CELEBRATION, Fla. Sitting in 100th place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings halfway through the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series season, it would be easy for Rick Ash to be pessimistic about his chances of climbing into the 2008 Bassmaster Classic race.
But the 55-year-old pro from Pottstown, Pa., sees reasons to be optimistic as the nation's top bass circuit heads north with next week's Blue Ridge Brawl presented by Advance Auto Parts at Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake.
The timing of the Elite Series' move to some Northern fisheries could not be better for Ash.
"Hopefully I can make some progress," said Ash, who guides on Oneida Lake, the site of the 2007 Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon. "I've got a little experience on Erie and I've fished the Potomac quite a bit. Same thing with Champlain. So hopefully I can pick it up as we head north."
It wouldn't take much improvement to top his first six tournament performances of the season.
Ash has yet to qualify for a top-50 cut through five 2007 Elite events. His season began with a 71st at Texas' Lake Amistad; he dropped one spot farther at the California Delta; plummeted to 96th and 107th at California's Clear Lake and Georgia's Clarks Hill Lake, respectively; but he bounced back recently at Alabama's Lake Guntersville, finishing 60th.
"It's been up and down for me," Ash said. "It seems like I've been one good fish away. At Amistad, I had some good fish on and I broke a couple off. The same thing happened to me at the Delta. I had been on a good pattern in practice and had one good day and one bad day.
"And that's what happened to me at Guntersville. I had a terrible first day and came back with a great second day. I just can't seem to put two quality days together. The way it is at this level one mistake, no matter what it is, can cost you down the road. And that's a hard lesson to learn."
Last season was tough (his best finish was 45th at Texas' Sam Rayburn Reservoir), but Ash believes what he learned will pay off this year.
"The biggest lesson I learned is that you have to go out and fish and not make any mistakes," he said. "That's been hard for me because we've been going to a lot of new water that I had never been to."
BABY ROUMBANIS ARRIVES.
One of the most ballyhooed births in recent BASS history occurred Monday, May 28, when Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts winner Fred Roumbanis and wife Julie became first-time parents.
Jackson William Roumbanis was born at 11:18 a.m. on Memorial Day. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces.
The newest Roumbanis is named after William Gruner, Fred's grandfather, who was a submarine commander during World War II. "That's pretty cool because he's a Memorial Day baby," said Fred, whose middle name is also William.
Jackson was the latest surprise in Fred's whirlwind week. Family and friends from Lowrance Electronics staged a surprise party for Fred (held at Affordable Automotive, a sponsor in his new home of Broken Arrow, Okla.). "It was really cool," he said. "There must have been about 50 people there. It was really nice."
Immediately after scoring a third-place finish in the Bassmaster American in Greensboro, N.C., Ish Monroe boarded a plane to Orlando, Fla., to begin filming a new ESPN2 segment called "Yo Ish!"
The show will feature 12 installments, each 2½ minutes long, during which fishing fans and amateurs pose fishing questions to Monroe, a two-time BASS winner. He answers the questions and demonstrates on the water how best to execute techniques and patterns that are referred to in the answers.
The segments will air on ESPN2 at 7:56 a.m. Saturdays, beginning July 7.
Elite Series pro Edwin Evers made an appearance Saturday on the morning show Fox & Friends, which aired on the Fox News network.
The Oklahoma angler traveled to New York City for the segment filmed in Times Square. The three-time BASS winner was wearing his Bassmaster Elite Series jersey, which he wears during competition.
Evers talked about some boats that were on display and their use for family summertime activities. He is expected to film another trip with the show around Father's Day to discuss Bass Pro Shops fishing, boating and apparel products.
A recent trip to Las Vegas for Texas' Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer proved to be unlucky. The 35-year-old traveled to Vegas to participate in his sister's wedding. While walking down the hallway of a rental house, he was stung on the foot by a scorpion. He went to the hospital for treatment and returned to his temporary home with anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
Despite the treatment, Niggemeyer endured what he calls the most pain he has ever experienced. The two-time BASS winner said he will be ready to compete in the next scheduled Elite event, the Blue Ridge Brawl presented by Advance Auto Parts, June 7-10 in Moneta, Va.
HOTTEST RIG UPDATE.
The winner, according to Bassmaster Elite Series fans, in the fifth week of the Hottest Rig Running contest was Alabama's Russ Lane, with 23.6 percent of the vote. Alabama's Aaron Martens and Texan Elton Luce Jr. were second and third, respectively.
Fans can vote for select Elite Series pros, including California's Ish Monroe and two-time Elite Series winner Mike McClelland, and pick their favorite boat wraps in Week 6. The creativity of the pros and their primary sponsors will be on display throughout the 11 Elite Series tournaments. See them at www.espnoutdoors.com/hottestrig.
Each week will feature a different group of anglers' boats for which fans can vote. Winners advance to the final round July 6-13. Second-place boats from weeks 1-10 will compete in a Second Chance Qualifier, getting a chance in week 11 to win a spot in the final round. Voting is limited to one vote per person each week. The winner of the contest will receive $10,000 and will be awarded at the Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon in Syracuse, N.Y.
Bassmaster Elite Series rookie James Charlesworth looked to his former career to secure a title sponsor for the 2007 season.
The Florida pro's boat is wrapped to promote www.spinemd.com, the Web site of the Virginia Spine Institute. The deal came via one of Charlesworth's contacts from his former occupation as a medical-device salesman.
On the heels of next week's Elite Series stop on Smith Mountain Lake, the 2007 Classic qualifier is making a public appearance from 4-7 p.m. ET June 11 at the Virginia Spine Institute in Reston, Va.
DID YOU KNOW?
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, a 14-season NHL veteran and three-time Stanley Cup champion, is the cousin of Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ken Brodeur. Brodeur is 41st in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO...
Elite Series pro Rick Ash might still be working for a utility company in the Philadelphia area. After working as a lineman for 20 years, he spent 14 more in management.
"I had to make some decisions in my career and I had an opportunity to take an early out there," Ash said. "So I did. It provided me with a good retirement income."
THEY SAID IT.
"I feel like I've been double-dipped in peanut butter and rolled down a dirt road." Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle, to the crowd in Greensboro, N.C., after getting eliminated in the semifinal round of the recent Bassmaster American