Bassmaster LIVE co-host Ronnie Moore shared additional photos of Hank Cherry winning the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
Paul Mueller’s first Classic, 2014 on Lake Guntersville, yielded the heaviest 5-fish limit ever weighed in the event — 32 pounds, 3 ounces — and landed him second from the top. Saturday saw Mueller finishing second from the bottom during a tough Guntersville outing in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by HUK.
Like the 2014 event, in which a key bait adjustment put him on track to nearly winning his first Classic appearance, this year’s disappointing finish also came down to decisions. Unfortunately, this time found Mueller on the wrong end of the equation.
“This time around, there was a lot more grass and a lot more current and the water quality was not as good as the last time we were here,” Mueller said. “I had an area where I thought I could get off to a good start, maybe event two days worth of fish; but I realized that all the rain we had before the tournament and all the wind we had on Day 1 blew to my water.
“It was a fragile deal and I didn’t make the right adjustments. When you get off to a bad start and you only catch one fish (2-8) on the first day, you really have to go for a big bag.”
Figuring he’d need 24-26 pounds, Mueller strategized and went looking for an offshore bite — something largely contrary to what most of the field was doing. Finding a lot of bait, crappie and white bass out deep was encouraging, but Mueller never located a school of big bass and ended with a lone 2-7.
“The other thing is that I had the fish in 2014,” Mueller said. “The weather did affect my primary area (that year) and the water kinda got blown out. The difference is it flushed out faster (than this year) and got back to normal.
“The one thing I’ve learned on Guntersville is that if you catch fish in an area with a certain water color and then that water color gets worse, it’s not going to happen. I knew that, but I just couldn’t put anything together. I had made a long run, so that already takes a lot fo your day away from you. So it was just one of those deals where it snowballed on me.”
Mueller, who won the 2020 Elite season opener on Florida’s St. John’s River, addressed the notion of momentum.
“I never buy into the the momentum thing because every tournament’s its own beast,” he said. “The thing is in competitive fishing, you don’t get too high on your success and you don’t get too low on your failures. I think that’s how you have a good career. You just stay level minded and know that you learn the most from your worst finishes.”
Stetson Blaylock has been a professional angler for 11 years. He has attended several Bassmaster Classics to work the expo for various sponsors. But he never wanted to attend a single day of the weigh-ins until he qualified to walk across the stage himself, like he has done this week.
"I'm experiencing it for the first time while standing on that stage," said the 32-year-old father of two from Benton, Ark. "It's something you need to see standing there on that stage. Take a deep breath and take it all in. I can tell you I have a whole new respect for the Bassmaster Classic now that I've been on that stage. I see those fans that are out there to see you and those fish. To me, that's what it's all about."
Blaylock acquitted himself well in his first Classic. He was 11th on Day 1, moved up to 5th on Day 2 and unofficially has moved up to 3rd today. He briefly held the lead early this morning.
We've seen some heroic comebacks this week, including Seth Feider's big bag today and the comeback that Keith Combs engineered yesterday.
Neither will likely win, though.
Cherry established a huge lead on Day 1 and kept his foot on the gas. Everyone else either stumbled or let off the gas at some point. There is no room for errors here.
Ultimately, those comebacks may be morale boosters, but more likely they will be thought of as "what could have been."
If Hank Cherry wins he will be the first NC champ since David Fritts in 1993 and the first winner in a Bass Cat since Mark Davis in 1995.
Two Hall of Famers, both inducted in 2019. Maybe this is the start of Hank's HOF push.
It would be easy to say this Cherry has this wrapped up, but this is Guntersville and there are plenty of 7+ lb bass swimming out there -- sometimes in close proximity to one another.
There's no chance Hank will head to the dock and eat pizza. That says it all.
This time of year, the late afternoon bite should be best. The sun is beatimg down, the water is warming, and thse fish want to be up shallow and spawning.
Todd Auten and John Crews are not out of it by any means, but this is a lake where culls can come in pounds, not ounces, so the chance of someone vaulting up from below them is very real.
On Saturday you needed to look outside the Top 10 to find the name of Seth Feider. Yesterday he was 11th with 32 pounds, 3 ounces. Now, BASSTrakk shows him in fifth with 51-3, based on a 19-0 limit.
Photographer Andy Crawford is on Feider now, and he just called in this report. In the Goose Pond area of the lake, he is concentrating on a vast sandbar, and specifically current breaks and eddys created by the current as it contacts the bar. A bladed jig is getting the job done. Feider is making casts into the slack water and near the tops of the breaks.
It's all good news for The Llama on Championship Sunday.
Brandon Lester has a 9-pound, 12-ounce limit at 11:30 today. That's almost exactly what he had at this time yesterday before he finished with his second-straight 20-pound bag. Lester had to adjust his tactics from Day 1 to do so, and that's why some thought he would be one of the contenders this week. The 31-year-old pro from Fayetteville, Tenn., has matured as a tournament angler.
"I'll tell you what's different about my fishing," Lester said yesterday. "I've learned that it does no good to get frantic on the water. If you start rushing, you'll fish right over a 30-pound bag and never know it's there. If you'll just keep a good pace, you'll do well most of the time. But it's hard to do.
"It's the second day of the Bassmaster Classic, and I've got nine pounds in the boat at 12 o'clock. I pull up on those docks and it happens."
Lester had dock-fishing as a back-up plan. He played a hunch to go there at noon yesterday. That's where he caught the 6-pound, 7-ounce big bass and filled out his 20-1 total to go with the 20-15 total that put him in 4th place on Day 1.
We are back in Brown's Creek and passing by your tournament leader. Very few spectators as compared to past Classics, including the 2014 iteration here. With Bassmaster LIVE, you're actually closer to the action at home.