Elite Kindness

The Bassmaster Elite Series traveled from coast to coast in 2015, and we were fortunate to tag along and watch as the best anglers in the world competed in every situation imaginable. The fishing is only part of it though – family, friends and faith are big part of the “gypsy” life these anglers lead, and are often overlooked by the coverage these tournaments receive.

Continue reading “Elite Kindness”

Hank Cherry: Change Pace for Fall Jerkbait Success

When it comes to catching bass on a jerkbait in the fall, throw out every rule you think you already know about jerkbaiting.

That probably sounds a little extreme, but it’s really not: a jerkbait like the Team Livingston JERKMASTER 121 with Electronic Baitfish Sounds (EBS) MultiTouch™ technology is a great way to catch fish in October, but you really have to refocus the way you fish a jerkbait as bass make that transition from late summer to fall. Continue reading “Hank Cherry: Change Pace for Fall Jerkbait Success”

Cherry pushing to raise awareness of rare disease

As Read on BassFan.com

Bassmaster Elite Series angler Hank Cherry is hoping to raise awareness and funding for Sanfilippo Syndrome research after he learned the daughter of a longtime friend had been diagnosed with the disease.

Sanfilippo Syndrome is a rare terminal disorder that affects 1 in every 70,000 young children.

“There are so many diseases and ailments out there that get a lot of attention and support, while the tragic Sanfilippo Syndrome remains virtually unknown,” Cherry said. “I‘d like to change that.”

Cherry_Hank_Ferguson_AbbyGrace_1411_sanfilippo_574_HCChildren with Sanfilippo Syndrome are born without a vital enzyme that breaks down complex carbohydrates in the cells. Over time, the waste products build up and cause severe brain damage and an early death, typically before their teenage years. There is currently no cure or treatment for the syndrome.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that Cherry learned about Sanfilippo Syndrome.

“My college roommate’s daughter was diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome,” Cherry said, referring to 10-year-old Abby Grace Ferguson, the daughter friend John Ferguson and his wife Wendy.

Ever since learning of Abby Grace’s diagnosis, he has spent many hours researching and educating himself about Sanfilippo Syndrome. He’s making it his objective to not only raise money for his friend’s family and to offset medical expenses, but to raise awareness so that future diagnosed children have a better chance at a longer life.

“I’d love nothing more than for researchers and doctors to heal Abby Grace, but it’s also important to fund the research so that future kids have a chance as well,” Cherry said. “Today, it’s Abby Grace, tomorrow it could be your kid, my kid, or any kid for that matter.”

Cherry isn’t alone in his efforts to raise money for Sanfilippo Syndrome research. Earlier this fall, fellow Elite Series angler J Todd Tucker hosted his annual Songwriters Quail Hunt and through an auction in conjunction with the event more than $5,200 was raised for the Abby Grace Foundation. Jacob Powroznik, the reigning Elite Series rookie of the year, also donated the funds to bring the Ferguson family to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina in February. Cherry plans to host the Ferguson family at the Classic and make sure Abby Grace and her family have a great time.

Cherry and Ferguson played college baseball together at UNC-Pembroke, where former teammates of theirs, headed up by Jason Lockhart, hosted a fundraiser called Strike Out Sanfillipo to raise additional funds for both research and the Ferguson family.

For more information about Sanfillipo Syndrome and Abby Grace, visit the Abby Grace Foundation’s Go Fund Me website at www.gofundme.com/abbygracecure.

Cherry’s Finesse Swimbait Winner

(As posted on Wired2Fish.com) Tournament success is often the quickest way for a new bait or pattern to come to the top of the angling mediaverse. Anybody buy one of those $50 Chatterbaits after the 2006 Classic or a $75 Alabama Rig after Elias smashed the field at Guntersville in 2011?

It makes sense. I get it. In a sport where ounces separate the winners from losers, anglers are constantly looking for an edge and when you see someone shock the field like Elias did that famed October, it’s hard to resist the urge to go out and whip out the plastic.

As compelling as those “rags to riches” bait stories are, they are actually pretty few and far between. Whether due to lack of media attention, or marketing ineptitude by a manufacturer; there are a host of proven, tournament winning techniques that just haven’t resonated as well with the angling “in” crowd.

Red Hot North Carolina Pro Hank Cherry has been a working example of this dynamic for the past year and a half. His finesse swimbait technique has netted him a pair of primetime wins and well over $100,000 since the beginning of 2012, but you probably haven’t even heard of it.

That’s likely due to a combination of lazy tournament coverage and Cherry’s workmanlike attitude toward the kind of success many anglers only dream of.

