Derek Hudnall Readies for the Bassmaster Classic
Like many bass anglers, Louisiana-based bass pro, Derek Hudnall has dreamed of fishing the Bassmaster Classic since he was a kid.
“In 1989 I can remember sitting with my dad watching Hank Parker hold up that Classic trophy on TV and ever since then I wanted that opportunity. Not a day has gone by that I didn’t think about the Bassmaster Classic as a major life goal,” says Hudnall.
He continues: “It’s all about a mindset for me. There are the bright lights, the exposure, all that, but once that National Anthem is played and we start up our motors, I want to rip someone’s face off. That competitive side of me comes out when it matters. Some anglers are just happy to be there, and don’t get me wrong, I am, but I’m there for one reason—and that’s to hold up that trophy.”
Nurturing the competitive side of his personality through pre-Classic Elite events and other opportunities to practice, Hudnall is ready to strike when the opportunity matters on the biggest stage in bass fishing. But that’s not to say it’s going to be easy. For starters, the Tennessee River isn’t one of those locations anglers are super familiar with, as Hudnall points out.
“As far as the Tennessee River goes, I did spend a couple of days there just before the cut-off in December. I don’t think a lot of people know how it’s going to play out because there’s just not a lot of history on the place. All the history is from Douglas, Chickamauga, and the places around there, but not really the Tennessee River itself. Research-wise, there’s just not a lot out there. I don’t expect to see giant bass weighed in there but I could be wrong. But the Tennessee River is very big—we’ve got about 80 miles of river we can fish—and it could set up the way I like to fish. That time of the year, weather permitting, the crankbait bite should be on. Someone with a square bill rigged up and a flipping stick are probably going to win the thing. But the big monkey wrench in the groove is the smallmouth bass there. In Tennessee, they have to be 18 inches to catch and I don’t think they’re as plentiful there, but smallmouth is definitely going to play there. Still, the weather is going to dictate everything at this event. It’s possible the bass could still be in a wintertime pattern—but if we get a week of warm weather before the event, you may see fish starting to move shallow, which I’m hoping for.”
“I am a huge fan of two different rods for squarebill crankbaits—one is the Legend Xtreme. I like an extremely light graphite rod for my squarebills. Also, I’m a fan of the Mojo Bassseries. I have four or five medium power, fast action 7’1” models I really like for throwing a little deeper crankbaits. But that Legend Xtreme casting rod, I’ll probably have five or six of them on my deck with different jerk baits at the Classic and they’ll play out big time.”
He’s also prepping an extensive arsenal of flipping gear for the event should the weather push fish shallow, which he’s hoping for. “I’m a shallow-water guy; I’m a flipper. My main rods for flipping are the Avid X and the Legend X. I spend a lot of time with them in my hands.”
Asked why he’s such a big fan of St. Croix rods, his response fits with his overall goal to win the event, not just fish.
“In our industry, you have to trust your equipment. If you don’t trust your equipment you’re greatly reducing your chances of success. And I absolutely trust every St. Croix rod that I put in my hand. St. Croix has the tools that continue to prepare me for the moment when opportunities… and fish… strike,” says Hudnall.