Lineberger eyes the Elite prize

Before Hank Cherry became an Elite Series pro, he fished team tournaments for more than 10 years with fellow North Carolinian Shane Lineberger. Lineberger is happy for Cherry and strives to join him via the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens.

This is Lineberger’s fourth year competing in the Opens. The 41-year-old angler fished the Southern Opens the past three years and added the Northern Opens this year to increase his odds for success.

Lineberger has come close to achieving his Elite goal. He finished 11th in the Southern Open point standings in 2012 and 10th in 2013.
When asked if he or Cherry was the better fisherman, he refrained from taking a friendly jab at his friend. Instead, he said: “We both like fishing shallow and have our strengths and weaknesses.” 

When asked if he’d like to be like Cherry, he quipped, “He probably wants to be like me.”

Spinning tackle is a bane to Lineberger and Cherry. This seems odd, given that they often competed together at Lake Norman, which has a strong spotted bass population. 

When most anglers think of spotted bass, a shaky head jig and a drop shot rig are the first things that come to mind.

“Neither of us is much on finesse, but we’ll do it when we have to,” Lineberger said. “At Norman, that’s usually not a necessity.”

The bigger spotted bass at Norman comport themselves like largemouths, Lineberger claims. They relate to docks and planted brush and respond well to jigs, topwater offerings and other lures that can be served up with baitcasting tackle.

Now that Cherry is preoccupied with the Elite Series, Lineberger fishes team tournaments with his father, Jerry. They fished together often while Lineberger was growing up, mainly from shore for crappie, catfish and anything that would bite.

Lineberger didn’t start bass fishing seriously until he joined a local bass club when he was 21. He has never looked back.

“My dad turned 65 this year,” Lineberger said. “I try to take him fishing as much as I can.”

While Lineberger is fishing, his wife, Hope, looks after their 8-year-old daughter, Alli.

Due to a slow start this year in the Southern Opens, Lineberger is looking forward to a new beginning at Lake Douglas in late May. Douglas is the first stop on the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open series this season.

In recent years, tournaments at Douglas have been won by fishing deep offshore structure. This includes a Bassmaster Elite Series event there in 2012, which was won by strolling crankbaits.

Lineberger is familiar with Douglas’ history, but he plans to fish shallow anyway.

“I’m going to fish my strength, which is shallow water,” Lineberger said. “I’m going to run upriver and go flippin’.”

Although Lineberger doesn’t think he can win by fishing shallow, he believes he can nab a Top 20 finish that way. Since his goal is to qualify for the Elite Series, he would rather fish shallow and earn points than take a chance on zeroing in deep water.

The deep bite at Douglas is no longer a secret, Lineberger points out. He believes the key areas for fishing deep there will be crowded this time around.

“There are probably only 25 [deep] places on that whole lake that are really good,” Lineberger said. “The locals in that tournament will cover them up. I’ve got enough experience on that lake that I don’t have to fish for them that way.”