Either way, it’s about time anglers across the country pay attention to one of the things that has Cherry, a humble North Carolinian, blowing up like a Coosa River Spot during the shad spawn.

The Technique

Cherry honed his fishing skills on the famed reservoirs of North Carolina. Places like Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, and High Rock Lake. Places that have a lot of bass, but also receive a lot of angling pressure.  That pressure, along with his observations of fish chasing shad far off in the distance, forced Cherry to experiment in order to catch them.

“I’ve been working on the swimbait technique for quite a few years.” Cherry says, continuing “I noticed on our lakes back home that a lot of times you would see fish flipping shad on the surface, but by the time you got over to them they would be gone. I started to experiment with swimbaits and gradually determined that casting distance is the priority. I switched to light line and a spinning rod, and have been throwing it like that ever since.”

All Cherry’s experimentation paid off in 2012, when he won the Bassmaster Southern Open held on Alabama’s Smith Lake in October 2012. Cherry was targeting fish chasing suspended balls of shad and blueback herring from long range. “At that Smith Lake event, I could see fish feeding all over during practice, and I got pretty excited because I fish that kind of stuff all the time back home. If you could get that swimbait out to them, they would come up and eat it.”

Like in the Smith Lake event, Cherry most often fishes his swimbait on a spinning rod because it provides him with the casting distance to reach pressured fish before they can sense the presence of a boat.

Seasonally, Cherry has found his greatest success with the finesse swimbait from fall all the way through winter, although it can be effective any time fish are predominantly keying on shad. “I think of it as a fall or winter presentation” Cherry says, “But I’ve caught them on it at other times of the year when they are actively chasing shad. I just think that is a lot more frequent once the water temps start dropping.”

The Bait

Cherry prefers the Damiki Anchovy Shad for most of his swimbaiting. The anchovy shad is a diminutive 4 inch bait that swims well even at the slowest speeds. Cherry thinks the presentation is so effective mainly because there isn’t really anybody else out there doing it. “Across a lot of the country, there are fish out there in the fall that nobody targets because they get too spooky and unreliable if the shad move. Most places, they have never seen anything like it, so when that little swimbait comes swimming over their heads, they just can’t resist it.”

The specific setup Cherry generally relies on is a 7′ Medium Denali Noirwood spinning rod paired to an Abu Garcia Revo 30 spinning reel. He spools the Revo with 10lb braided line and tips it with a leader of six or eight pound fluorocarbon. About the braid to fluoro connection, Cherry says “That light braid really lets you launch that thing and bury the hook from far away, but the fluorocarbon keeps the finicky fish biting.”

You might think that six to eight pound line may seem a little light, but Cherry actually considers the presentation pretty safe, and he rarely loses or breaks fish off. “Generally, the fish you are catching like this are in open water, or deep water. Once you get them hooked, there isn’t really anything they can do to get off as long as you take your time.”

Finesse?

Cherry doesn’t necessarily consider the technique a true “finesse” presentation, and he throws it even when the fish are biting really well. This September provided a perfect example of that, as Cherry relied heavily on the swimbait during his win at the BASS Elite Series All-Star event held on Michigan’s Muskegon and White Lakes.

In that event, Cherry targeted aggressive largemouth and smallmouth feeding around big balls of bait in transition areas. Because of the varied depth, proximity to cover, and big smallmouth, Cherry actually switched the swimbait to a baitcaster spooled with 15lb fluorocarbon. “I knew with those big smallmouth up in Michigan that I needed to go to a stronger line. They were aggressive too, so I could sacrifice a little casting distance and visibility for the improved line strength.”

Although he was fishing it on heavier line on a baitcaster, Cherry still focused on making casts to fish that were relating primarily to shad, and  not on a piece of structure. “Those fish up at the All-Star Event were moving around areas from 2 to 20 feet of water and just following big balls of bait. I would reel that swimbait through there and they couldn’t resist.”

Try it Out

Although Hank Cherry has won over $100,000 and an Elite Series Event predominantly featuring his unique finesse swimbait pattern, you haven’t seen the tackle industry respond the way it has with other winning techniques. There are several reasons for this.

One, many of the components involved have been around for years. The industry likes shiny, new, and crazy looking. A finesse swimbait on a light jighead doesn’t fit the mold.

Two, it’s a finesse presentation.  In general, the media (and industry) isn’t as wowed by finesse presentations as the power techniques. Things like drop shotting, wacky rigging, and shakey heading have had an exponentially more profound impact on tournament fishing in recent years than the Alabama Rig, but the allure of catching a whole limit on one cast intoxicates all. Plus, conflict attracts attention. When was the last time you heard anglers arguing over whether the neko rig should be banned?

