Relaxed, Focused Cherry Relishing Fresh Start

(As posted on BassFan.com) There he was, face down on the deck of his Skeeter, his agony evident in each inhale and exhale through the chilled February air blowing across Grand Lake.

Hank Cherry’s devastation after losing a fish in the final hours of the Bassmaster Classic is certainly one of the lasting images of the 2013 tournament season so far, but it’s not how he wants BassFans to remember his first go-around at the sport’s signature event.

“It was a wonderful experience and I’m going to use it as a driving force or a stepping stone to remember how close I was and how important it is to get back in that situation every year to have that shot,” he said.

In his mind and in reality, this season has evolved into way more than a lost giant on the final day at the Classic, where he finished 3rd. He’s proven he can bounce back from adversity and with three events remaining, he’s running away with the Elite Series Rookie of the Year chase against a pretty stout class of “rookies.”

In his second turn as a tour-level pro, Cherry has a different mindset now than he did when he fished the FLW Tour in 2007-08. He’s fishing more relaxed – solid sponsorship support helps on that front, he says – and his finishes are a direct result. This season, he’s missed just one check (Falcon Lake) and is in position (14th in Angler of the Year points) to make a run at another Classic berth and a spot in the postseason event.

Back At It

Six years ago, when Cherry started fishing the FLW Tour, he did it on his own dime. He had some modest success (two Top-10s), but he struggled to put consistent finishes together.

Lacking the sponsorship support necessary to continue, he backed away from the sport almost entirely after the 2008 season. Two years later, he won a Nitro boat at a Lake Norman Oakley Big Bass Tournament and he could feel the embers start to heat up inside. The itch to get back to the top level of the game was back.

He fished the Bassmaster Southern Opens in 2011, but finished no higher than 48th in any of the three derbies. He took another swing at the Southern Opens last year and connected in a big way, winning at Lewis Smith Lake and landing the Classic berth. He also finished 4th in points, which earned him an invitation to the Elite Series.

“After I won the Open, I had a little time to think, but not a lot of time to decide whether I was going to fish the Elites or not,” he said. “My wife and I had pretty much already made up our minds that if I made it and had the chance, I was going to do it and if I didn’t, I was going to regret it.”

It’s safe to say he has no regrets so far. He was fortunate enough to be signed this year by Livingston Lures, a new company on the hardbait scene, and that’s lifted a burden off his back.

“Since the season started with the Classic and everything that’s been going on, it’s been one straight roller-coaster ride,” he said. “I’ve had a pretty flawless year except for the second day at Falcon. I only had like 15 pounds and I should’ve had 30. It was just one of those days where they just didn’t come in.”

He said his previous tour experience, combined with his fishing pedigree that was shaped on the lakes around North Carolina, have helped him navigate this season with relative ease.

“It’s been all of my experiences fishing. I think the places that we’ve been being mostly new and with a lot of the guys not having prior knowledge, it’s kind of leveled the playing field,” he said. “I try not to ever get bigger than the moment and just realize what I’m there for and just enjoy it.

“I think earlier in my career I didn’t enjoy it as much because I was so concerned about the money, the money, the money and what you have. When you have a team and support in your corner, it’s a little bit easier to go do your job.”

He said he noticed a big swing in his mental approach when things started going his way at Grand Lake in February.

“I think it really switched for me on the first day of the Classic when I started catching them,” he said. “It just put the thought in my mind that I could do this. The biggest thing, though, was Livingston (Lures) coming on board and signing me and getting me to a point where if I don’t make a check at a tournament, I don’t have to worry about my family eating or the bills getting paid.

“When I fished the Tour, I fronted all the money so I was pressing a bit and then second-guessed a lot of my decisions. Now, I just put my head down and just fish with confidence. ”

Rookie In Name Only

The class of 2013 Elite Series rookies is a unique bunch. Among the nine rookies are a Forrest Wood Cup winner (Kevin Hawk), an FLW Tour winner (Jason Christie) and a U.S. Open winner (Clifford Pirch). Kelley Jaye, another rookie, is fishing both tours this season after fishing the FLW Tour in 2012.

Of the nine, only four really qualify as true newcomers to the top level of competition.

“It’s a pretty impressive rookie class when you go down the names,” Cherry said.

That’s why he’s relishing his position atop the ROY standings. He holds a 77-point advantage over Pirch after five events and a 79-point cushion over Christie, who’s 3rd.

“It’s been a goal from the beginning,” he said of winning ROY. “There are several good guys that are trying to get it, guys that I’ve known for a while and guys who are established. Honestly, it probably means a little more to me than it does to Jason (Christie) or Cliff (Pirch) because Cliff’s won a U.S. Open and Christie’s won a bunch. It would be the first big stamp for my career besides the Open win.”

Heading North

While his experience level is limited at the three remaining venues on the Elite Series schedule, Cherry is optimistic that he’ll be able to hold serve.

