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North Carolina pro earns second-straight Classic title as the top five spots go to Mercury-powered pros at Lake Ray Roberts
On Sunday, June 13, Hank Cherry accomplished what only three other anglers have ever done in the history of professional bass fishing when he won a second consecutive Bassmaster Classic championship. The event is considered by many to be the “super bowl of professional bass fishing.”
Competing on Lake Ray Roberts in Forth Worth, Texas, the Lincolnton, North Carolina, pro caught five bass on the final day that weighed 13 pounds, 1 ounce to win the 2021 Bassmaster Classic with a three-day total of 50 pounds, 15 ounces. Cherry earned another of the iconic Classic trophies and his second $300,000 check-in 18 months.
Another Mercury Pro Team angler from North Carolina, Matt Arey, finished second with 49-1, and took home a check for $50,000. Unfortunately, Arey hooked and lost at least one big bass on Championship Sunday that might have put him over the top.
“My lost fish was the Power-Pole Replay of the Day,” Arey joked backstage as he and Cherry discussed the day. “They say no one remembers who finishes second at the Classic, but maybe because of this they will. It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess.”
“I feel bad for Matt, and I told him I’ve been where he was,” Cherry added. “I had the same thing happen to me, and mine happened a lot closer to the boat.
“I’m not giving it back – not apologizing for it. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
Cherry, a nine-year veteran of the Bassmaster Elite Series, finished third in his first Classic back in 2013 on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. Like Arey, he lost a crucial fish in that event that likely would have earned him the trophy.
Cherry went through a tough stretch in the Classic after that, finishing no higher than 27th in three tries. But then he put the bad memories of 2013 behind him last year on Lake Guntersville when he caught 29-3 on the first day of the 2020 Classic and rode that mammoth bag to a wire-to-wire victory.
He didn’t quite go wire-to-wire this year, starting in third place on the first day with a limit of 20-4. But as suffocating heat moved into the area, the fishing got tougher, and Cherry remained consistent enough to stay on top with a day-two catch of 17-10 and a final-round bag of 13-1 that was just enough.
He caught the bulk of his weight during the week flipping flooded bushes along the shoreline and throwing a jerkbait around riprap along the dam.
“I was fortunate to get enough out of them to win,” Cherry said of the bushes he fished.
When the bass got extremely lethargic in the 99-degree heat on the final day, Cherry downsized his lure to fill out his five-bass limit. He had two fish in his livewell at the time but caught three keeper bass within 30 minutes after making the switch.
“I caught maybe the dumbest bass in the lake,” Cherry said. “I flipped into a bush, and instead of going into the bush, that lighter bait kind of ricocheted off of it. The bass actually swam out of the bush to get the bait and swam back in with it.”
That fish weighed almost 4 1/2 pounds and helped Cherry recharge on a stifling day when he said sweat was constantly rolling into his eyes and blinding him.
Cherry joins Mercury pro Rick Clunn (1976-77), Mercury pro Kevin VanDam (2010-11) and Jordan Lee (2017-18) as the only back-to-back Classic winners in the event’s 51-year history. The win is Cherry’s fourth overall with B.A.S.S.
Cherry once again competed in the Classic in a Bass Cat boat powered by a Mercury 4.6L V8 250hp Pro XS® outboard.
2021 marked another successful Bassmaster Classic for the Mercury Pro Team overall as the top five finishers were all powered by Mercury, as were seven of the top 10.
Here are the top Mercury finishers:
Click here for the complete results.
Mercury Pro Team angler Frank Talley, of Temple, Texas, took home Berkley Big Bass honors and an additional $2,500 for landing the biggest bass of the event. He brought an 8-3 largemouth to the scale on day one.
The 52nd Bassmaster Classic will be held March 4-6, 2022, in Greenville, South Carolina, on Lake Hartwell.
Cherry and the rest of the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers return to action July 8-11 on Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, New York. Mercury Pro Team angler Seth Feider holds a 48-point lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with only two events remaining in the season.