CORBIN — Corbin native Mike Huff has just finished his rookie season in the Bassmaster Elite Series and accomplished a life long goal in the process.
“The ultimate goal was making the Bassmaster Classic, and I qualified for that, so I’d have to say it was a good season,” said Huff recollecting on his first season.
Earlier this month, Huff finished a professional career-best seventh in points at the AOY Championship on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, placing him in 33rd overall position in AOY points. Huff’s final standing qualifies him for next year’s Bassmaster Classic on March 6-8 on Lake Guntersville in Mobile, Alabama.
“I told my dad and my grandad, I’ve said it my whole life, my one goal is to make the Classic. Now that I’ve made it, I want to win it. That’s my goal, I want to win the thing,” he continued. “It’s hard to win any fishing tournament, whether it be on a Tuesday night on Laurel Lake or the Bassmaster Classic, it’s hard to win one. I’m going to try my best.”
The Elite Series visited Lake Guntersville this season back in June. Huff finished in 70th position out of 74 participants, catching a weight total of 17 pounds, 10 ounces.
“It was actually my worst tournament of the year,” he said. “So now I can get some redemption on that lake.”
Huff says he plans on visiting Lake Guntersville during the off-season to prepare for next year’s Classic.
“There’s a couple of lakes on the schedule next season that I’m going to look at and practice that are a little closer. We’ve got one on Chickamauga [Lake] next February, so I’m going to go down there. It’s only about three hours from here, I’m going to go down there and practice on it quite a bit,” he said.
Huff’s strive for greatness and work ethic stem from lessons he learned from his father and grandfather.
“One thing my dad and my grandad always said, ‘if you want to be successful at anything in life, you have to outwork people.’ I can hear my grandad saying that at times when I was tired or wanted to sleep an extra 30 minutes in the morning instead of getting out there and practicing,” he said.
Much like a football coach scouts his opponent’s plays, Huff watches videos of past tournaments to prepare each week.
“Most people think you just go to the lake and start fishing. It’s so much more complicated than that, you’ve got to put a lot of work in. Things that I do, I really get online and watch videos of previous professional tournaments that have been on that lake,” he said.
Huff says it doesn’t matter if it’s a big tournament, or fishing locally, knowing your surroundings can be very beneficial while out on the lake.
“You can watch a lot of videos on Youtube and stuff on what baits work that specific time of the year, what areas of the lake are most productive where you can catch a limit of bass, or areas where the tournament was won at. That’s a major help, I’ll spend weeks watching videos and stuff,” he said.
Looking back on his first season, Huff says the level of competition was one of the most surprising things for him.
“When you go out there and you’re fishing against guys you watched on TV for a long time it’s challenging, you’re kind of star struck,” he said, but he was able to calm his nerves as the season progressed and became more comfortable with each passing tournament.
Huff’s rookie campaign came with a lot of ups and downs.
“There were times that I did really good, and it kind of surprised me," he said. "But then there were times that I did really bad, and it makes you second guess what you’re doing out there. Just all the hard work and the hanging in there, it was very satisfying of having my goal fulfilled by making the Classic.”
When asked what advice he would give young anglers starting out, Huff echoed the lessons of dad and grandad saying, “The main thing, first of all, you’ve got to dedicate yourself. You’ve got to outwork people, work harder than all the other fishermen around. You’ve got to almost be obsessed with it. Watch videos. Any chance you get, it doesn’t matter who with, you go fishing.”
While Huff is very thankful for his sponsors Forcht Bank, Holston Gases, Berkley Fishing, Abu Garcia and Cumberland Pros Lures, he warns younger fishers of being too worried about sponsors.
“The younger generation is a lot more concerned with looking cool and having sponsors and stuff.”
His advice, “Put all the sponsors, and all of that stuff to the side. Just dedicate yourself to fishing and catching fish, and the sponsor stuff will come later.”
Huff splits his time now between Corbin and Tennessee. Five years ago, he and his cousin bought a marina off of Lake Cherokee. In the summer months, Huff helps his cousin with the marina and in the winter he’s in Corbin. Fittingly enough, Huff lists Cherokee Lake as one of his two favorite lakes. The other, Laurel Lake here at home.
“I love Laurel Lake, that’s my favorite. I love going there in the spring time," he said. "It’s such a good lake in the spring time.”
Huff says his goals for next season are similar to this year’s, “To make the Bassmaster Classic. That’s definitely every season what I want to do. For next season, make the Classic, and win Angler of the Year, that’s always number one and number two right there.”
The 2020 season of the Bassmaster Elite Series kicks off Feb. 6 from St. Johns River in Palatka, Florida.