Twenty Questions with the Champ: Hank Cherry Speaks
North Carolina pro Hank Cherry won the 50th Bassmaster Classic with a dominant wire-to-wire performance on Lake Guntersville. He staked himself to a substantial lead on Day One with a massive catch of 29 pounds 3 ounces, and then never let off the gas pedal, all while using less boat fuel than any other competitor. The Classic win marked the third B.A.S.S. victory for the veteran angler, and the second in the state of Alabama.
Due to extenuating world circumstances, he hasn’t had an opportunity to fish a tour-level event in two months-plus since he hoisted the trophy – so the Bass Cat media team caught up with him to find out how the Champ is doing, and to get answers to the questions you always wanted to ask.
1. You’ve had the Classic trophy in your possession for over a couple months – how many times a day do you check to make sure it’s still there?
Every time I go to check on the kids in their rooms I just peek over at it, so that’s probably at least twice a day.
2. Fresh on the heels of your win, the world went into a virtual lockdown. How have you been keeping your fishing skills fresh?
I’ve been keeping my skills fresh by enjoying my son’s enthusiasm about fishing – teaching him how to cast at targets in the yard, treating the fence like riprap, just virtual being on the lake but in the yard.
3. Speaking of your son, I know he does a killer Dave Mercer impression. How many years until he takes over the announcer slot?
Now he’s kind of swung from Dave’s job to my job. He says as soon as he graduates high school he’s going to get working on it.
4. How has the Classic victory changed your life?
Financially it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Peace of mind – with all that we’re going through right now we are fortunate that we may not have to go through some of the troubles that other people may have. We hate to see our friends and my fellow anglers struggle.
5. Where do you expect to get to defend your title?
If I were guessing, for some reason South Carolina or Florida are probably in my head.
6. If you could have the Classic on any body of water you chose (other than Guntersville) where would it be?
I’d like to have it on Lake Norman at the end of February.
7. You’re known as a jerkbait expert. What’s the key to being a great jerkbait fisherman?
You got to have some serious patience because you are fishing for a ghost. You’re fishing for a fish that’s not attached to anything. You really have to have patience and think and concentrate on every cast and believe that there’s something looking at it.
8. Jerkbaits are known for a lot of fish losses. How do you minimize that problem?
I handle that problem through a three step process. One, slow the gear ratio down on the reel, which will make you take more time to pick up slack. That’s when a lot of bites happen. Two, I always change stock hooks and put on my own hooks. Three, which I’ve had a lot of questions about the last month, is my 15-pound test line. I believe when you hook them up with changed hooks and a little bit bigger line you get a better hookup.
9. How many jerkbaits do you own?
I was counting the other day and I got through two boxes and I counted about three thousand.
10. If you could only have one jerkbait color for the rest of your life, what would it be?
One color for the rest of my life? It would have to be that Stain Reaction OB in anybody’s bait because everybody that makes that color, it seems to work across the country.
11. Does the win at Guntersville ease the pain from the 2013 Classic near miss at Grand Lake?
It does, but in a weird way it makes me kind of tell myself that I cheated myself. I should have had two, so I really want a second one now.
12. Why should anyone fish any place other than bridges at Guntersville?
It’s full of fish. I can’t give a great answer to that, but I can say this: pay attention to everything that Guntersville has to offer. You have to fish it by the seat of your pants. I’ve caught them all over, from 20 feet deep to bank grass to the backs of creeks to the river. Guntersville is just a special place and you never know when that special day is going to happen, and it could happen anywhere on the lake.
13. If you were on death row, what last meal would you request?
Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and a biscuit.
14. You hurt your arm during the Classic. How hard was it to lift that trophy?
I didn’t feel the pain when I was lifting it. I think that was the adrenaline, but I felt it after and it’s still kind of bothering me now.
15. You were a very good baseball player when you were young. Which is more mentally grueling, ninth inning and the game is tied, or last day of the Classic and you need one more fish to clinch it?
Classic. I think it’s because it’s just you. In baseball there are so many things that go into making it work, nine guys working together. In the Classic you have it all on yourself.
photo: Chris Brown
16. How did your kids benefit from the Classic winnings? Did they ask for anything?
They haven’t asked for anything. With my son coming up in athletics, and seeing the struggle that he goes through, competing against older kids sometimes and wanting to know if he can do it, they all together saw me accomplish something that I set forth in my head so many years ago. He sees now that with hard work and determination anything is possible.
17. Why should someone make Lincolnton, North Carolina their next vacation destination?
If you want to catch as many little spotted bass as they possibly can, Lake Norman is right down the street. We’re small, not really been affected by the virus, and it’s really a beautiful little place.
18. What do you like best about your Bass Cat Lynx?
Safety. My dad, myself and my son went to Chickamauga this winter to pre-practice and ride around. We got stuck in a windstorm riding against the current. They were pulling astronomical numbers because of the flood and we had some really huge waves. It gave me chance to see what this thing could do. We got across safe. When we got back my dad looked at me and said, “I’ve been in every bass boat and I’ve never been in one where I felt as safe and that rode as good as this one.
19. What does the term “Bass Cat Family” mean to you?
It means history. It means that I know that if I need something I can pick up the phone and get what I need. When you think about Rick Pierce sending people personal letters thanking them for buying a boat, that means the world.
20. What’s next for Hank Cherry?
Next for Hank is hopefully getting back on the road and fishing and trying to track down an AOY title. I’ve avoided my nemesis of bed fishing because of this virus, so it should set up well for me. Hopefully we can have some good tournaments and I can string a few together and make a run at this thing.