A third place finish at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River fattened Derek Hudnall’s bank account by $10,675. It also helped boost the Louisiana angler to second place in the AOY standings after the first three 2018 Central Open tournaments.
Hudnall once again finds himself with an opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a Bassmaster Elite Series pro. Since he began fishing the Bassmaster Opens in 2015 Hudnall has twice been in the top 10 going into the final tournament of the season. He failed to qualify for the Elites either time.
Should Hudnall succeed this time, he will surely join the Elite Series. He has used his business background to grow the sponsor side of his fishing career into a profitable entity called DB Fishing, LLC. Hudnall is a man with a plan.
“I’m extremely active with my sponsors when I’m not fishing,” Hudnall said. “When it’s time to jump to the Elites, I will have the funds to do so.”
One of his two primary sponsors is Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, a premier destination for pediatric healthcare in Louisiana. Hudnall helps with fundraising for the hospital.
“Almost 100 percent of the hospital is funded by fundraising,” Hudnall said. “If a child needs major brain or heart surgery, they don’t have to leave the area. Seventy percent of our patients don’t have the ability to pay.”
Prior to the Open tournament on the Arkansas River, Hudnall raised $5,000 for the children’s hospital on YouTube. He offered to shave his head if donations exceeded $3,000 in 24 hours. Bassmaster Opens tournament director Chris Bowes had Hudnall remove his hat at the weigh-in to reveal his sheared noggin.
A pair of Serve Pro franchises in Baton Rouge comprises Hudnall’s other major sponsor. Prior to plunging into the Bassmaster Opens, one of Hudnall’s vocations was working as a business consultant to help build businesses from the ground up.
"That’s a lot of what I do with Serve Pro,” he said. “I’ve always had a knack for business. I guess you could say I have street smarts.”
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 began fishing pro/am tournaments as a co-angler at 16. Many of his early fishing experiences were on 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 the Bassmaster Opens 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.
Besides Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and Serve Pro, Hudnall is also sponsored by Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Missile Baits, Cajun Outboards (a Skeeter dealership Skeeter in Addis, La.), Lowrance, Lowrance C-Map, Power-Pole and Trapper Tackle.