The 2013 season started off with a 3rd place finish in the Bassmaster Classic for Hank Cherry of Maiden, NC. He was able to carry that momentum throughout the regular season to capture the Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year title. While it seemed like his newfound success came easily, the season was full of lessons learned and hard work just to survive. He started the season as a relative unknown financing the bulk of the season himself and ended the year with a host of new sponsors and accomplishments to his name.
The 2013 Bassmaster Classic – 3rd Place
Finishing the Bassmaster Classic in 3rd place was a thrill for Hank Cherry, but if you watched the event, then you know there was more to his story. He lost several key fish that would have put him in contention for the win and it was a major heartbreak as the footage of a big bass getting away was replayed at the weigh-in stage. “The Classic really prepared me for the ups and downs. It made me realize ‘what happens, happens’ and you can’t do anything about it but continue to fish hard,” added Cherry. This was the first of his many lessons this season.
Sabine River, TX – 40th Place
Going into the first day, Cherry found a backwater very close to the ramp and decided to fish there the first day. He ended up Day 1 within the Top 5, but a number of lost fish on the second day resulted in him falling in the standings and ultimately ending the event in 40th Place. “The lesson I learned from this event was that, if you slip one day these guys will catch you,” added Cherry. He felt that it was the toughest fishing of anywhere he had fished in his life. “You also didn’t know what you had when you hooked something, it could be a flounder, a redfish a bass or something else,” said Cherry.
Falcon Lake, TX – 68th Place
After a successful practice, Cherry was expecting to do well at FalconLake. “I had 20lbs on Day 1 and should have had 30 on Day 2 but I lost several fish. Everyone was telling me that in those heavy trees you have to get them out of there quickly, but I learned to the contrary that the best thing was to get them pinned and go get them with your trolling motor,” shared Cherry.
Bull Shoals Lake, AR – 33rd Place
After fishing for ten minutes on the first day of practice, Cherry knew he was going to catch them. “I caught some big ones right away and they were eating the jerkbait and swimbait very well and that’s really how I like to fish,” shared Cherry. In anticipation of an oncoming storm (Day 1 was cancelled due to weather), Cherry prepared to fish the conditions he would be faced with during storm conditions. “I knew exactly what points they would be on in the wind and where they would be positioned,” said Cherry. His Day 3 was his worst of the event and he added that it was his fault for not adjusting. “I should have gone back into the shallow water. In clear water the fish will get back there quickly after a storm comes through,” admitted the North Carolina pro.
West Point Lake, GA – 4th Place
Cherry had his best event of the year at West PointLake and it really played into his strengths. “I used a jerkbait there and really, used a jerkbait throughout the whole season. It’s funny but I was using the exact same rod, reel, line and jerkbait at just about every event this year,” said Cherry. He located as many places as he could that were holding large spotted bass recovering from the spawn and targeted those fish that were relating to docks and eating spawning shad.
Alabama River, AL – 20th Place
The fast, high water conditions at the Alabama River were very unusual and changed the whole landscape of the river. Cherry came into the event with almost no river experience besides the tidal Potomac River. The flood conditions and extremely fast current created a completely different situation and Cherry was fishing an unusual area. “I found a little backwater area that was a little eddy that was pushing clean water out of the backwater into the main river. The area was small but I was using a jerkbait and bouncing it off structure and they would hit it as it deflected,” added Cherry. Later as the water rescinded, he realized he was fishing a flooded campsite and the objects he was deflecting his jerkbait off of were metal barbeques, firepits and other camping objects.
Mississippi River, MN – 72nd Place
“The Mississippi still confusing to me,” says Cherry. He had a great practice but the bite changed and the fish were not as aggressive towards his topwater frog. “I should have changed after that storm when I noticed they weren’t eating the frog right. I should have switched a topwater bait with a treble hook because they were just swiping at the bait” added Cherry.
St. Lawrence River, NY – 31st Place
The St. Lawrence was the only event that Hank Cherry pre-practiced for this season. “I went up there to get to know my way around, but as it turned out, it was probably the easiest place we went to get around and know where to go for gas,” shared Cherry. He found a riprap wall 200 yards from the launch and he milked it each day to get a stringer of smallmouth bass. “Everyone would just fly by there on their way out. I found a few little stretches that didn’t have grass on them and the fish would be stacked up in those areas when the sun came out,” added Cherry.
Lake St. Clair, MI – 30th Place
Cherry had a two year stint on the FLW Tour in 2007 and 2008 with limited success and both times he visited St. Clair. Although he didn’t fare well, it showed him that the fish on nearby Lake Erie can shut down or move with a change in wind. Knowing this, Cherry again found an area close to the ramp to fish in Lake St. Clair instead of making the long run. “My dad taught me early on that you always need to have an area close by in case of mechanical issues. Also, a lot of these places have so many tournaments on them that there is a good population of fish close to the ramps because of the release boats,” mentioned Cherry. By Day 3, he was playing it safe to avoid a disaster. “Honestly, I just wanted to get back in safely and on time and not fall out of Classic contention or lose the Rookie of the Year,” said Cherry.
All-Star Week and the 2014 Classic
Cherry is excited about being in the postseason All-Star event in late September 2013 and the Classic in February, 2014. He’s honored to be part of these events. This season his focus was to be able to provide for his young family and keep his dreams alive. “My son is three and a half and has my Rookie of the Year trophy on his dresser, and all he does is talk about the Classic every day,” beamed Cherry. Even though he is happy he qualified for the Classic again, Cherry wants to win. “I had an opportunity last year and may never get that close again, but if it is cold and the weather is bad I think I will have a chance,” said Cherry with determination.
Hank Cherry is remarkably humble and driven to succeed in professional bass fishing. The 2013 Elite Series season was not his first taste of tour level fishing, but he had a renewed focus this season. His young family has given him a different perspective and a new set of priorities. Hank Cherry has the attitude and skills to survive at the top level of bass fishing for years to come.