Making memories

Del Rio’s Ray Hanselman Jr. holds aloft fish during the second day's weigh-in at the 50th Annual Bassmaster Classic in Alabama. Hanselman finished the tournament in 44th place with a total weight of 15 pounds over two days of competition.

Ray Hanselman Jr.’s time at the 50th Annual Bassmaster Classic is over, but it was a ride he won’t soon forget.

The Del Rio angler finished 44th overall and earned $10,000 for his performance. He fished the first two days of the three-day tournament but did not make the top 25 and could not fish on the tournament’s final day Sunday.

Hanselman finished the tournament with a total weight of 15 pounds. He brought four bass to the scales for 8 pounds and an ounce on day one. On the second day, he weighed in three bass for 6 pounds, 15 ounces.

Hanselman wasn’t the only angler who found the going tough at the Classic. On the first day of competition, only 31 limits of five bass were brought to the stage. On day two, that number dropped to 26. One angler did not weigh any fish in, and four others didn’t break double digits in terms of pounds weighed in.

The overall winner was Hank Cherry of Lincolnton, N.C. He weighed in a three-day total of 65 pounds, 5 ounces and led from day one on. For his efforts, Cherry took home the top prize of $300,000.

Hanselman was familiar with Lake Guntersville in Alabama, site of this year’s Bassmaster Classic, having fished there in June as part of the Elite Series. He finished 12th at that tournament and had his favorite spots ready to go for the Classic.

However, poor weather, including rain and heavy winds, forced him to change his tactics on day one.

After struggling in the early part of Friday’s first round, Hanselman moved on to a different part of the lake to try and find some success. He was able to get on some fish later than he had hoped.

“The wind had pretty much died down and the sediment had settled, making the water a little clearer,” Hanselman said Friday afternoon. “It’s all about making the right decisions and the right moves. On Saturday, I might recheck some of those areas again and see how they are. I definitely want to build on some of the places I found today, or I may call an audible and do something totally different. I have to be able to catch up and that may mean I fly by the seat of my pants.”

Hanselman was the fifth person to weigh in on Friday, and while he had been part of some big tournaments before, the Classic is on a whole different level. Hanselman said he spent the hour and a half drive from the lake to the coliseum in Birmingham, site of the weigh-in, thinking about all the good things I was going to say. He admitted it didn’t turn out like he expected.

“When those bright lights hit you, you feel like a dear in the headlights,” Hanselman joked. “I had this great story already to go but I got nervous and it just wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.”

Hanselman did use his time at the weigh-in to thank God, his family, his parents and his supporters, including his sponsors, for helping him reach the top tournament in the sport of bass fishing. He elaborated on what they meant to him Friday afternoon.

“Without all of that – the Lord, my family, my friends, my sponsors – I can’t do this. People always say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a city to keep a professional angler on the road a lot.”

One of the people in Alabama to support Hanselman was his father, Don. Hanselman said his father was the person who got him involved in the sport and it was he and his mother who encouraged him and supported him when he decided to fish competitively. When asked if his father had any advice for the younger Hanselman, he said he kept it simple.

“He just said stay calm, stay focused and don’t get rattled,” Hanselman said.

The next Elite Series event is scheduled to begin March 19 on Chickamauga Lake at Dayton, Tenn. That will mean the chance to qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster Classic begins, and Hanselman could begin his quest to fish in his second consecutive Classic.

For now, Hanselman can still say he fished in the biggest bass tournament of the year.

“I’m not disappointed at all,” Hanselman said at Friday’s weigh-in. “This is Guntersville. Anything can happen out there. You can catch 30 pounds in 30 minutes. This is the Classic, and I’m fishing in it.”

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