“If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up!”
With that, Hank Cherry hoisted the trophy as champion of the 50th Annual Bassmaster Classic.
Cherry lead from wire to wire in the event, bringing in a first day bag over 29 pounds that gave him a lead that was insurmountable, totaling 65 pounds 5 ounces for the three days, despite hard charges from second place finisher Todd Auten, who weighed 58 pounds, 10 ounces total and third place Stetson Blaylock, with 58 pounds, 1 ounce. Cherry earned $300,000 for the win, plus assuring himself tens of thousands more in appearance and sponsor fees over the next 12 months.
Cherry sealed off the win primarily by hammering one of the best-known community holes on all of Lake Guntersville, the Highway 69 Causeway rip-rap. The rock structure, which separates the Brown’s Creek arm of the lake from the open water of the main channel, is a well-known travel route for bass in spring on their way to spawning flats in the shallows in Brown’s Creek.
While many competitors ran many miles up and down the lake searching for big bites, Cherry burned only a few gallons of fuel on the last few days, fishing less than a mile from the docks where the Classic took off each morning from Civitan Park. With a rapid warmup, Cherry was confident that large spawning female bass would be moving along the rip rap, feeding in pre-spawn mode as they made their way towards the bay. Though he didn’t catch a lot of fish, he caught the right ones and came home the winner.
All of Cherry’s fish on the final day came on a hard plastic jerkbait. The suspending , clear/shad-colored lure had a larger lip than many in this mold, causing it to run a bit deeper and bounce off the rocks along the causeway. That was what it took to trigger the strikes of the larger fish, as he brought in a bag averaging about 4 pounds each on Sunday to seal the win with 19 pounds 8 ounces.
Other lures that scored big during the competition were lipless crankbaits, squarebills and small diving crankbaits, as well as bladed jigs, particularly the Chatterbait Jackhammer. The orange/brown shade known as “Guntersville orange” was almost universal on all of these lures used by a variety of competitors.
For a full list of the winners and video of where and how the anglers fished, visit www.bassmaster.com.
— Frank Sargeant, Editor