Cherry maintains grasp on Classic lead heading into Championship Sunday

Vance McCullough

Hank Cherry is focused. “The only thing that’s been on my mind for the last two hours is making sure I have batteries for tomorrow. I’m ready to go right now. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen. I’m just ready for it to happen.”

Cherry says he will sleep well tonight “As soon as I eat dinner and play with my kids.”

Cherry defended his lead with another solid limit from the same areas that served him well on Day 1 but says even though he knows fish are still there, if they don’t cooperate, he will not die on the causeway. “I have stuff that I practiced that I haven’t even ventured to yet. I haven’t had the need to yet. Until I get some sign or have no bites, I’m not going to run off.”

Cherry has cycled between Jigs, bladed jigs, a squarebill crankbait and a jerkbait – lures he’s used to comb the entire length of the Brown’s Creek Causeway as well as a 400-yard grass flat.

Brandon Lester has matured as an angler and now he’s poised to make a run at the Classic title. The biggest lesson he’s learned so far in his career? “I have learned that it does no good to get frantic on the water. If you start rushing, getting in hurry, you’ll fish right over the top of them. Keep a good pace. Keep a level head. It’s hard to do. It’s the 2nd day of the Classic and I’ve got 9 pounds at 11 or 12 o’clock and I pull up on those docks and it happened.”

The docks Lester spoke of set the backdrop for what will be a most-remembered Classic moment. He horsed a couple of big bass over a rope and swung them into his boat. Statistically, Lester should have lost those fish. But when fortune smiles on you, you’ve got to like your chances going forward. Is this Brandon Lester’s Classic? “I’m hoping so. That’s the kind of thing that you have to have happen. All I can do is all I can do. It’s just great to have a chance.”

John Crews has followed the script laid out by most anglers heading into this tournament: a strong start, maybe 20 pounds, and a solid 2ndround, something in the high teens. Now if he can just sack 30 pounds tomorrow. Crews has no idea where that sack may come from. He’s just going to hustle and keep an open mind. “Where do I need to fish and what do I need to throw? The last two days I had no idea what was gonna work. Where I caught ‘em the first day, I didn’t get a bite there today. So I had to change it up and catch ‘em in a new area, and I’m expecting not to catch anything in that area tomorrow and I’ll have to go find some other new area.”

Gotta love a solid game plan.

Whoever takes the trophy on Championship Sunday will do so amid a talented field of anglers.

Hey, these whippersnappers can catch ‘em,” says Mark Menendez about the field he competed with in the 50th Bassmaster Classic this week on Lake Guntersville. “They are very talented anglers. They are very skilled in what they do. I think one of things that makes them as deadly as they are is their preparation. These guys work on their computer, they’re looking at Google Earth, they’re looking at their map cards. They do a lot of research that cuts their search down quickly.

“These names at this Classic, you’re going to hear them many, many times in the future.”

Day Two is often referred to as ‘moving day’. Stetson Blaylock embraced the concept, “I made some moves today.” Blaylock didn’t change areas or tactics, but he feels he dialed-in a little better with respect to timing – the critical decisions regarding when an angler should fish which spot, when he should head to the next.

He also fine-tuned his retrieve angle to fit the conditions, a ‘move’ that resulted in far fewer bites, but a slightly bigger bag. “Didn’t adjust hardly at all, just some angles because the wind changed directions on us, but the same areas produced the bites again today. It was definitely slower. I’m hoping the warmer weather tomorrow, and not getting as cold tonight, will keep some fish up and ready to go. A little warm weather and they’ll start to make some moves.”

He’s excited to be fishing on Sunday. “I want to be consistent, do the best can and try to hang in there. That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow.”

Mike Huff didn’t catch them. Zeroed on Day Two of the Bassmaster Classic. In front of the whole bass fishing world. But that’s just it, in Huff’s opinion. In front of the whole world. Not many guys can say they did anything in front of such an audience. “If you’re a fisherman you’re going to have bad days. Just to make it here is a big accomplishment. I wanted to do good, but at the end of the day, when you’re fishing the Classic there’s no such thing as a bad day.” Huff, who would get carded trying to buy non-alcoholic beer, shared a laugh with the crowd when he rode into Legacy Arena with an oversized fake mustache.

All kidding aside, Huff is already focused on making the 2021 Classic. “The big thing is to learn from it. I’m going to fish next season just as hard and try to get back to next season’s Classic.”