Bryan Kerchal remembered Bryan Kerchal went from an unknown to a legend in only 2 1/2 years, between the time of his first divisional to the time of his death as the reigning Classic champ. Posted on November 19, 2014 Photo: Kerchal family - Bryan Kerchal was a complete unknown in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was an average guy who worked nights at The Ground Round, a restaurant near his home in Connecticut ... Photo: Kerchal family - ... so he could fish during the day. Photo: Kerchal family - He caught a 5-pound, 7 1/2-ounce smallmouth in 1988, shown here holding a replica he had made of it. It was the largest smallmouth caught in Connecticut that year. Photo: Kerchal family - He came from a tight-knit family. He's shown here with his mother, Ronnie, his father, Ray, and his sister, Deana. Photo: Bryan Kerchal - Kerchal's first bit of fame came with his photography hobby, when the newspaper published his work on a nearly full page. Kerchal took this photo of his cat nose-to-nose with a chimpmunk. Immediately after he clicked the shutter, the cat chased the chipmunk and tried to eat it. Kerchal chased the cat to rescue the chipmunk from kitty's jaws, but he failed. Photo: Kerchal family - When Kerchal wasn't fishing, taking photos or working, he was going through his tacklebox with this girlfriend's brother, teaching him the finer points of bass fishing ... Photo: Kerchal family - ... or taking him out on the water. Photo: Kerchal family - Kerchal competed in his first divisional in 1992 and won the opportunity to represent Connecticut in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. He was so shy, the tournament director had to nearly drag him onto stage to take this photo. Photo: Gerald Crawford - Months later, Kerchal won the Eastern Division at the championship, earning him a qualification to compete in the 1993 Bassmaster Classic. Photo: Kerchal family - At the 1993 Classic, he was all too happy to sign autographs for the children at the Kids Classic. The unknown angler only caught one fish per day during the Classic and went on to finish in last place. Photo: Kerchal family - Several months later, Kerchal qualified again for the upcoming Classic. His fishing partner, Roy Rickis, gave Kerchal a fish whistle as a good luck charm for the 1994 Bassmaster Classic. Kerchal said he would blow it every time he caught a bass, and he was true to his word. Photo: Charles Beck - Kerchal was on the fish in the 1994 Bassmaster Classic. He caught a limit every day, and he eagerly blew that whistle as a tribute to his friend â which also let his competitors around him know he had scored another one. Photo: Charles Beck - Kerchal was in the lead going into the final day, but Tommy Biffle caught a huge sack weighing nearly 19 pounds, leaving most fans (and most insiders, too) thinking this was going to be Biffle's Classic, not Kerchal's. Photo: Charles Beck - But indeed, it was Kerchal's Classic. Photo: Charles Beck - He was steady over the length of the tournament, the only competitor to catch a limit each day. Photo: Charles Beck - Even Kerchal couldn't believe it when it was formally announced. Photo: Charles Beck - Kerchal stood proudly on the stage as his new trophy was presented to him by Don Corkran, Helen Sevier, Ray Scott and Forrest Wood. Photo: Kerchal family - His girlfried, Suzanne Dignon, joined him on stage as soon as his family was allowed up ... Photo: Charles Beck - ... and Kerchal rode around the arena with his girlfriend and his parents, with an American flag and a Classic trophy, during his victory lap. Photo: Charles Beck - Bryan Kerchal became the first B.A.S.S. Nation representative ever to win the Classic. His victory as a B.A.S.S. Nation angler has still not been replicated. Photo: Charles Beck - The once shy Kerchal was in the limelight, answering question after question from a very interested press ... Photo: Gerald Crawford - ... and going out the next day for a professional photo shoot for the cover of Bassmaster Magazine. Photo: Laurie Tisdale - His victory was celebrated in B.A.S.S. Times, the newspaper of the B.A.S.S. Nation. His winning lure, which is still in the B.A.S.S. headquarters office, sits in front of the paper. Photo: Tyler Wade - Magazines across the world â even printed in Japanese â touted Kerchal the victor. Photo: Kerchal family - Over the next few months, he fished several tournaments, and also caught up with old friends, like Tom Cutler. Photo: Dave Richey - Being a Classic champion afforded Kerchal great opportunities, including a trip to go bass fishing in Mexico. Kerchal caught this 5-pounder on Lake Baccarac on the weekend of Dec. 10, 1994, just days before he was killed. Photo: Karen Cole - After his trip to Mexico, Kerchal was the guest speaker at Wrangler's Employee Appreciation Day. He spoke in front of a crowd of 700. This is the last known photo of him. He boarded the doomed plane hours later. Photo: Laurie Tisdale - Kerchal was assigned seat 6B on American Eagle flight 3379, but a last-minute weight distribution shift resulted in Kerchal moving up to 3A. The other two passengers seated on row 6 lived. The plane broke apart only a row ahead of where Kerchal was seated, and he died instantly. Shown at right is a layout of the cabin of the plane, which Ray Kerchal has in his files, that shows Kerchal's assigned seat and his final seat. Photo: Laurie Tisdale - Copies remain of schedules for events that he had committed to but didn't live to attend. Photo: Laurie Tisdale - The fish whistle that he had made famous became a collector's item, as did trading cards with his likeness on them. Photo: Charles Beck - In the 1995 Bassmaster Classic, the crowd grew still as an empty boat trailered around the arena in his memory, with only Kerchal's Classic trophy in it. Photo: Jon Stewart - His ashes were scattered at Taunton Lake in Connecticut, the place he fished the most. Photo: Jon Stewart - A few years ago, B.A.S.S. staff visited the site and paid tribute to Kerchal's memory. Photo: Tyler Wade - Ronnie and Ray Kerchal have moved to Georgia. They still maintain the Bryan V. Kerchal Memorial Fund. Photo: Tyler Wade - In their new home, Bryan is remembered through photographs ... Photo: Laurie Tisdale - ... because photographs and memories are all that remain. Photo: Charles Beck - Kerchal may be gone, but this image lives on for the thousands of young anglers who have dreams of achieving the ultimate bass fishing goal â winning the Bassmaster Classic.