By BassFan Staff

The word Casey Ashley used to describe his 15-13 bag on day 2 of the Lake Hartwell FLW Tour was "solid." On that scale, the 15-07 he boxed on day 3 was nothing short of spectacular.

The resident of nearby Donalds, S.C. opened up a 9 1/2-pound lead on a tough-bite day that began with a 3-hour fog delay, giving him a 52-11 total. Any double-digit sack on the final day should allow him to add a Tour trophy to sit between the two he's won on the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Clent Davis, the 2012 Rookie of the Year from Alabama, is his closest pursuer. Davis' 9-03 haul today gave him a 43-01 total. He's one spot ahead of Tennessee's Andy Morgan, the world's top-ranked angler, whose 11-13 bag pushed his aggregate mark to 41-09.

California limit machine Cody Meyer caught 12-14 to advance eight places to 4th with 40-00. West Virginia rookie Ryan Davidson completed the Top 5 with a 10-01 sack for a 38-09 total.

Here's a look at how the anglers who'll fish the final day stack up, with red numbers in parentheses indicating deficit margins from the leader:

1. Casey Ashley: 52-11
2. Clent Davis: 43-01 (9-10)
3. Andy Morgan: 41-09 (11-02)
4. Cody Meyer: 40-00 (12-11)
5. Ryan Davidson: 38-09 (14-02)
6. John Cox: 35-08 (17-03)
7. Charlie Ingram: 35-01 (17-10)
8. Dan Morehead: 34-04 (18-07)
9. Anthony Gagliardi: 34-02 (18-09)
10. Brett Hite: 33-12 (18-15)

As expected, the weather was much improved over the first 2 days. The air temperature bolted up into the 70s (it never got out of the 40s on opening day), there was no rain and the wind wasn't much of a factor. Water temperatures throughout the lake rose several degrees.

The bass, true to their nature, were slow to adapt, however. Only six of the 20 competitors boxed limits, which was partly attributable to them being forced to spend the first 3 hours of daylight at the dock due to the fog.

Meyer, Morehead, Gagliardi and Hite (the winner of the season's first event at Lake Okeechobee) were all newcomers to the Top 10. Meyer's move was the biggest, and the other three got in despite boxing only three keepers apiece.

The quartet who fell out consisted of Barton Aiken, Ramie Colson Jr., reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion Randall Tharp and Shad Schenck, none of whom weighed more that two fish. Aiken blanked, as did 2012 Cup winner Jacob Wheeler.

The bite should pick up tomorrow after the fish have had a day to adjust to the new conditions. The WeatherChannel.com forecast predicts mostly sunny skies, a high temperature of 71 degrees and a westerly wind to 7 mph.

No Slowing Ashley

> Day 3: 5, 15-07 (15, 52-11)

The shortened day didn't prevent Ashley from exceeding his daily target weight of 15 pounds once again.

"I got fortunate that I got a real good one early," he said. "This whole week has just been magic – every decision I've made has been the right one and I've gotten the key bites when I've needed them. Things couldn't have come together any better."

His first fish was a 4 1/2-pounder. He went through eight keepers for the day and lost a couple that he had hooked only briefly.

"It took me a little while to get that first one. I'm making a pretty good run and fishing really deep. Some casts seem like they're 5 minutes long. It's just super-slow.

"Once I got a limit I went and fished some other stuff, trying to see if I could get bit doing different things. I've got one dock that's a must-hit (for day 4), but I didn't want to fish it today. I didn't want to catch a 2-pounder that I might need tomorrow."

In light of his big lead, he's lowered his objective of weighing at least 15 pounds per day.

"I think if I can catch 10 pounds, that would be good. Anything after that will be a bonus."

FLW/Brett Carlson
Photo: FLW/Brett Carlson

Clent Davis moved into the No. 2 slot despite a bag that weighed less than 10 pounds.

2nd: Davis Lost a Couple

> Day 3: 5, 9-03 (15, 43-01)

Davis got seven keeper bites during the 4 1/2 hours he fished, but two of them never made it into his boat. His total would still be nowhere near Ashley's even if they had, but he'd have secured a stronger hold on 2nd place.

"I broke two good ones off on cables and that cost me," he said. "Both of them were over 3 pounds and that's something you just can't do when you're getting the (low) number of bites we're getting.

"It wasn't as good as I'd expected it to be, but late in the day the water temperature started getting back to where it needs to be. I think tomorrow's going to be really good everyone."

His bag contained two largemouths and three spots – none of which weighed more than 2 1/4 pounds.

"I'm just going to go out tomorrow and do the best I can, and wherever that puts me is fine. There's no pressure on me, so I'm just going to have fun and go fishing. The one change I'll make is I'm going to pick up a swimbait and try it.

"I saw some giants heading under docks today, but they wouldn't eat. Hopefully they will tomorrow."

3rd: Morgan Finished Up Late

> Day 3: 5, 11-13 (15, 41-09)

Morgan was in danger of joining the short-sack crowd until he caught three keepers in the final half-hour of the day.

"It kind of worked out," he said. "For awhile I was wondering if I was ever going to catch one, but I finally did. I'm just having to run them down every day and when you take 3 hours away right from the start, that kind of puts you behind the 8-ball.

He said he made his first cast at about 10:15, but didn't get his first bite until about noon.

"I ended up catching a couple of 3-pounders and I didn't lose anything. I just ran around and fished drains, brush piles, sticks, weeds – a bunch of different stuff. Hartwell's one of those places where if you don’t get something in the box early, you could be in for a tough day because once it gets past about 9 o'clock, it gets tough.

"Plus, today we had very little wind. I know the wind is miserable, but those are the kind of days when you can catch them here."

He'll start tomorrow with a desire to end up in 2nd place.

