Category Archives: Interviews
Professional athletes usually become professional athletes because they not only have the natural ability that raises them above normal folks, but also because they possess the innate drive to succeed… or put another way, the need to feed the unquenchable fire of competition.
Long after their professional careers are over though, that fire doesn’t die down to a warm glow. Instead, it usually manifests itself in other pursuits. For Andy Ashby, retired MLB pitcher, the fire to succeed simply shifts to different pastimes including hunting, fishing and golf.
A brief run down of his baseball career:
– One of only 24 pitchers in MLB history to pitch an “immaculate inning” on June 15, 1991, when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies, playing against the Cincinnati Reds (Struck out Hal Morris, Todd Benzinger, and Jeff Reed on 3 pitches each)
– Won 98 games over 13 professional seasons
– Pitched in the 1998 World Series with the San Diego Padres
– Member of the 1998 and 1999 National League All-Star team
– Career stats: 1173 strikeouts and a 4.12 ERA in 1810 innings pitched.
Ashby now lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and 4 daughters and now that the time-consuming world of the MLB is no longer a factor, he spends his days with his family enjoying retirement and all the trappings it affords.
Andy Ashby’s friends describe him as having a never-ending passion for learning and for always having a positive attitude. It is obvious to anyone who spends even a few moments speaking to him about the things he loves as we did when we recently caught up with the former MLB pitcher to get his take on his favorite outdoor pursuits.
Andy Ashby: I fish, I golf, I hunt… and I love spending time swimming… you know pretty much anything that has to do with the outdoors I love.
MLO: Do you do these things with your family or prefer to do them solo?
Andy: Well the fishing I take my kids, going out on the weekends, but they can get burned out sometimes. I do fish alone often.
When we are out in San Diego, we go out on a four-day camping trip with the family. That’s like our dad and daughter trip every summer.
Hunting I go with buddies. I do take my kids sometimes. Everything else I do by myself most of the time including golf.
Oh I do go swimming with the kids a lot, at the beach.
MLO: Out of all those things, what is your favorite?
Andy: My favorite thing is fishing.
MLO: You seem to enjoy it. I’ve seen pictures of you fishing with Mike Long a few times, is Bass fishing predominantly what you prefer or do you go for other types of fish like catfish, trout, etc?
Andy: You know, it’s mostly bass fishing. That’s my number one thing to do. I love hunting, but the fishing is by far my favorite thing to do.
MLO: How old were you when you first started fishing? Who introduced you to the sport?
Andy: Probably about 10 or 12 years old. When I was in Missouri, my family and I used to go to the lake every weekend. My dad would take my brothers and I out to fish.
Andy: Oh my gosh! That’s tough. I love Lake Castaic up in Los Angeles because I’ve caught so many fish there. Mike has taken me to so many lakes, and Lake Jennings is right up there at the top two or three. Yeah, Lake Jennings and Lake Castaic are the top two probably.
MLO: Do you prefer fishing for smallmouth or largemouth?
Andy: You know, I fish for Smallies when I am out here, but I guess it depends on where I am at. When I am in California I love to fish for largemouth bass, but here in Pennsylvania the small mouth are the thing to catch because the largemouth don’t get very big like they are in California. Recently we fished at Lake Wallenpaupack and we caught over a hundred smallies, all of them over a pound or two pounds, some of them upwards of 4 pounds. I’m gonna have to say, I love catching largemouth more better than small mouth, but it really depends on where I am at.
MLO: Have you considered joining the pro tour?
Andy: (Laughs) You know what, I would love to, but if I knew as much as Mike Long about fishing, I think I could do it. But honestly, travelling and being away from my family would be hard. Bass fishing, I hear the professionals talking and these guys fish every day, and they’re gone quite a bit. I don’t know if I am willing to do it, but I would love to do it later on, maybe get into so smaller tournaments, but right now that’s in the real distant future.
MLO: What’s the best advice anyone has given you that applies to fishing or hunting?
Andy: Patience (laughs).
MLO: Speaking of which, the last time I tried talking to you for this interview, Mike told me you were out deer hunting, sitting up in a tree blind.
Andy: Yeah. I was sitting up in a deer stand for about 12 hours.
