Catching up with the champ

It’s been almost two months since Hank Cherry was showered with confetti following his wire-to-wire win in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic. Anyone who follows professional bass fishing knows that hoisting the giant trophy will change any angler’s life forever.

But no one could have expected how Cherry’s life — and the lives of millions of other Americans — would change in the month following his triumph in Birmingham.

Sure, there have been plenty of media and sponsor obligations to attend to, which Cherry has done cheerfully. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of “Bassmaster Classic Champion” has been largely laid aside as Cherry has taken on the role of homeschool teacher, chef and other now-essential functions in much the same way millions of others across the country have done.

While he’s waiting for the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series to resume, Cherry took the time to talk with Abu Garcia about life in the era of coronavirus and to share some insights into some key gear selections that propelled him to a Classic win.

AG: First things first, how’s the arm you injured during the Classic?

HC: I went to the doctor and was told there was nothing structurally wrong with it. I got two injections to help with the inflammation. It’s still sore; I’m wearing a brace on it to relieve some of the pressure. I’ve been doing some light rehab work on it, some stretching, and icing it at night. I’m going to have an MRI done on it after this virus thing is over. Hospitals aren’t really the place to be right now if you don’t have to be there.

AG: Aside from staying home to help flatten the curve, what have you been up to since the Classic ended?

HC: The month or so since the Classic ended has been largely spent on the telephone: interview, podcast, interview, podcast — at least two a day, every day. It’s great to talk to people, but I wish we were fishing tournaments. The big part of what people have warned me about, the demands on your time and things like that, will happen once we get back on the road.

AG: Let’s talk our favorite social-distancing activity: fishing. It’s been a month or so, could you remind us what your four primary baits were during the Classic?

HC: Jig, jerkbait, crankbait and a bladed jig.

AG: What was your preferred set up for crankbaits?

HC: I used a 7-foot medium (Abu Garcia) Veracity rod and a Revo STX 6.6:1 spooled with 12-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. I like my squarebill rods a little heavier than most people. The reel is ultra-reliable and has the perfect speed for cranking rocks with the type of bait I was throwing. I made long casts down the rocks to get the bait as deep as possible. I beefed up with the hooks with some No. 3 Fusion19 medium-shank extra-wide gap treble hooks that helped a little with extra weight. The idea was to hit the rocks jetting out of the causeway in 8 to 9 feet of water.