"Casey's almost uncatchable. He knows this water very well and he's probably going to make all the right moves."

4th: Meyer Moved to Docks

> Day 3: 5, 12-14 (15, 40-00)

Meyer had been fishing deep structure throughout the event and caught one nice one offshore, but he eventually made a move to shallower water.

"Every day here is a little different," he said. "Today, with the sun out, some fish started moving under docks, so I fished some of those."

He'd gotten six keeper bites on each of the first 2 days. Today he got eight, but lost three of them. The biggest fish he took to the scale was a 3 1/2-pounder.

"At least getting a few more bites was a step in the right direction.

He worked the docks with a Jackall Flick Shake worm. For offshore fishing, he's employed a 3/4-ounce jig with a twin-tail trailer.

"I'll run some new water tomorrow and hit some docks pretty hard because I think more will be going under there. I'll go with a mixture of deep and shallow stuff – however I can get a bite, I'll take it. It hasn't been easy."

He believes he stands little chance of catching Ashley.

"The mountain I'd have to climb to even have a chance is huge. I'm not being negative, but the dude's just killing it!"

5th: Davidson Adjusted

> Day 3: 5, 10-01 (15, 38-09)

Davidson had been fishing muddy water, but it all cleared up today and he had to seek out some new water. He finally got on some productive stuff toward the end of the day.

Like Morgan, he boated fish Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in the final 30 minutes. His last one went into the box with just 5 minutes to spare.

His bag was topped by a 3 1/2-pounder.

"I might be fishing a little bit shallower than other people, although I don't know what everybody else is doing," he said. "I basically had five bites today – I had a couple more smack at the bait, but there weren't any that I hooked and lost.

"I've been catching largemouths and I've got one deep spot where I caught a 5-pounder (on day 2), but everything else is coming shallow."

He's pumped to advance to the final day in just his second tour-level event.

"I'm really excited about having a full day tomorrow. I think I've got some good areas to fish."

6th: Cox Hangs On

> Day 3: 1, 1-00 (11, 35-08)

Cox was surprised to make the final day after boating just a single 1-pounder.

"It was awful," he said. "We got out there late and the water was warming quickly and it seemed like the fish never started doing anything.

"I was trying not to pick up a spinning rod, but I did with about 5 minutes to go and caught that one. I guess maybe I should've done it sooner."

He'll have to play things by ear on day 4.

"The stuff I’m fishing is a place they're going through to get to the spawning flat, and I'm really surprised a big wave didn't come through today. I really don't know if it's going to take them longer to get started now that it's warming up again.

"I've got one hole downlake that I could go hang out at. When I get bit it's usually a good one – 3 1/2 pounds or better, but I don't get too many bites. It's either do that or pick up the spinning rod and go fish for 2 1/2-pounders."

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 20 anglers, 6 limits, 3 threes, three twos, 6 ones, 2 zeroes.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., March 9 – Mostly Sunny - 71°/41°
- Wind: From the W at 7 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 21-07 (5) -- 15-13 (5) -- 37-04 (10) -- 15-07 (5)

2. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, Al -- 16-14 (5) -- 17-00 (5) -- 33-14 (10) -- 9-03 (5)

3. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 14-15 (5) -- 14-13 (5) -- 29-12 (10) -- 11-13 (5)

4. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 16-04 (5) -- 10-14 (5) -- 27-02 (10) -- 12-14 (5)

5. Ryan Davidson -- Huntington, WV -- 8-15 (5) -- 19-09 (5) -- 28-08 (10) -- 10-01 (5)

6. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 18-13 (5) -- 15-11 (5) -- 34-08 (10) -- 1-00 (1)

7. Charlie Ingram -- Centerville, Tn -- 11-12 (5) -- 16-06 (5) -- 28-02 (10) -- 6-15 (2)

8. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 12-11 (5) -- 14-09 (5) -- 27-04 (10) -- 7-00 (3)

9. Anthony Gagliardi -- Prosperity, SC -- 12-03 (5) -- 14-07 (5) -- 26-10 (10) -- 7-08 (3)

10. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, Az -- 13-07 (5) -- 13-11 (5) -- 27-02 (10) -- 6-10 (3)

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.

11. Stacey King -- Reeds Spring, Mo -- 10-14 (5) -- 14-01 (5) -- 24-15 (10) -- 7-11 (5) -- $12,000

12. Barton Aiken -- Greenville, SC -- 16-00 (5) -- 15-11 (5) -- 31-11 (10) -- 0-00 (0) -- $12,000

13. Randall Tharp -- Port Saint Joe, Fl -- 13-04 (5) -- 14-14 (5) -- 28-02 (10) -- 2-12 (2) -- $12,000

14. Ramie Colson Jr -- Cadiz, Ky -- 17-10 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 28-12 (10) -- 1-01 (1) -- $12,000

15. Shad Schenck -- Waynetown, In -- 15-03 (5) -- 12-08 (5) -- 27-11 (10) -- 1-03 (1) -- $12,000

16. Barry Wilson -- Birmingham, Al -- 17-09 (5) -- 7-08 (3) -- 25-01 (8) -- 3-05 (2) -- $12,000

17. Wesley Strader -- Spring City, Tn -- 12-08 (5) -- 13-02 (5) -- 25-10 (10) -- 1-07 (1) -- $12,000

18. Chris Baumgardner -- Gastonia, NC -- 13-11 (5) -- 11-13 (5) -- 25-08 (10) -- 1-07 (1) -- $12,000

19. Michael Neal -- Dayton, Tn -- 14-12 (5) -- 10-04 (3) -- 25-00 (8) -- 1-00 (1) -- $12,000

20. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, In -- 10-08 (5) -- 14-10 (5) -- 25-02 (10) -- 0-00 (0) -- $12,000