Although frog fishing and finesse fishing very rarely work to catch bass at the same time in the same place to win a tournament, Aaron Cherry (pictured below in the middle) and Gracie Herbold (pictured below on the right) of the Headland High School Bass Team from Headland, Alabama, finished in second place at the 2018 Mossy Oak Bassmaster High School Series National Championship at Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee, each fishing his or her strengths.
Sixteen-year-old Aaron Cherry has been fishing for the Headland team for the last four years, and he explained, “I heard about the Headland High School Bass Fishing Team from a friend. When I went to observe the tournament they were competing in, I really got fired up, and I joined the team the next week. To be able to fish in the National Championship, anglers had to qualify through several different events, and Gracie [Herbold] and I double qualified. We finished second in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race in Bassmaster and first in AOY for the Wiregrass Student Angler Team (WSAT), a smaller high school bass fishing tournament circuit sponsored by Bassmaster.”
Cherry’s first bass fishing partner was a senior his first year of competition, so he didn’t have a partner. Gracie Herbold had joined the team a year before. The Headland Team had a partner swap every other year and swapped partners for some tournaments. After Cherry and Herbold had fished together some during one tournament season, they decided to become partners during the 2016-2017 tournament year.
“Gracie is a really good angler,” said Cherry. “She’s good at slow fishing and very effective at catching bass on a plastic worm. I like to fish fast with a rubber frog. Her favorite lure is a 5-inch plastic worm Zoom U-Vibe in green pumpkin. The frog is my favorite bait because I love to see a bass blow up on a frog.”
Cherry and Herbold had to fish four tournaments together to finish second for the Angler of the Year in the High School B.A.S.S. Nation Tournament, and they also fished four tournaments with WSAT.
“Although Gracie and I have our favorite baits to fish, we’re both very versatile. For instance, in the championship tournament held on Kentucky Lake, we fished the Zoom Ol’ Monster , which is a 12-inch plastic worm. Gracie caught a good number of her fish on a plum-colored one. I caught bass on a Wobblehead, a weighted head lure that’s head moves back and forth as it swims along the bottom, with a creature bait, the Rage Bug as a trailer. I was crawling that bait slowly over mussel beds. The tournament lasted for 3 days, and on the first day Gracie and I had 15 pounds, 1 ounce.”
The biggest fish they weighed in that day weighed 4-1/2 pounds that Herbold caught. After the first day, they were in seventh place out of 337 teams.
“I was quite surprised that we were that high in the standings, because Gracie and I only caught three bass during the practice phase,” said Cherry. “However, we had found several schools of bass on our Humminbird Helix 12 depth finder, but we just couldn’t get the bass to bite.”
Once the tournament started, they returned to one of those schools of bass and the bass began to bite. During the three-day tournament, they caught 12 of the bass that were weighed in from that same spot. This particular place was a funnel point where bass staged to go into a creek. They knew that bass would be coming out of the main lake and staging on this underwater point all day long. Their strategy was to continue to fish that point and wait for the bass to show up. They sat on that point all three days of the tournament.
“We knew that on the second day we’d have to fish as hard, or harder than we had the first day. My biggest fish on the second day weighed in a little more than three pounds,” said Cherry.
On the second tournament day, they caught about 15 bass off that point, kept the five biggest bass and released the rest. Only one of those bass wasn’t large enough to keep. Out of the 15 bass, they could only weigh in five. At the weigh-in on the second day, Cherry and Herbold learned they had 13 pounds, 1 ounce for the day, which moved them up to fifth place on the last day. Returning to that point on the last day, they only caught four keepers. At the weigh-in on the final day, the team that had been leading the tournament only weighed in one bass.
“I felt more confident about our chances to win,” said Cherry. “Although we would like to have won, Gracie and I both realized that we were competing against some of the best high school bass fishermen in the world. When we took second place, we felt very good about how we had performed.”
They were in first place on the last day until the Briarwood team weighed-in and blew everyone away.
Aaron Cherry’s mom, Angela Cherry, mentions that the high school fishing teams have impacted their family in so many ways. “We had no idea four years ago about just what an impact the sport of fishing would have on Aaron’s life,” she said. “He was a very young seventh grader who has grown into a very strong 11th grader. He has a passion, a respect and a love for the sport of bass fishing, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There’s no greater feeling as a parent than to see your children succeed at something they love. He brings such great joy to our family, and we are very proud of him.”
Learn more at https://www.bassmaster.com/high-school-bass-fishing about how to start a high-school bass-fishing club, the TV shows featuring the high school anglers and Facebook and Instagram posts. See a list of state directors at https://www.bassmaster.com/high-school-youth-directors.
Learn more about High School Bass Fishing at https://www.bassmaster.com/high-school-bass-fishing.