Hank Cherry from Lincolnton, N.C., an eight-year veteran of the Bassmaster Elite Series, won the 50th annual Bassmaster Classic on Sunday on Lake Guntersville in northeastern Alabama. He brought in five bass on the final day that weighed a combined 19 pounds, 8 ounces for a three-day total of 65-5. Cherry led all three days and the win netted him $300,000.
Competitors and commentators had openly debated whether the Classic would be won by an angler “running a pattern” – catching fish in multiple locations that appeared similar – or “fishing a spot” – concentrating almost exclusively on a particular area.
While the rest of the field ran different patterns throughout the 75-mile, 69,000-acre Tennessee River impoundment, the victor never had to gas up his boat once the tournament began. After catching some key fish on Day One in one part of Brown’s Creek, Cherry fished the Brown’s Creek causeway the remainder of the three-day tournament. The causeway was just a stone’s throw from the Civitan Park launch ramp.
So, the “pattern versus spot” debate was won by an angler fishing a spot. However, one significant pattern did emerge – the Top Eight finishers were powered by Mercury 250 Pro XS outboards. Their combined prize money was $509,000.
Additionally, 33 of the 53 boats in the field were powered by Mercury.
“I never put gas in the boat all week,” Cherry said. “Y’all know me. If it’s windy, I’m not going to be making a lot of long runs — and anyway, I just didn’t need to.
“Everybody has a misconception about those causeways. They think they should just fish the four corners. But bass use those causeways like highways. When they’re coming in, they come through the causeways and go down the rocks and to the back. Then they go exactly the same route when they come back out.”
The win boosted Cherry’s career B.A.S.S. earnings to $934,500 on the strength of three career victories and 10 Top 10 finishes.
South Carolina pro Todd Auten finished second with 58-10, and Arkansas angler Stetson Blaylock was third with 58-1.
Virginia pro John Crews took the Berkley Big Bass award on the third day with a 6-10 largemouth. The Berkley Big Bass award for the week went to Auten for the 7-9 he caught on Day One.
Mercury pro Ott DeFoe, the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion, presented Cherry with the winner’s trophy. Cherry took the customary victory lap around the floor of Legacy Arena with his wife and their two children.