty Robinson of Lyman, and Jason Williamson of Wagener. All four qualified based on their points standings in the 2017 Elite Series.
The Tarheel State will be represented by Hank Cherry Jr. of Lincolnton, who has fished the Elite Series for several years and qualified through his overall standing in the 2017 season. David Fritts will also fish the series this year after gaining a Legends qualifying spot. Jake Whitaker of Fairview is the only Carolina newcomer to the series, and will compete for Rookie of the Year honors after qualifying through the Bassmaster Opens in 2017.
The 2018 field is made up of 111 anglers, including 99 who fished the series in 2017. Nine anglers who fished the 2017 trail failed to make the cut for 2018.
The Elite season begins in February, and will take a break for the month of March when many of the anglers will compete in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell in the middle of the month. The Elite Series picks back up in April and runs through August.
Three Carolina anglers who fished the 2017 Elite Series, Shane Lineberger of Lincolnton, N.C., Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, S.C., and David Williams of Newton, N.C. did not make the 2018 cut, and will compete in the Bassmaster Opens in hopes of reclaiming their spots for the 2019 season.
Other than the Classic on Hartwell, the Elite Series schedule does not have any regular stops on lakes in the Carolinas, but the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship will be held on the North Carolina/Georgia border. Lake Chatuge will host the postseason event Sept. 20 - 23, and will feature the 50 top-ranked anglers in the Elite Series based on points accrued throughout the 2018 season.
Photo by: B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito
> Day 3: 5, 19-05 (15, 62-01) The place Ashley had relied on the first two mornings for a solid 18-pound limit was a ghost town today, but he was able to fall back on other areas to stay in the top 5.
“I’m happy to be where I’m at,” he said. “Any time you’re in the top 5, you can’t complain. I need to stay there with the way the points situation is now.”
With Palaniuk charging into the top 3 today, Ashley ceded the AOY points lead to him (Palaniuk leads by 5 points entering Sunday).
Ashley thinks the lack of wind may have prompted the fish at his key area to move around. He’s hopeful they come back Sunday or he can relocate them.
“I have other stuff, but I just have to work a little harder for them,” he added. “That place was easy.”
Everything he weighed today was caught on a dropshot. He said the calm conditions allowed him to basically sight-fish in the crystal-clear water. He knows he’ll need to catch his biggest bag of the tournament Sunday to overcome his 4-plus pound deficit.
“I haven’t seen many 5s where I’m fishing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there,” he said. “I just haven’t seen them.”