Lastly, Hank Cherry is not a peacock. He doesn’t use his success purely as a means to hock the latest widget from Ronco. That’s not saying that Cherry isn’t a pleasure to work with and that he doesn’t work his tail off for his sponsors, it’s just that he’d rather let his results on the weigh-in stage do his talking than a series of tweets or YouTube videos.

All that said, Hank Cherry is working to bring his finesse swimbait technique into the mainstream the hard way. One win at a time.

Stay Positive

So what do you say when the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Rookie of the Year and All Star tournament winner Hank Cherry invites you to North Carolina for a little fishing? You say “Yes”, of course.

Fishing at the Elite level is not for those who do not believe in themselves. Likewise, they need to not give in to the negativity of others. The top anglers have faith not only in their own ability to catch fish, but in their ability to pursue their dreams. Along the way there will be obstacles, and their belief in themselves will be tested.

Like many professional anglers, Hank Cherry has heard a lot of people say “No” along the way to the top of the sport, and those rejections are just part of the job if you want to fish for a living. As the saying goes; Every “No” is just one step closer to a “Yes”.

Social media is a tool that allows connections with people all around the glob, but some days it just seems to add to the number of “No’s” you hear. Like many other online experiences there can be too much energy focused on the negative things in life and people simply may not realize or care what impact their comments may have on others. So when Cherry was logged into Facebook recently he noticed that one of his long-time followers was feeling discouraged after she announced her desire to fish Pro-Am tournaments as a co-angler. This hit close to home. “Hillary tells me that all she gets is negative feedback when she talks about fishing as a co-angler” . For Cherry, seeing someone that obviously loves to fish and knowing that their ambitions were disrupted by the negative comments of others frustrated him.

Cherry had promised his wife that if he ever had the opportunity to help somebody that has the passion and drive for fishing, like he does, he’d do his best to help them. He seized the opportunity to offer a little support for her dreams. “I think it’s important for people to know that this is possible, that you have to believe. If this is what you want to do, don’t let anybody tell you different. I told her that I heard those exact same things. All I heard was that I was going to fail, I wasn’t good enough, blah blah blah” explained Cherry.  He added “It seemed to work out pretty well for me.”

After chatting online with the aspiring angler from Missouri, Cherry asked her if she’d like to come to North Carolina and be his partner at a fishing tournament. In December Hillary Hughes will team up with Cherry at Lake Norman for the 8th Annual Ryan Newman Foundation Annual Charity Fishing Tournament.

Hughes said that she was shocked when he invited her to come to North Carolina to fish with him. “I had posted something about people just doubting me and fishing and saying why waste money”.

She went on to say that Cherry told her that he heard those same things before he started fishing in the Elite Series and that he told her have faith and to believe in herself. Shortly thereafter she received the message asking her to come to North Carolina.

Right now Hillary is looking forward to spending time on the water and learning as much as she can. She says that the thought of winning the tournament is exciting but that just being given this opportunity is more than enough to make her happy.

Brandon Ober

20 Questions with Hank Cherry

The 2013 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year is not exactly a new face to B.A.S.S. fans. Hank Cherry won a Bass Pro Shops Southern Open in 2012 and he’s been the man to beat on waters around his North Carolina home for years. Most recently, he took top honors at the 2013 Toyota All-Star week and Evan Williams Bourbon Championship. Here’s how he stacked up against our 20 Questions. Continue reading “20 Questions with Hank Cherry”

Hank Cherry and the Tug of Family

“I hope you dance…”

Dateline:  La Crosse, Wis.

I never told Barb, this. Never told, Ashley, never told, Jimmy. But Ashley. But Jimmy.

When we first brought you home from the hospital, that first or second night that you were with us, when Mommy was exhausted and asleep, I would get up and go into your nursery,

and I would gently pick you up in your blanket,

and I would hold you in my arms, tight against my chest,

and we would dance.

In the moonlight of Fresno,

we would dance.

In the moonlight of Allentown,

we would dance.

And sometimes you would open your eyes, and in the moonlight as we danced I would rub noses and kiss you cheeks,

and in a whisper,

I would sing to you,

about love,

and mommies,

and daddies,

and little babies, blue or pink.

Ashley,

Jimmy,

I know you don’t remember it, but whenever I’m out, and it is a clear moonlight night,

I still smell your baby powder,

I still feel your perfect skin, your wisps of hair,

and in that special place you have in my heart,

we,

still,

dance.

“…I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…”