Cherry’s winning baits, ALL the Classic baits, Jack Hammer and lipless cranks won too

Back from the Classic! Another great one — they’re always great. Apologies to peeps I tried to see or hoped to see when I was there. Kinda a madhouse because bass-heads were everywhere (cool) — and I thought my map-readin’ skillz were good but for some reason couldn’t find some booths at the Expo…. All good, here’s a LOT of Classic bait info, hope you dig it man!

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Today’s Top 5

WTHeck Hank Cherry!

That dude a hammer or what!

Til now, leading the Classic on day 1 used to be the kiss of death. What you got with that deal was a couple boatloads of mental pressure, lots of spectator boats, and maybe your fish/bite going away…especially in the current early-spring Classic era…vs more stable weather in the OG summer Classics.

Well, stick a fork in that day 1 curse deal cuz Hank just shot it behind the woodpile and buried it in the yard. Amazing.

Gotta say — Classics usually amaze. Kinda like Someone upstairs wants to use ’em (and, for that matter, other bassin’ derbies — Edwin Evers last year anyone?) for good stuff. What I mean is, I can remember very few undramatic Classics. For sure it’s always a big deal for the winners, but for us observers, wow man it’s amazing.

How ’bout this for starters: Hank found his winning spot by accident — on the official practice day (!!) — almost took one of his arms out of commission on day 1, and STILL led the deal every day and won it. Crazy! Here’s his baits — deets on how he did it in the full pattern post at the BassBlaster site. What stuck out to me from it:

> Using Garmin LiveScope a ton. Never heard a winner talk about it that much. From the talk goin’ around, LiveScope is turnin’ out to be the new Spot-Lock and Power-Poles — a must-have for these dudes.

> Managing spectator boats on day 1.

> His jerkbait obsession paying off big-time — talked about in #3 below.

Hank left his boat n baits in AL so gotta have placeholder bait pics (all from for now:

> Megabass Vision 110+1 jerkbait (GP stain reaction OB = opaque white back, clear sides, orange belly).

> The key to that bait was changing the hooks to #5 medium-shank EWG Berkley Fusion19 hooks because it added the extra weight I wanted — so when you stopped jerking, the bait was sinking. Not like a rock. 95% of my bites was when it was sinking.

> I just had a feeling [the bait should sink from] the way the fish were acting and from fishing bridges at home. …think they see it fall by them, then when I rip it it brings it back up to where it came from. When I got those first bites and saw how good they were getting the bait, I just stuck with it.

> The 110+1 has a longer lip on it so it goes a little deeper [to] target the area where I kept seeing most fish suspended. Throughout the day they might have gotten a little higher [in the water column], but I don’t think I got one shallower than 6′ and no deeper than 10′.

> He fished that bait on a 6′ 10″ ML Abu Veracity Rod, Abu Revo STX Reel (7.3) and 15-lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.

> 3/8-oz Picasso signature Dock Rocket Jig (gp) with a Berkley Maxcent Power Chunk (gp, tips dipped chartreuse), 7′ 6″ H Abu Fantasista Regista Rod, Abu Revo EXD Reel (8:1), 20-lb Trilene 100% fluoro.
> 1/2-oz Z-Man Jack Hammer (Hite’s hot craw) with several grub-style trailers (gp/red flake), 7′ 4″ MH moderate Abu Veracity Rod, Abu Revo STX Reel (7.3), 20-lb Trilene 100% fluoro.

> Said he only had 1-2 keeper fish on the crank.

Fully DETAILED pattern post on

5 Qs with the champ.

Usually these are off the wall/fun Qs, but not this time — wanted us all to get the full perspective of his Classic so:

1. Did you have any feelings you might win it before it started?

As a competitor you always have feelings, good or bad, but I guess the way to answer it is — did I feel like I’d catch 30 lbs to open it? No, but once I did I thought I could win it.

2. Leading day 1 of the Classic has been the kiss of death but not this time. What was different?

I don’t know. A lot of people told me this week, “You just looked peaceful. Like nothing was shaking you, nothing was bothering you.”

I’ve always said that when a big tournament comes around, if I have a lead I want a big lead. But if not I want to be right behind [the leader]. I guess I was comfortable with it.

It was the right place and the right time. My family and I put our trust in the Lord. We can control only what we can control….

[My 2c is Hank looked peaceful fishing, but after these guys…

…got done with him in the Bassmaster Live interrogation room every day, which really exists for guys doing well at the Classic…

…he looked STRESSED man! Don’t believe those pics of Z, Tommy and Davy lookin’ all innocent hahaha! But seriously something like that really does go down…took Paul Mueller YEARS to recover from that deal after the last Gville Classic…heehee!]

3. Your best Elite finish last year was on Guntersville (8th). Anything happen there that helped you in the Classic?

I think the last couple tournaments at Guntersville helped me for this one because I created some history I didn’t have before — areas and locations I felt comfortable I could find fish. That said, if the wind doesn’t blow hard the first day, I don’t end up fishing [where he started] and I probably don’t win the tournament.

