Most every pro angler has a single moment of inspiration that made them dream big. Derek Hudnall’s came while watching TV with his father, who now serves as a main source of inspiration.
Hudnall, 38, grew up in Baton Rouge, La., and was taught how to fish by his father, Roger, who competed in local tournaments. While Roger had opportunities to fish on a national level, he didn’t have a support system.
“He had two chances to fish Top 150s,” Hudnall said, “but he was the breadwinner of the family. He couldn’t just go do it. They didn’t know anything about sponsorship then. I know how much that hurt him.”
That’s in part why Hudnall has mapped out his plans step by step. He said he knew he had to approach tournament fishing like a business, doing everything he could to set himself up for success.
“… Because if I get that opportunity, there’s no way I could turn it down,” he said. “It’s not just for me, it’s for him, too.”
The time is now
In October, Hudnall received an invitation to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series after finishing third in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens point standings. He also fulfilled another dream by earning a berth to the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
During a visit to JM Associates’ Little Rock studio to record some videos, Hudnall said watching the Classic as a youth fueled his fishing fires, and envisioning himself on that stage is a dream that keeps it burning strong.
“It goes back to 1989, sitting on the couch with my Dad and watching Hank Parker hold up the Bassmasters Classic trophy,” said Hudnall, showing he’s somewhat old school by using the “s” on the end of Bassmaster. “That would be the epitome – holding that trophy at the Classic. For the rest of my life, I’d be like, ‘I’m good.’”
That dream of many is realized by few. In the 48 championships, only 38 men have hoisted the Classic trophy. Hudnall would certainly love to become No. 39 in Knoxville, Tenn., this March, but he knows that huge step might not come for a while, if at all. He’s hopeful but also a realist, saying he’s in pro fishing for the long haul.