Andy: Well, you know, you kind of text every once in a while to let everyone know you didn’t fall out of a tree or anything. Otherwise you’re just sitting there trying to be quiet. Really you’re just sitting there waiting for the moment, just like waiting on that bite, you know?
Fishing is a little bit different because you can actually cast and do something. The hunting is obviously different because you have to wait for the animal to come to you. I think the main thing is just patience and try different things. You know, you see Mike Long, and I know I bring up Mike quite a bit, but he has taught me a lot about trying different things because you never know what’s gonna work.
MLO: What is your favorite bass lure?
Andy: I would have to say the Senko.
MLO: What is your favorite style of fishing?
Andy: I fish a lot of plastics, so slow retrieve stuff is something I like more. I think you catch a lot more and bigger fish that way. I do a lot of night fishing so slow retrieve works a lot better in that environment.
MLO: How would you compare fishing and major league baseball?
Andy: Anything in life, I think you have to be patient and you have to believe in yourself, trust what you are doing. When I am on the mound I have to trust what i take out there is going to get these players out that day. When I am on the lake, I have to believe in what I throw at the fish and have confidence that it’s gonna work.
MLO: When you were playing how often did you fish when the team traveled?
Andy: When I was in LA, I would fish every night when I knew I had four days off. So I would fish 2 or 3 days in a row. When we’d go on the road trips, I would try to fish, definitely Houston, chicago… I would definitely fish once or twice, but it was harder because you didn’t want to carry all that gear on the road with you. I would try to fish four or five cities throughout the season.
Andy: As I kid, growing up, it would have to be George Brett. As a player, just being around somebody, I had the privilege of playing with guys who are in the Hall of Fame now. Dale Murphy helped me out a lot. Terry Mulholland, Bruce Ruffin, because these are the guys who were around when I first came up. Kevin Brown, Trevor Hoffman, we all played together. There were so many guys who influenced me just playing with them, at different parts of my career.
MLO: Who did you enjoy fishing with?
Andy: Kevin Brown, Mike Long obviously, I fished with Bruce Ruffin a few times, and Tony Gwynn a lot. Brad Ausmus I fished with a lot in San Diego. Bruce Bochy is a big fisherman.
MLO: How did it feel to be on camera fishing with Randy Jones?
Andy: You know, it was awesome. I wish we would have caught more fish on camera. I enjoyed the pressure of trying to catch fish on camera. It was so funny though because I caught four fish off the dock and we caught one on the boat when the camera was rolling (Laughs). It was all good though. It was pressure, but it was fun. It was my first time fishing on camera, so it was a good first experience. Randy is a good guy!
MLO: When you fish do you still have the same competitive fire as you did when you were on the mound?
Andy: Yes. Definitely. I usually want to catch big fish and if someone is catching fish and I’m not, I’m like, “what in the world is going on?” It’s funny. You fish with Mike though and you learn to accept you’re gonna get beat every time in the boat.
MLO: Do like night fishing, or daytime fishing better?
Andy: You know what? I like night fishing. I just a really enjoy it. Obviously I fished at night into the mornings because I had to be at the ballpark in the daytime. It was, more or less, the time that I had to go fish, then sleep a little bit, then be back at the ballpark for a game.
MLO: Do you think you’ll ever burn out on fishing, or have you in the past?
Andy: No. I know that the time I have doing it is special. It is like a stress relief for me. And my wife is like, “you have no patience for doing stuff around the house, but you can sit out in the woods all day long or fishing all night long, I don’t understand it!”
It’s a relaxing thing for me. On the Golf course, I snap every once in a while, but fishing and hunting part of it relaxes me. It’s a peaceful time for me.
MLO: Making multi millions in Baseball you can fish anywhere you want in the world, so what is your game plan for the future?
Andy: You know I’d love to go to Mexico and fish El Salto. Ten pound fish there are like two pounders everywhere else. El Salto would be cool and I’d also love to go out and fish for Peacock Bass because they get huge and fight like crazy. Definitely the Peacock Bass and Mexico are on my bucket list.
MLO: What is the largest bass you have ever caught?
Andy: 14 lbs, 3 oz.
MLO: What bass have you caught in your life sticks out the most and why?
