Derek Hudnall is a Louisiana boy. He admits to having very little experience with smallmouth bass, but he also happily admits to having an absolute man crush on the angry brown fish.
“I broke my personal best smallmouth three times in the same area during practice this week. It’s been awesome,” Hudnall said. “Before we got to St. Clair, my best was a 5-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth, and during practice I caught a 5-9, then a 6-2 and then again with a 6-4 — all in the same day. I love these things."
“You’ve got to fish where the big ones swim if you want to catch big fish like that, and St. Clair has got them. Kudos to B.A.S.S. for building a schedule this year — and next year — that’s what keeps the Elite Series on big-bass waters.”
As you’ll recall, Hudnall was disqualified from the Lake Hartwell Elite earlier this past spring due to an accidental rules infraction. That mistake really cramped his chances at making his second Classic berth in 2020.
Losing an entire tournament worth of points is very difficult to recover from.
“I knew there was a chance to make the Classic,” he said. “But I didn’t leave myself a lot of room for mistakes. Overall, I’ve fished pretty clean this season, and if I don’t make it, I’m happy with my first year on the Elites.”
Don’t let him fool you, he wants in on the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
At the time of this writing, Hudnall is in 42nd place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race. That’s the last spot inside the 2020 Bassmaster Classic cut. Of course, the results are unofficial until Championship concludes on Tuesday.
But he’s close.
Hudnall finished 32nd at St. Johns River, 45th at Lanier, missed Hartwell, then 53rd at Winyah Bay, 14th at Lake Fork, 48th at Guntersville, 25th at St. Lawrence, 29th at Cayuga and 40th at Tenkiller. If you were to average those finishes, and assume he remained consistent at Hartwell, a rough estimate would have him in 35th to 36th place in AOY.
There’s no denying he’s enjoyed an amazing season as an Elite Series rookie. At the very least, he’s proven he belongs fishing competitively at this level. And that matters to him.
After one day of fishing at St. Clair, he put up a giant limit of five huge smallmouth weighing 24-12, which has him tied with Stetson Blaylock for second place in overall weight. He knew he would almost have to win this tournament to have a shot at climbing into Classic contention.
He was right.