By Josh Boyd
For those that bass fish competitively, there are few dreams that one holds as much admiration for as that of walking the stage at the Bassmaster Classic. There is something undoubtedly magical about the bright lights, music, and cheering fans that one experiences as they stage their fish for weigh-in at bass fishing’s most prestigious event.
For 50 anglers, this dream became a reality on March 6th-8th, at Lake Guntersville in northeast Alabama. The thought of what a Bassmaster Classic Title would mean weighed heavily upon the minds of each individual in the field of 50 as they launched their boats on the morning of Friday, March 6th. However, by Sunday evening, only one would be the new Bassmaster Classic Champion.
As competitors left the launch on day one, temperatures were slightly cooler, and the wind a little brisker than many had hoped. Despite actively pre-fishing the lake, a number of anglers expressed difficulties in locating bass on day one. A common theme began to emerge, as one angler after another cited a less than ideal weather pattern and poor water visibility as a significant source of difficulty.
While the weather and water clarity did appear to play a role in the success, or lack thereof, for many anglers, others including Hank Cherry managed to post big numbers at the day one weigh-in.
Cherry jumped out to an early lead on day one, posting an outstanding total weight of 29 pounds- 3 ounces. When asked about his quick start out of the gate, Cherry said, “Today went really good. Totally unexpected, but I’m happy.” Cherry cited a bladed jig as the source of most of his first-day success, though he said that he threw a jerkbait and crankbait on occasion as well.
Day 1- Top 5 Totals:
1. Hank Cherry: 29 Pounds- 3 Ounces
2. John Crews Jr.: 21 Pounds- 8 Ounces
3. Clent Davis: 21 Pounds- 8 Ounces
4. Brandon Lester: 20 Pounds- 15 Ounces
5. Todd Auten: 20 Pounds- 0 Ounces
Micah Frazier: 20 Pounds- 0 Ounces
The second day of the Classic ran fairly consistent with the events of Friday. One notable exception was Clent Davis’ drop from a tie for second place in the standings, down to seventeenth place overall. Saturday also saw Brandon Lester climb up from fourth place to take second on the leaderboard. It appeared as if consistency was the key to holding ground and remaining in the chase on Saturday.
Few anglers managed to display as high of level of consistency as that of Hank Cherry. Cherry continued to put bass in the boat at a feverish pace on Saturday, going back to some of his go-to spots from the day before, with the Brown’s Creek Causeway and an odd grass flat or two producing the bulk of his day’s take.
Another angler that showed a level of consistency all his own was Todd Auten, who continued to occupy the number four spot on the leaderboard at day’s end. Auten posted good numbers, despite facing a flurry of boat traffic that slowed afternoon progress. “It seemed like after I got quite a few boats around me it just kind of quit. It got tougher to catch them,” said Auten.
Day 2- Top 5 Totals:
1. Hank Cherry: 45 Pounds- 13 Ounces
2. Brandon Lester: 41 Pounds- 0 Ounces
3. John Crews Jr.: 38 Pounds- 3 Ounces
4. Todd Auten: 38 Pounds- 0 Ounces
5. Stetson Blaylock: 37 Pounds- 9 Ounces
Anticipation was high as boats launched on day three of the Classic. The wind that plagued anglers on day one had subsided, and the water had begun to clear in many areas of the lake. Most believed that Sunday was shaping up to be the day that Lake Guntersville would give up some of the monster bass that it is so well known for. However, fishing remained much the same as it had been in the previous two days.
Despite tough fishing, some of the seasoned veterans of B.A.S.S., as well as many newcomers, continued to get the job done. Hank Cherry came into Sunday firmly situated atop the leaderboard, and it was no secret that it would take a banner bag of fish to knock him from this perch. John Crews Jr. and Stetson Blaylock proved to be top contenders for the title, both boating multiple bass of notable size. Additionally, Todd Auten continued to pull one bass after another from the waters of Guntersville in his bid to claim the title.
However, at the end of the day, Hank Cherry’s banner run proved to be too much for the rest of the field. With a total tournament weight of 65 pounds-5 Ounces, Cherry claimed the victory and was crowned the 2020 Bassmaster Classic Champion.
Final Tournament Totals- Top 5
1. Hank Cherry: 65 Pounds- 5 Ounces
2. Todd Auten: 58 Pounds- 10 Ounces
3. Stetson Blaylock: 58 Pounds- 1 Ounce
4. Seth Feider: 54 Pounds- 0 Ounces
5. Micah Frazier: 54 Pounds- 0 Ounces