Opens profile: Huff's opportunity of a lifetime

If you happen to go fishing at Tennessee’s Cherokee Lake after the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship, be sure to stop by Huff’s German Creek Marina for a visit with co-owner Mike Huff. There’s a good chance you’ll be conversing with a new Bassmaster Elite Series pro and possibly a Bassmaster Classic qualifier.

Huff is sixth in the Bassmaster Eastern Opens AOY standings going into the Championship event, which takes place at Table Rock Lake, Mo., Oct. 18-20, 2018. If he moves up one place in the AOY standings at that event, Huff will qualify for the 2019 Elite Series. If he moves up three places, he will earn an invitation to the 2019 Bassmaster Classic as well.

“My number one goal has always been to make the Elite Series,” Huff said. “I will definitely fish the Elites if I qualify. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Huff’s grandfather, David Huff, died a month before Huff competed in the final 2017 Northern Open tournament at Douglas Lake.

“I told my granddad before he passed away that I wanted to fish the Classic,” Huff said. “Just making the Classic is a huge accomplishment.”

At age 4, Huff began bass fishing with his grandfather and father, Rex Huff, at a pond near his home in Corbin, Ky. His cousin, Nick Huff, who is about the same age, was usually part of the gang. Although his father and grandfather were “strictly bass fishermen” they started Huff on bluegills. On one of those early outings Huff was reeling in a bluegill when a sizable bass “destroyed it.”

“I’ve been hooked on bass ever since,” Huff said.

A Zebco spincaster was Huff’s first bass outfit, and he often had its line knotted to a floating worm or Heddon Baby Torpedo, a topwater tailspinner. At age 8, Huff was allowed to ride with his father and grandfather when they fished local weeknight tournaments on Cherokee, Laurel and Douglas lakes. They let him fish during these events, but he was not allowed to weigh in any bass he happened to catch.

At one of these tournaments Huff’s Zebco baitcaster flew out of the boat and was never recovered. That was the day he stepped up to baitcasting tackle. His first outfit was a secondhand Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500C reel affixed to a 6-foot rod.

“My granddad really liked night fishing, but he would fish day tournaments with my dad,” Huff said. “When I was 12 years old I started teaming up with my dad to fish day tournaments with my grandfather to fish night tournaments. Nick did, too.”

The first night fishing technique Huff learned from his grandfather was slow rolling a heavy spinnerbait sporting a large Colorado blade over the bottom. His father loved to fish a 3/8-ounce jig during daytime tournaments, and it was the first thing he taught his son how to fish.

Huff’s tournament involvement took a huge leap forward after he graduated from Corbin High School in 2009. His older cousin, Clay Elliot, was attending Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., and had started a collegiate bass fishing team there. He recruited Huff and his cousin Nick to come to Georgetown and become members of the team.

The team competed in B.A.S.S., FLW and Cabela’s affiliated college tournaments. These events challenged Huff with a broad variety of tournament venues, including Kentucky Lake, Lake Norman, Pickwick Lake, Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake.

“It’s crazy how much you learn when you’re in college fishing,” Huff said. “You meet so many people across the country who do so many different things. We thought we were pretty decent fishermen, but we weren’t. The first year we were completely lost. By the time we were seniors we were pretty successful at it. We learned a lot of different techniques and how to calm down and stay focused.”

After graduating with a communications degree, Huff worked at a tire outlet in Corbin before he and his cousin Nick bought German Creek Marina and renamed it Huff’s German Creek Marina. They have been busy updating, improving and expanding the marina’s facilities. You can see what they’ve been up to at huffsgcmarina.com.

In 2015 Huff competed in two Bassmaster Northern Open tournaments. The first of these events was on the James River. Huff claimed 14th place and earned a nice payday. He failed to earn a check at following event on Lake Oneida. In 2016 he competed in all three Southern Opens without winning a cent. At the third of three 2017 Northern Open tournaments he finally cut a check again at Douglas Lake.

Not one to be discouraged, Huff signed up to fish the 2018 Eastern Opens and claimed a check in three of the four events. With a good finish at the Opens Championship he will be able to take advantage of an opportunity of a lifetime.

Forcht Bank of Kentucky is currently Huff’s only sponsor.