Cherry spoiled the plot

Vance McCullough


Hank Cherry leads Day 1 of the 2020 Bassmaster Classic with 29 pounds, 3 ounces of Lake Guntersville Bass, good for a lead of 7-11 over John Crews and Clent Davis who are tied for 2nd with 21-8 apiece.

Brandon Lester holds 4th with 20-15. Todd Auten and Micah Frazier share 5th place with 20 pounds-even.

This was supposed to be the slowest day of the tournament, conditions improving through Sunday. Anglers were trying to survive this round, make a move on Saturday and then maybe somebody would bust a 30-pound sack to take the trophy with some last day heroics.

Cherry spoiled the plot.

It may still only take a weight in the low 60’s to win. If so, Cherry is almost halfway home. And he hasn’t touched his choicest stuff yet. “I had to make a decision to follow my head or follow my heart,” said Cherry on stage. Afterward, he elaborated, “I listened to my head instead of trying to be the hero and go do something I’m not comfortable with. The wind made me totally change my game plan up and I decided I wasn’t gonna beat the waves. I was going to spend my time fishing. Fishing a place nobody else wanted to fish but I have some history, knew that I could catch some fish there. I capitalized. They were there.

One of the questions coming in to this Classic was whether grass would produce the win, or would the Guntersville’s miles of riprap and bridges do so. It seems like the grass camp is winning. Except for Cherry who pounded riprap with a number of different baits, including the jerkbaits he’s known for.

Grass on the outside edge in 6 feet, grass along drains leading to spawning areas, grass out in the middle of big, nondescript flats – it seems like everybody has his own grass pattern and they are catching fish on it. Except, of course Cherry.

The guys tied for

As wind lessens each day the guys say they plan to move around more. Today’s conditions served the purpose of forcing much of the field to save their favorite spots. “I would say that’s accurate,” said Frazier, noting that he felt fortunate to have the 20 pounds he weighed today and that tomorrow he will run some of his ‘better’ stuff that was unfishable today. “I’m cautiously excited. Throwing a moving bait on grass in Guntersville, you can catch a big bag. And it doesn’t take long. You can catch five 5-pounders in one pass.”

Lester may leave his “big eelgrass flat with a couple of sweet spots” for a different reason. “My third fish was a 7-6. That’s a really goodstart to your day,” but “That one area, I just don’t feel like they’ve set up there. There’s more potential there than what I caught today. I know there is. There’s been a lot of money won in that area.”

Crews bailed on his primary area early today. “I caught a limit there in 10 minutes and then went an hour without catching any. I had a pattern that I thought was going to be better than it was but then those grass fish were bigger than I thought they were going to be.”

Crews’s experience indicates that grass may be the best bet as the tourney goes on.

Todd Auten did the grass thing as well, but he did something that made him feel at home too. The Carolina angler fished a few docks. “I fell into the Guntersville groove with rattle baits and Chatterbaits. You can’t beat that here. But I do love to fish docks and they get on the docks here. Some. I will be trying a few more tomorrow.”

Auten said floating grass makes it difficult to fish the offshore in places, one reason he’d like to establish the dock bite.

A couple of guys have a shot even though they failed to catch a limit. Grae Buck is the most extreme case. He brought two fish to the stage. They weighed over 13 pounds. He says he lost one other good fish. If he can put it together tomorrow . . . “I think I figured out what to look for. It’s going to be a lot of cranking and hope I come across 5 of them tomorrow instead of 2. I’m going try to expand on the pattern. Buck found his fish on rocks and stumps which could make him dangerous since he is doing something off the main pattern and should, therefore, have more water to himself. If he can make it work.