Eric Ashley's Fishing Report
Eric Ashley's Final Fishing Report
Published on June 9, 2023
Hello from Kentucky Lake!
It has been a minute since my last report. For those that follow my guide service, you may have noticed there hasn’t been but one post this spring. There is an unfortunate reason for that. Nagging motor issues have had me running back and forth to the mechanic instead of to the water to fish.
These problems have kept me off the water since April. This, as you can imagine, has been hard on the pocketbook, as well as my sanity. It takes time and money to be a fishing guide, and if I am not on the water, I am not making any money. Since I don’t have any sponsors, and operate out of my wallet, I have been forced to make a tough decision.
The time has come to shut down the guide business for a while. This decision has not been made lightly, as it has always been a dream of mine to be a fishing guide since I was a kid. Like I have said before, my wife allows me to live a dream. However, I can’t put all the pressure on her to make ends meet. She deserves more than that.
Therefore, I will be returning to the electrical trade to make my living. As much as this has been a step back, I am going to stay positive about it. I hope to use this time as a building block towards the future. With any luck, I will be back to showing people a good time on the water again in the future.
Now, being a fishing guide, as I found out, was the most stressful job I have ever had. Regardless of how many trips I have taken, I still didn’t sleep the night before. I never could figure out how to turn my mind off from playing different scenarios and what if’s in my head. I always wanted to make sure I was ready for anything that could happen.
I pride myself on the attention to detail and hard work. I truly believe that this is why we had so many good catches over the years. There was never a day that I didn’t care if my people caught fish. I wanted folks getting off of my boat with a pile of fish to take home. More days than not we got it done and sent folks home with a stack of fillets for the fryer.
When I started this journey in 2012, I was given my first chance by Don Schnuck, and Chris Hicks, of Big Kahunas fishing guide service to help take overflow customers periodically. This allowed me to gain experience, as well as learn what it takes to put people on fish on a daily basis. The more I helped, the more I learned, and the more fun I had. With having a flexible job in the trades, I found myself on the water more and more until I was doing more fishing than electrical work.
Lucky Lady Guide Service opened in the spring of 2018 to mixed reviews. While I have the experience and the maritime credentials, there were still doubters as to my legitimacy. I am sure folks had a hard time believing that a virtual unknown could come in and have the skill set to catch enough fish to be successful. Well, I don’t blame them for holding this opinion, I would hope by now I have changed some people's minds. Regardless of what people think, I have always been a look you in the eye and shake your hand kind of guy.
I never lied to anyone about the fishing out of my boat nor did I ever say anything behind someone’s back that I wouldn’t say to their face. I also never candy, coated anything and wanted people to know the facts before they got on my boat. I knew when I started in 2018, it was arguably one of the worst down cycles in the history of the lakes on the north end. I knew in order to make it, I would have to work hard to find enough fish to satisfy folks, but I also knew I couldn’t wait for the challenge.
From 2018 to 2022, I have managed to see a little bit of everything. From letting childhood idol, Jimmy Houston fish thru, to coyotes, swimming across the lake, to seeing a Sasquatch catch a ride on a sailboat. (Those folks on that boat were pretty festive that day!) I have also managed to blow up my motor, break my trolling motor, have countless rods broken by folks, I have even pulled some hooks out of some sensitive areas! With the exception of the blow motor, I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for anything. Everything I learned made me better. Although some lessons hurt more than others.
Like I said earlier, when I opened my business, the fishing was tough on the north end. The Asian carp explosion, as well as record rainfall, took its toll, and it has taken a few years and good spawns to start showing signs of life again. Even though I am not guiding, I hope the positive trend continues so these lakes can get back to their former glory.
While the fishing has been tough on the north end, it didn’t seem to diminish as much on the south end of the lake. I am often asked why this is, and I have some theories, but no facts or proof, so I will not share them here. Now some folks may say I’m just bellyaching or trying to make up for my inability.
These folks are entitled to their opinion, but if you aren’t blind, it’s plain to see. The difference is night and day. If you don’t believe me, go Crappie fish the Tennessee side of the lake and then come back and Crappie fish, north of Johnathan Creek. You can go see for yourself the difference as well on social media.