4. Your day 1 injury sounded pretty bad. What exactly happened?

I was going to the back deck and was kind of turning weird to land [a fish]. I put my hand down and I guess the wrap was kind of slick, and I semi hyper-extended my elbow. After that point, I felt like every time I brought my arm in and out it was like a pair of scissors cutting me.

[How he got through days 2-3.] I had some topical cream on it, I ate Advil and the 2nd day I tried to stay on my left hand [side] casting. The last day people said they could hear me grunting as I was casting. The pain was intense sometimes, but not other times. …doctor will look at it tomorrow.

5. Your last win was in 2013 — did you ever get discouraged?

[The bottom line was not really, then he said:] I think it’s just human nature to question things. I think at one point in my life I would say, “I can’t believe it, I don’t know what went wrong.” What turned around is now I don’t worry about what went wrong, it’s why it went wrong and let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The jerkbait obsession.

[ shot ^]

Hank’s been obsessed with fishing jerkbaits for at least as long as he’s been on the Elites. Been so “bad” that some of his peers have have actually told him it’s an unwise obsession and maybe he should put that dang thing down sometimes. Definitely been a well-known deal, enough that I’ve joked about it in the Blaster.

BUT Hank just won a Classic and his primary bait was…a jerkbait! Coincidence? My 2c is no, partly cuz I think this kinda stuff is too “coincidental” to be random, and partly cuz I’ve seen the same thing happen with other peeps — a “weird” deal they’ve got is suddenly beneficial. So I asked Hank this Q:

Ever feel your obsession over that bait was a God thing, like He was preparing you for this tourney in His own time?

> I think you probably hit the nail on the head. How [the jerkbait thing] all started I’m not exactly sure. It’s kind of like I was led that way. Kind of like your favorite pair of shoes [laughs[ — I don’t know how to explain it.

> There’s things I can do with that style of bait…I don’t think they’re all natural-learned tendencies. I’ve been in the boat with too many people who say, “I don’t understand this — I can’t get a bite and you’re just catching them.” I have an ability — you can say it’s God-given. It’s one thing I can really do well. There’s other things I can do well, but that one definitely is by far my forte.

Many Classic winners have cited the hand of the Lord in their wins, so I asked Hank whether he had anything else to say about that. Had a couple things:

> The last morning our preacher at church sent a message to my wife for me to read. I won’t share the message, but after I read it it put me in the right state of mind, the right place I needed to be at that time.

> One thing that really helped me out…. I was telling Paul Mueller about losing [a 7-lber at the end of day 2] and he stopped me dead…. He said…”when [that happens] the devil is gonna get in your way, he’s gonna play with you. Say, ‘devil get out of my boat, I don’t have time for you.’ Tell him to stay away, and think good thoughts.” I remembered that when I lost that big one [early on] the last day. Soon as it happened, that’s the first thing that came to my mind. I said, “devil, you got to go.” Honestly I’m in debt to Paul for telling me that.

What went down spiritually-speakin’:

BAM, shazam and SLAM yo!

ALL the Classic baits!

Can’t fit ’em all here so here’s 2nd-10th — can get all 53 of ’em on the BB website. Great tourney for these dudes:

2nd: Todd “the OG bassin’ ‘stache” Auten

> 1/2-oz Z-Man Jack Hammer (fire craw) with a Zoom Z Craw Jr (cajun craw — orange with flake special run color), 7′ 1″ 5-power Douglas Rod, Daiwa Tatula 100 Reel (6.3), 20-lb BPS mono.

> Flats in the backs of creeks, stained water, 4-5’…slight drop, scattered grass, mostly eelgrass with some milfoil.

3rd: Stetson “who needs practice” Blaylock

> Norman Speed N crankbait (chili bowl — bait’s not out yet), 7′ 4″ H2O Express prototype cranking rod, H2O Express Ethos HD Reel (H2O is an Academy brand), 20-lb Seaguar InvizX fluoro.

> Pre-spawn areas in 4-7′, going into creeks and in creeks, mostly eelgrass.

[Stetson and Micah (5th) both used that Norman bait. One deal with it was they said it came through the grass well. I think the bait’s an ICAST release.]

4th: Seth “reelin’ in the years” Feider

> 1/2-oz Z-Man Jack Hammer (shad) with a 3.25″ BioSpawn ExoSwim (Feider shad and pro blue red shad), 7′ 4″ Daiwa Tatula Glass bladed jig rod, Daiwa Tatula SV Reel (7:1), 17-lb Sufix Advance Fluoro.

> Main river bar, drop on the outside edge, strip of hydrilla in 6′. Worked down the strip of hydrilla about 10′ wide.