He’s never fished the upper Mississippi River, but from what he’s seen and read, it could play to his strengths. He fished two FLW Tour events at the Detroit River so Lake St. Clair won’t be a foreign body of water to him. The wild card could prove to be the penultimate tournament at the St. Lawrence River.

“I’ve never been to the St. Lawrence, but I have such a love and a passion for fishing up that way since I went to Champlain for the first time,” he said. “I don’t foresee it being an issue or being intimidated. I need to go up there with a strong game plan and not get too far out of the realm of what I do best.”

Day Four with Cherry at West Point Lake

James Overstreet

Photographer James Overstreet caught up with Hank Cherry on Day Four on West Point Lake. Cherry soon landed what would be the Carhartt Big Bass of the day with a weight of 5-15, so Overstreet stayed with him to see what Cherry had up his sleeve on this challenging body of water.

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Hank Cherry joins Livingston team

Bassmaster Elite Series angler Hank Cherry has joined the Livingston Lures Pro Angler Team. Cherry, coming off of an impressive third place finish at the Bassmaster Classic, is the latest addition to the Livingston Lure Pro Angler Team, joining Brent Chapman, Jeff Kriet and Randy Howell.

While Cherry is a rookie on the Elite Series trail, he has dominated regional pro circuits for over a decade.

Cherry took notice of Livingston Lures at the Sabine River Elite Series event, “I had heard about Livingston at the Bassmaster Classic, but never had the chance to visit their booth. At the Sabine River event, I got the chance to see fans react to their products, and I was impressed. Then at the Falcon Lake event I had a chance to actually spend some time in their set-up. Again, the fans were excited about the baits and when I heard several customers talking about how much they liked the baits they had purchased on previous days, I knew I wanted to be a part of this team.”

Cherry met with Livingston executives and the entire pro angler team at a Livingston retreat at Horseshoe Bay Resort 80 miles north of the Livingston’s headquarters. Cherry stated, “I met with the people of Livingston and saw firsthand how the company cares about its products, its people and growing the sport as much as I do. The entire Livingston Pro Team and I worked with lure designer Jerry Rago on the new Pro Series line of baits, which should debut at ICAST in July. It’s a very exciting time for Livingston Lures right now, and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Fred Battah, CEO of Livingston Lures, is pleased to have Hank Cherry join the Livingston team. Battah said, “We observed Hank’s fishing skills, personal composure and stage presence at the Bassmaster Classic. Now that we have spent some time with him, there is no doubt he is not only an exceptional angler but a quality person with a high level of fishing intelligence. Hank will be a very valued asset and team member for the Livingston Lures Pro Angler Team.”

Livingston Lures offers a full line-up of hard baits that have extensive technology built into them, including sound. Sound has quickly become a tool anglers at all levels have started utilizing frequently. Cherry expressed, “From my experience on the water, sound is a valuable element in catching bass. Livingston’s sound and vibration technology is something I have already added to my tacklebox. Fishing against the best anglers in the world, I need all the advantages I can get.”

For more information about Livingston Lures, visit LivingstonLures.com.

Cherry’s Moment in 2013 Classic

Author: Brad Wiegmann |

Every lifetime there comes a moment. A moment in time you wish you could replay. That moment once gone will follow you forever.

Winners achieve greatness by working towards goals. For 2013 Bassmaster Classic Championship qualifier Hank Cherry it was a dream of a lifetime. It was a dream that he spent his life preparing for by fishing in tournaments every opportunity possible.

Cherry has had his ups and downs during his fishing career. He reflects on the past only to recognize how to achieve goals set for the future.

This year the highlight was winning the Bassmaster Bass Pro Shops Open on Smithville Lake. The low point occurred during the Classic when a big bass got off. It all happened so fast.

Over the years, Cherry has landed thousands of fish. Rarely does one get off when Cherry is pulling them in.

As the video played on the Bassmaster Classic stage of Cherry epic battle all he could do is sit down on the steps and watch. Cherry knew the outcome and probably replayed it over and over in his mind on the drive to the BOK Center in Tulsa.Bassmaster Classic Hank Cherry Copy

One can only imagine what Cherry was experiencing.

Crumbing to the floor of his boat, Cherry had two options. He could lay there in self pity having loss a big fish in the Classic or get up and make another cast.Bassmaster Classic day 3 weigh in

Everyone in the BOK Center looked stunned. They were afraid that Cherry would just lay there or get up and throw a fit. The crowd of 15,000 plus was silent.

Not surprisingly Cherry decided to get up and fire out his jerkbait hoping to catch another big bass. He had learned over the years of fishing in tournaments that things happen that he couldn’t control. This was one of those things.

It’s moments like these that shape and change an angler forever. Over the years a number of past winners of the Classic have experienced what Cherry experienced. Hopefully like them, Cherry will learn and use it as a learning experience.

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