While guides up north may be catching hundreds of Crappie in the spring, I know of one guide who has caught over 3000 Crappie down south this year alone. You can see the daily pics of the piles on his Facebook page. It is truly impressive. I also know he isn’t the only guide doing it. If that kind of Crappie fishing was to be had up north, these resorts wouldn’t struggle as much in March and April. I am also sure there would be more pressure from locals, who know how to catch fish, yet the bays are basically empty. This has to be hard on local businesses.
With the last five years, being tough for Crappie fishing, which these lakes are famous for, I had to find something to provide tugs on the lines for my customers. I like action, and I want my folks to catch fish. That being said, taking folks Crappie fishing for 2 to 10 bites maybe, wasn’t my idea of fun.
I know folks don’t come to the area necessarily to catch yellow bass, however, they don’t come to Crappie fish and not much catch much of anything either. A cooler full of yellow bass, bluegill and maybe a few catfish sure beat a air sandwich at suppertime. It is also easier to pay money to a guide when he sent you home with some fine table fare, instead of excuses as to why you didn’t catch. Where I come from, if you fish with a guide, you should be able to expect some action, not just a boat ride.
Now, I’m not saying a whack fest can happen every day, but I feel that most folks feel like they should catch more fish with a guide then they can by themselves. This is what I strive to do, regardless of the species that decided to play the game that day. I have nothing to hide so here are my numbers from 2018 through 2022.
I splashed my boat 665 times to fish. Upon going back and looking at my books, there were 52 days that I had marked as scouting and prospecting days. On those days I did not bring fish home to clean. Those days were spent prospecting new ground, or checking spots for the next days trips. The other 613 days I went out with a vengeance trying to rip lips and fill live wells.
Some days were better than others, but the numbers are what they are. When looking at these numbers, please keep in mind that all the fish I caught out of my boat were caught off one rod and reel per person.
I do not troll. I pride myself in being able to find the X. I also pride myself on being able to adapt when plan A,B, and C don’t work, instead of beating a dead horse, till the time to take the folks back into the dock.
That being said, from the spring of 2018 through the fall of 2022, I CLEANED 17,190 fish for clients and friends who fished with me. Now I know for a fact, this isn’t the most fish caught by a guide. I do, however, feel that it is a respectable amount of catching out of my boat.
It has been an honor and a privilege to take folks out and try to show them a good time. I have gotten to see countless personal bests. I have seen the girls outfish the guys on most occasions, and parents who were showing their kids, the love of fishing and the outdoors. I always love seeing the smiles of folks standing over a cooler full of fish at picture time.
However, my favorite thing to see what is the big eyed looks from the kids every time that rod tip would go down. I don’t remember all the names, but I remember the faces. I hope I spurred on their love of fishing after they have fished with me.
Since this is my last report, I would like to say thank you to some folks. First and foremost, I want to thank my wife for allowing me to live a dream. I want to say thank you to Don Schnuck, a.k.a. the Big kahuna. Thank you for the opportunity.
I want to say thank you to my old ball coach and fishing partner Chris Hicks. You are one fish catching dude. Thank you for teaching me life lessons on the ballfield, working with me, putting up with my crap, and being one of the best friends a man can have.
You truly have no idea of the impact you have made in my life in a positive way. Thank you to Rodney Hairgrove of Hairgrove Guide Service for sending me work, as well as trusting me to help. This guy catches a lot of fish and is a tough act to follow. Thank you to Lynn Lane for working with me and teaching me about catfish. You are the catfish catching-ist man I have ever met. Thank you to Richard Bay of Kickin' Bass guide service for the work. I want to thank Brad Culp, Big Dave, and all the folks at Sportsmans Bait, Tackle and Marine repair.
My job couldn’t have been done without all of these folks helping me from time to time. Last, but not least, I want to thank the carp fisherman. The job you are doing is vital to the lakes area and tourism. Thank you for all your hard work. I hope everyone has a great rest of their 2023 and I look forward to the time I can get back on the water to chase that dream. Again, thank you and tight lines!
Now come on duck season!
Eric Ashley's Bio
Eric Ashley is the owner/operator of Lucky Lady's Guide Service. He has been professionally guiding for many years and specializes in all major species of game and panfish.
His fishing report covers the northern end of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.Eric Ashley
< Go Back