5th: Micah “Hollywood/Machete” Frazier

> Norman Speed N crankbait (chili bowl — bait’s not out yet), 7′ 4″ MH Abu Veracity Rod, Abu Revo STX Reel, 20-lb Sunline Sniper fluoro. Also a BOOYAH One Knocker (Rayburn red).

> Deeper submerged grass edges in pre-spawn areas, mouths of big bays and creeks.

6th: John “let’s you and me go on a” Crews

> 1/2-oz Missile Mini Flip Jig (b/b) with a full-sized Missile D Bomb (bruiser), 7′ 6″ MH Cashion Rod, Daiwa Tatula 100 Reel, 20-lb Sunline Shooter fluoro.

> 6-10′ brush or rock in creeks.

7th: Brandon “I don’t wear poly” Lester

> 1/2-oz Strike King Red Eye Shad Tungsten 2 Tap (Rayburn red craw), 7′ 3″ MH moderate cranking rod, 7:1 reel, 30-lb Vicious No Fade Braid. Scattered eelgrass on a huge flat, back side of a main river bar, 3-5′.
> 1/2-oz Spotsticker Jig (brown/olive — “I just love the head design and the 5/0 Mustad hook”) with an X Zone Muscle Back Craw (gp). Fished on docks and rock.

8th: Lee “call me Finch Nasty” Livesay

> 1/2-oz Finch Nasty Thumper bladed jig (red/black and white, that bait’s supposedly the deal on Fork) with a NetBait Little Spanky swimbait (sun perch on the red and white on the white), 7′ 3″ MH Halo TI Rod, 18-lb fluoro. Also used a HogFarmer WarPig underspin head with a NetBait Big Spanky.

> Shallow hydrilla (1-3′) in the first pocket in a major creek, and shell beds on the main river (3-8′).

9th: Brandon “did you get my” Card

> Jerkbait (shad), 7′ M Abu Fantasista Premier Rod, Abu Revo MGX Reel (8:1), 12-lb DUEL Hardcore T7/Elite fluoro.

> Mid-creek riprap, most fish coming out of 5-7′.

10th: Matt “great but not blue” Herren

> 3 lipless baits: Yo-Zuri Rattl’n Vibe, BOOYAH One Knocker (mostly), Strike King Red Eye Shad (5/8- and 1/2-oz, red, chartreuse, chrome/blue). 7′ 3″ Kistler Feel N Reel Rod, Daiwa reel, 16-lb Gamma Edge fluoro. Mostly used the custom-Sharpied One Knocker (Rayburn red).

> Little depression, ditch ran through a flat, deepest part was about 7′ with the lip about 3′. Fish were sitting on isolated patches of coontail on that ditch…all kinds of vegetation in there.

> Also used a 1/2-oz Z-Man Jack Hammer (clearwater shad) with a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper (white trash) on the same setup and in the same areas as the lipless baits, and flipped docks with a 3/8-oz Dirty Jigs signature Flippin’ Jig (gp) with a Reaction Innovations Spicy Beaver (gp), Kistler 765 Zbone Rod, 20-lb Gamma Edge fluoro.

Lipless cranks and the Jack Hammer won the Classic too.

Lipless cranks were the bait type used most by the competitors, and the Z-Man Jack Hammer was the most-used specific bait overall — based on my rundown of the Classic dudes’ primary baits.

One note: Yep some of this does reflect who a guy is sponsored by, but for sure not all of it. Two good examples: BOOYAH only had 3 pros in the deal, and only 2 of ’em fished the One Knocker. And there’s no way Z-Man has as many dudes on staff as fished the Hite “Jack” Hammer.

Lipless cranks

33% of the total field used ’em. Top baits were:

BOOYAH One Knocker = 19% of all lipless baits — plus one of the “other lipless baits” below was a BOOYAH Hard Knocker.

Strike King Red Eye Shad (couple were Tungsten 2 Taps) = also 19%

8% each = Rat-L-Trap, Berkley Warpig, SPRO Aruku Shad, SPRO Wameku Shad

Other lipless baits = 27% of the total lipless count

Bladed jigs

These were next with 27% of the total, with the Jack Hammer accounting for 58% of the bladed jigs — plus it was fished by 21% of the field, making it the #1 named bait of the Classic. One guess who designed it — here’s a multiple-choice deal for ya:

That’s right — Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic 4 hahaha! Should mention that 3 of the other bladed jigs were regular Z-Man Chatterbaits.

The rest

The next most-used baits were:

> Jigs (13%)
> Crankbaits (12%) — Rapala DT6 (mostly in demon) accounted for more half
> Swimbaits (7%) — Basstrix won that categoryAfter that jerkbaits and spinnerbaits were tied, then flippin’ plastics, then last was 1 worm, 1 swim-jig and 1 football jig.If you’re curious, here’s the bait breakdowns I put together after the first 2 days of el Clasico — been Top Secret til now (I think):

Day 1

Day 2


I’m ALMOST (but not quite) baited out yo! Back at ya on Thurs bassin’ peeps!

On right now…
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