North Carolina bass pro Hank Cherry has won the Bassmaster Elite Series’ Rookie of the Year award for the 2013 season.

Cherry, from Maiden, finished 14th in the Angler of the Year standings in his first year on the Elite Series, winning a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and finishing 40 pounds ahead of his nearest rookie competitor, Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz.

“My goal at the beginning of the year was to win Rookie of the Year,” Cherry said. “All of those guys in the rookie class are big names, and I felt like I needed to win to help boost my resume.”

Cherry finished in the money in six of eight events on the Elite Series tour this year, joining the tour after finishing third in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic – having qualified by winning a BASS Southern Open event on Alabama’s Smith Lake in 2012. His best finish in 2013 was third in an Elite event on Georgia’s West Point Lake.

“Being part of the Elite Series is real humbling,” said Cherry, who made his mark for years in local events around the Lake Wylie-Lake Norman area. “Special is a lackluster word. It’s been everything I imagined. I’ve watched most of these guys on TV, and I’m going to dinner with them and talking fishing with them — it’s pretty unreal.”

By winning Rookie of the Year, Cherry earned a berth for Toyota All-Star Week and the Evan Williams Bourbon Championship. The competition, which will showcase the talents of 14 Elite anglers, will take place Sept. 27-29 on Michigan’s Muskegon Lake.