Andy: That fish sticks out because it was the biggest I caught, but I remember watching this 10 pounder swim back and forth. I’d throw a bait out there and it would go out and come back to it and never hit it. Finally I threw out the right one, I think it was a curly tail worm, and she hit it. You know I tried for this fish for over an hour and I finally caught it and it was a ten pounder. It was awesome, because she didn’t want to hit what I was throwing, but I stuck with it and put something on there that made her mad enough to want to bite it. There’s different memories but that was kind of cool. It’s similar to being out on the mound with a 3-2 count and trying to figure out how to get that batter out. I had to figure out how to catch that fish, and kept throwing until I got what I wanted.
Back in the summer of 1979 I walked out into the backyard of the house my parents had just purchased and met a tall, gangly kid with a shock of red hair. He was holding a fishing pole, a bucket, and the widest smile I had ever encountered in someone my age. Only seconds after he had introduced himself as Mike Long, he asked me if I wanted to help him catch some crawdads.
The house we had just purchased sat no more than 50 feet from a creek that meandered the length of Poway, California, surrounded by Sycamore and Scrub Oak, which were home to Opossums, Raccoon, and Red-tailed Hawks. Having lived in the suburbs almost my entire life, I was out of my element among all this natural wonder. As strange as it all was though, I was about to get a master’s class in nature and Mike Long was the first and most notable of all the professors I’d ever have directing my education.
I’ve known Mike for going on 32 years, and enjoyed the privilege of having first hand access to the vast amount of information he gathers about his chosen hobbies. He taught me to fish for Catfish, Rainbow Trout, Crappie, Sunfish and of course, Large mouth Bass. He pulled me up and around hill and dale, all the while, teaching me about what to do and when to do it. He never asked anything in return, just friendship and I was more than happy to oblige.
Though time and distance have always come between us, we’re kindred spirits. We enjoy the same things and share many of the same beliefs, the least of which is our passion for the outdoors. Eventually college, and then a career in advertising pulled me away from Southern California, but I kept up with his adventures in the great outdoors.
When fate and my father’s illness brought me back to San Diego in late 2010, one of the first people to welcome me back was Mike Long. We began toying with the idea of a website to share his knowledge and the site you find yourself on now is the result of many such conversations.
While we’ve talked almost daily since I’ve returned to San Diego, it actually wasn’t until this past September that we actually got together on a lake to do some fishing for largemouth bass.
Mike chose the body of water we both grew up fishing, Poway Lake, located in San Diego’s North County. It’s a small reservoir, made smaller by consecutive years of drought, stocked with Rainbow Trout each winter and Catfish each summer. It has a good population of Largemouth Bass, Sunfish and Bluegill to keep everyone happy no matter what your particular passion.
It had been almost two decades since I last fished for bass, but Mike promised he’d take it easy on me and show me what to do. In fact, he even brought a few spinning reels for me to use since I’ve not used a bait caster in a very long time. First thing Mike did was get the lay of the land, or water to be more precise. Choosing a few possible spots, we made our way across the lake toward the first area he wanted to try, a deep water channel. As we arrived, I looked around and noticed there were a dozen or so other fisherman on the lake. From the look of it, they were doing a bit of fishing, but not a whole lot of catching. That isn’t unusual for this lake, especially for those fishing for largemouth bass.
The thing was, much like when we were kids, I had a secret weapon. I had Mike to show me the way. He quickly tied on a 4″ Robo worm in Aaron’s Magic color, using a simple drop shot rig and told me what to do. I’d like to say I quickly landed my first bass in 20 years, but that wouldn’t be true. What is true is within 30 minutes on the water, Mike DID land our first fish… a 3 pounder, very small by Mike’s standards, but a whopper in my book. Keeping with Mike’s teachings, we moved around, eliminating water, trying to find where the fish were. We moved to shallower water near a point. Mike landed a few more, small bass, while I couldn’t seem to get the hang of the proper action necessary to catch a fish… any fish… heck I was willing to land a shad if it would take me out of the skunked column.
He kept explaining what he was doing and why it was working. Mike had landed 3 other bass while he was explaining the intricacies of fishing this particular lake, at this particular time in the day, in this particular season. It was akin to listening to Stephen Hawking talk about cosmology while orbiting the Earth on the space shuttle. If I remember half of what he told me, I’ll be three times the fisherman that I am now.
