Hank Cherry Jr. topped the 50th annual Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday afternoon.
The 46-year-old entered Championship Sunday atop the leaderboard with 45 pounds, 13 ounces to his name. Cherry had suffered an arm injury during Friday's opening round of action, according to Carolina Sportsman's Brian Cope, after falling in his boat. While Cherry said he will probably get his arm checked by a doctor, it did not inhibit him in the Classic.
Cherry earned his first career Bassmaster Classic championship in his fifth appearance. The closest he came previously was as a third-place finish at the 2013 event.
It was not a foregone conclusion that Cherry would parlay his two-day lead into a title, however, as there were four lead changes Sunday. Ultimately, the North Carolina native's 19 pounds, eight ounces on Day 3 secured the trophy.
Bassmaster Classic Top 10 Anglers
1. Hank Cherry Jr. (65 pounds-5 ounces)
2. Todd Auten (58-10)
3. Stetson Blaylock (58-1)
4. Seth Feider (54-0)
5. Micah Frazier (54-0)
6. John Crews Jr. (53-13)
7. Brandon Lester (53-9)
8. Lee Livesay (52-12)
9. Brandon Card (50-4)
10. Matt Herren (49-5)
Full results available at Bassmaster.com with payout information courtesy of the tournament's live stream.
Seth Feider and Lee Livesay tied for Day 3's best weigh-in at 21 pounds, 13 ounces across five fish. It was Stetson Blaylock and John Crews Jr. who appeared to be giving Cherry the most trouble while the anglers were still out on the water, though, as Crews reeled in the day's heaviest bass at six pounds even:
This was Blaylock's first time qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic and Crews' 12th. Both will have to wait at least another year to contend because Cherry would not be denied:
.@cherryhank is back in control on the Final Day of the Bassmaster Classic. He just landed his limit fish and this big one fired him up. His nearest pursuers are upgrading to try and stay within striking range on Guntersville. Anything can happen. #bassfishing #bassmasterclassic https://t.co/KyYvIwK5oF
.@cherryhank put an exclamation point on his tournament with this catch and cull. He's feeling confident with 2 hours left on Championship Sunday at the 50th @Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by @HukGear. #bassfishing #bassmasterclassic #fishing https://t.co/2HqZcSEzRY
Brandon Lester was in second place, four pounds and 13 ounces behind Cherry through Saturday's action, but posted just 12 pounds, nine ounces on Sunday to slide down to seventh place.
Cherry won $300,000 for claiming first place, per the Bassmaster official live stream, while Todd Auten banked $50,000 for second and Blaylock collected $40,000 for third. There is a payout from the tournament's $1 million purse for every angler through 53rd place.