Hank Cherry held the lead he earned on Day 1 and fought through an arm injury to become Champion in the 50th Bassmaster Classic Tournament.
The 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk has finished with a Cherry on top.
Event emcee Dave Mercer coined that phrase for Hank Cherry's inaugural Bassmaster Classic win, earned with a total weight of 65 pounds, 5 ounces. An injury on Friday to his arm wasn't enough to slow his casting down, and his Final Day bag of 19-8 was plenty to clinch the victory on Championship Sunday.
Since it was held on historic Lake Guntersville, with weigh ins in Birmingham, Alabama at Legacy Arena, we knew there was the potential to see a 30-pound bag. Cherry came the closest, and worked through rough conditions the first couple days to win the $300,000 purse and bass fishing immortality.
Todd Auten took second place with a total weight of 58 pounds, 10 ounces, and Stetson Blaylock rounded out the top three with 58 pounds, 1 ounce.
Seth Feider and Micah Frazier were tied for fourth at 54 pounds even, but Feider took the tie-breaker with the biggest single day bag. John Crews was the last of the Super Six weighing 53 pounds, 13 ounces of fish over the three days.
You can find photos from the Classic over the course of the weekend, the full leaderboard, and more official coverage over at Bassmaster.com. The Bassmaster Classic Expo was well-attended as well, turning the Super Bowl of bass fishing into the true must-see event on the pro angling calendar.
Champion of the 50th Bassmaster Classic
Cherry, a 46-year-old pro from North Carolina, used his gigantic 29 pound, 3 ounce Day 1 limit to set him atop the leaderboard, and he never looked back.
"I talked to Paul Mueller in the boatyard, and he told me the devil was gonna try to get in my head today," Cherry said from the stage just before hoisting the trophy. "He said just tell the devil to get out of your boat. He said tell him you don't have time for him."
The majority of those first day fish were caught on a grass flat, but for the most part, he worked a stretch of causeway to earn him the needed weight the remainder of the tournament.
He caught his biggest bass using a Bloodythumb Lures crankbait modeled after the old Speed Trap in a color he described as "Mud Bug." Cherry also put a jig to work, and of course a jerkbait, which he's become well-known to employ.
On bass fishing's biggest stage, they helped him rise to the top.
The changing conditions over the course of the week really threw anglers for a loop, and many had to scrap their pre-fishing plans to find other methods of catching fish.
How did Cherry deal with the wind and cold temperatures?
"If anyone knows me," he said," I do not like rough water. I don't like waves. I want to make sure I get home to my family. That being said, you're not going to believe this, but with the exception of the grass flat, and five casts on the causeway, I never fished anything that I practiced. Everything I caught was off history."
It's good that he knew his history, because it would lead him to the finish line.
"There's been multiple big tournaments, multiple 35-, 40-pound bags caught off those corners. I just did not fish the corners of that causeway, because historically that's what everybody targeted. I looked for odds and ends, places where rocks had fallen off to make little high spots off the riprap. I'd mark them, see them with my [Garmin-powered] LiveScope as I was fishing along, and that's how I would pick the fish off."
You could tell the emotions had taken a toll on Cherry by the time the press conference had rapped up, but you could also notice the subtle comment he made while listening to reporters' questions.
"I'm just in awe of all these names," he said, glancing at the list of past winners on the trophy.
After the tournament's 50th anniversary, Cherry's is now listed amongst them.