A local professional angler is moving up in the fishing ranks next year after a successful 2018 tournament season.
Mike Huff, 28, of Corbin, finished the Bassmaster Open Tour in the top 10 in points for the year. He garnered 848 points, which put him in eighth place overall in the tour’s eastern division.
Huff received an invitation to fish in the Bassmaster Pro Shops Eastern Open Tournament, which was held Sept. 13-15 at Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee, due to his high finish.
“Half the field was Elite Series guys,” Huff said. “It was neat to fish against all those guys.”
He caught 10 live fish in the tournament, weighing a total of 20 lbs. and 9 ounces. He finished 25th overall during the three-day contest.
Maybe most important, Huff won an invitation to fish in the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2019 — a move up in ranks in the professional angling world. The top three finishers in points in the Open Tour get invitations to the Bassmaster Classic, which represents the top level of professional fishing.
Though he missed the rigorous cut for the Classic, eighth place for the season is Huff’s best finish. Two years ago he finished 25th, and last year was 30th overall in the standings.
“I didn’t get to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, but I’m excited about fishing the Elite Series,” Huff said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Huff came by his love of fishing almost as a family trait. His father, Rex Huff, fishes professionally as well.
Huff fished for Georgetown College’s fishing team, which qualified for the NAIA national championship every year he participated, and came in the top 10 three times.
So much of the battle in “making it” as a professional angler comes in securing sponsorships. Huff said he is extremely thankful to Forcht Group of Kentucky founder and CEO Terry Forcht for agreeing to help out. Forcht Bank is one of Huff’s biggest sponsors.
There is a $40,000 entry fee to participate in the Bassmaster Elite Series for 2019.
“It’s very generous of him to do that,” Huff said. “You just cannot make a living as a pro fisherman without sponsorships. I was surprised, really, that he agreed to do that, but he was all for it. Mr. Forcht has been great. It was a huge relief.”
Huff said there are many “extremely good fishermen” who simply cannot participate in the professional ranks because of the expense.
“There’s some guys that I fished against in college that I know could really compete as pro fishermen, but sponsorships are so huge. That’s really half the battle.”
The nine-tournament, Bassmaster Elite Series kicks of Feb. 7-10 at St. Johns River in Palatka, Florida.
Huff said he’s only been on the river once, but “didn’t even make a cast.” He was there to help break in a friend’s new boat.
Results for Bassmaster series events, and season standings, can be found online at www.bassmaster.com.