By finishing third in the 2018 Bassmaster Central Opens, Louisiana angler Derek Hudnall earned invitations to the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods and the Bassmaster Elite Series. He is poised to take full advantage of these opportunities.
“I think my family has booked half of downtown Knoxville for the Classic,” Hudnall said. “I had never fished there before. I went down before the cutoff to look around. I’m pretty optimistic.”
As for the Elite Series, Hudnall is a man with a plan. While fishing the Opens he started a business, DBH Fishing LLC, to grow the sponsor side of his fishing career.
“I’m extremely active with my sponsors when I’m not fishing,” Hudnall said. “I’m super excited about my new title sponsor, the Louisiana Office of Tourism. We will have a booth at the Classic and at ICAST.”
Hudnall began fishing with his father, Roger, as soon as he was “old enough to walk in the boat.” Roger Hudnall is an avid bass tournament angler. Hudnall claims that his father was widely regarded as one of the best bass anglers in southern Louisiana and that he is still fishing.
At age 16 Hudnall began fishing team tournaments with his father. He also began fishing pro/am tournaments as a co-angler. Many of his early fishing trips were to the Atchafalaya Basin where he learned the ways of catching shallow bass. He has since taught himself to become a versatile angler who can also score in deep, clear water.
By his mid-20s Hudnall was married, making a good living building apartment complexes and ready to start fishing Bassmaster tournaments at the pro level. A life-changing event put his bass dreams on hold.
“I went through a bad divorce,” Hudnall said. “I lost my business and had to sell my boat. I fell into a dark place and went four years without fishing. I finally came out of it seven years ago.”
Today Hudnall is happily married to Anya, whom he calls his “biggest fan.” His 14-year-old son Braxton and 3-year-old daughter Payton comprise the rest of the family.
“My wife and kids have flown to every top 12 I’ve ever had in the Bassmaster Opens,” Hudnall said.
Besides fishing Bassmaster tournaments and working for his sponsors, Hudnall is involved with high school fishing programs. He participates in a youth seminar put on by Bass Pro Shops in Denim Springs, La., and helps young anglers hone their fishing skills at Central High School in Baton Rouge.
“Two of the kids I mentor, Wyatt Encminger and Dawson Andrews, have been Louisiana state champions two years in a row,” Hudnall said with pride.
In his rookie season on the Elites, Hudnall intends to show his sponsors and potential sponsors that he competes well and is a capable ambassador for their products.
“I need to show that I belong on the Elites, but I don’t want to set goals that are out of reach,” Hudnall said. “I would like to win an event this year, to qualify for the Classic and be in the year-end AOY Championship."
Hudnall’s sponsors include the Louisiana Office of Tourism, Serve Pro of South Baton Rouge, Missile Baits, Trapper Tackle, Vivid Ink Graphics and Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys.