Corbin’s Mike Huff remembers fondly his father and grandfather taking him to witness his first Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament years ago. It’s often referred to as “the Super Bowl of fishing.”
“It was such a special thing when I was younger to see that. There were thousands of people there. It was a pretty amazing thing,” Huff said. “It was always a dream of mine to make it to that level after seeing that.”
Dreams do come true.
After a successful season on the Bassmaster Elite Series of tournaments, Huff finished 33rd in the points standings — high enough to qualify for the prestigious event.
The 2020 Bassmaster Classic, sponsored by DICK’S Sporting Goods, will be held March 6-8 on Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama.
The site has special significance for Huff, who finally fished on the 9-tournament Elite Series this year after trying to qualify on the Bassmaster Open tour for three years.
“Lake Guntersville was actually on the schedule. It was my worst tournament of the year,” Huff said. “So, I’m going to get redemption, that’s the way I’m looking at it now.”
Huff said he finished almost dead last at the tournament.
“It was embarrassing, but it’s been motivation for me,” he said. “The only place I can go now is up. I’m going to figure that lake out.”
At 29-years-old, Huff has made a swift rise through the professional fishing ranks after a successful amateur career. He 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. He is also sponsored by Holston Gas, Abu Garcia and Berkley.
To fish in the Elite Series this past season, there was a $40,000 entry fee.
“You really can’t do it without sponsors,” Huff said. “If you get all your stuff paid for — entry fees, travel and hotels — you can make a little money, but there is no such thing as a rich fisherman. You can make a living, though.”
“Personally, I just love doing it. The money is a bonus.”
Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments are rigorous and challenging. Officials usually enforce a one-month moratorium on fishing at a lake prior to a tournament. And it’s serious business. Huff said anglers aren’t even supposed to get information about the lake from locals or other fisherman in the lead up to an Elite Series tournament. Huff said it’s looked at like insider trading on the stock market.
“Three random people, and the winner, all have to take lie detector tests,” Huff explained. “They take it serious.”
For the Bassmaster Classic, the lake is off-limits to participants for three months prior to the tournament.
Huff said he plans to travel to the lake numerous times before Jan. 1 to pre-fish it and formulate a strategy. Aside from that, he said he watches a lot of online videos of other fishermen to get a sense of the right baits and what has worked in past tournaments.
“You have to go in with an open mind, though, because sometimes it’s just not the same from year to year,” Huff said. “There are so many factors when you are out there fishing too: the weather, water temperature, water clarity, of course the bait and the location where you fish … it all makes a difference.”
Huff said he is living a dream right now. He’s made it to the Classic. But, he wants more.
“It was a big deal for me to make it, and I’m glad I did. But now that I’ve made it, I want to win that thing,” he said. “I think about it every day … I’m almost obsessed with it.”