Finally, I put it all together and I landed my first bass of the day. Less than a pound, but it was a pound more fish than I’ve caught in 15 years and I was quite excited. A few more casts and I caught another fish, this one almost breaking 2 lbs. I figured if I kept at it, by the end of the day I might have enough fish that, combined, would weigh as much as the smallest fish Mike would catch that day.
We broke for lunch and it gave me the opportunity to ask Mike the questions that I would imagine most people would ask him if they had the opportunity.
Ed: When we were kids, we fished for a lot of different kinds of fish, but mostly for stocked trout and catfish. Did you ever think you’d make your mark as a trophy bass fisherman?
Mike: Not at all, I just wanted to fish more than anything else in the world, i did not care what species of fish as long as they put up a fight.
Ed:This lake (Poway Lake) has been our “home” lake for over 30 years and it’s changed a great deal since we started fishing here back in the late 70s. What’s changed for the better? What’s changed for the worse?
Mike: Lake Poway is a small lake where kids can learn to fish and that has gotten better over the years with some added structure. On the downside the lake is infested with quagga mussels which are killing the ecosystem and I’ve seen a huge decline in the numbers of big bass in the lake.
Ed: Of all the local lakes, which is your favorite?
Mike: San Vicente Reservoir
Mike: It is a deep semi-clear reservoir that offers lots of different types of shorelines from steep hard rock to large boulders, to flat shallow bays and offshore islands. It also has large blue catfish over 100 lbs and some giant bass.
Ed: What drives you to hunt big bass?
Mike: Catching big bass is the end game of big bass hunting. And what drives me is the never-ending challenge of trying to figure out where the bass are in the lake and what to catch them on. It’s always a game with the payoff being landing that big bass.
Ed: Was coming close to the record a positive experience?
Mike: The day I caught the 20-12 was the most peaceful day of my bass fishing career and nothing else mattered that day. It has been a positive experience, especially since it has only been done a handful of times.
Ed: Is there anything you would have done differently knowing what you know now about that whole experience?
Mike: The first time I weighed the big bass she weighed over 22 lbs, so I have learned the first weight is the official weight. I never leave the house without a verified scale. Who knows what would have happened had I known to bring the right scale that day.
Ed: We’ve talked a little bit about tournament fishing, and I know you’re a pretty competitive guy, but you refuse to fish competitively. Why is that?
Mike: Raising a family costs lots of money these days and trying to get kids through college and finding a new job has been a huge challenge of survival this year, so tournament fishing has taken a back seat until there is some money available to fish them right.
Ed: When we were kids, you used to keep a notebook, filled with data from our fishing trips. I know you’ve converted all that information into a spreadsheet. Do you ever let anyone peruse that information?
Mike: My data is my data. I have spent years collecting it and don’t let anyone have access to it. I do, however, teach people how to build a spread sheet and convert their data into a useful form that will help them in their pursuit of giant bass.
Ed: Why did you choose this format (a website) to share your information?
Mike: I love the World Wide Web. It’s amazing what you can learn from different people, all over the planet. I wanted to be part of this global classroom… doing my part is to simply share as much as I know about bass fishing. If I can help others to learn and see things a little differently in their pursuit of big bass, this website will be a success in my eyes.
Ed: Is a book out of the question?
Mike: One of my goals is to write a book, and in fact, I have my first more than halfway done. Hopefully I will finish it soon and have another way to share what I know with people who are willing to learn.
Ed: What does the future hold for you as an outdoorsmen?
Mike: Lots of adventure, taking my abilities on the road and traveling the globe in pursuit of giant fish is my future goal. Sharing that with everyone would be the icing on the cake. I LOVE to catch fish and I hope that desire never changes.
We spent the rest of the day simply figuring out where the fish were and what they’d likely bite. I honestly can’t remember how many fish Mike caught that day, but I can tell you he beat me by a country mile. This isn’t unusual of course, and I doubt many people can keep up with him when he gets in a groove, but it was fascinating to see someone so knowledgeable about a given pursuit put it into practice. After spending a day on the lake with him, he’s still every bit the kid I met over 30 years ago. Maybe a little grayer, and a little thicker around the middle, but still loves what he does and loves sharing what he knows with everyone he meets. 30 years later I can safely say that I still learn something every time we spend time together.
He’s still the professor and I’m still the student.