Rapala, Terminator and VMC baits helped Cody Huff win Bassmaster’s 2021 Central Open Angler of the Year title and qualify to compete on the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series. Key baits in his championship season included Rapala Jigging Raps, Terminator® Pro Series Jigs and VMC Hybrid Swimbait Jigs.
“I use quite a bit of the Terminator stuff [along] with Rapala and VMC,” Huff told Bassmaster Radio Host Tom Abraham in a show broadcast after his AOY win. “I’ve been using a lot of their jigs and hard baits.”
Only 12 of 677 Bassmaster Open competitors in 2021 earned invitations to fish the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series – three from the overall Opens standings and the top three in points in the Central, Southern and Northern divisions. Huff won the Central with a top-five, a top-10 and a top-25 finish in the division’s three tournaments.
“Making the Elite Series is kind of a dream come true for me,” Huff said. “That allows you to just be a little more steady and have a chance to really make a living and grow your career with B.A.S.S.”
Huff, 24, has been growing his career with B.A.S.S. since his college years – which aren’t that far distant. Fishing for Bethel University in 2019, he won Bassmaster’s College Series Bracket to qualify for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville. In what’s known as “the Super Bowl of bass fishing,” Huff finished 24th in a field comprising 53 of the world’s best bass fishermen. Qualifying for the Elite Series, Huff said, will enable him to build on his college and Classic experience to earn a living by fishing and, hopefully, vie for multiple Classic trophies.
“Being as young as I am, I really like the idea of being in there, and then I can have the chance to make a bunch of Classics, instead of just one,” he said.
Huff qualified for the Elite Series in just his second year of trying. He did so by winning this season’s Central Division AOY title with finishes of fifth on Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake in early October, eighth on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees in late October and 25th on Tennessee’s Pickwick Reservoir in early May.
“I just had a few good events,” Huff said. “The Central Division just kind of set up well. I’ve kind of been to all those lakes before – I kind of knew what to expect. So it was easier going to those places and figuring them out.”
Competing in the Bassmaster College Series gave Huff experience that helped him win the Central Division AOY title and qualify for the 2022 Elite Series. “I got to see all those other lakes that I may never have been able to see if I hadn’t gone to college,” he said. “I could have never afforded to go to all those lakes if I hadn’t gone to college.”
In addition to a berth in the 2020 Classic, Huff’s 2019 College Bracket win earned him paid entry into the 2020 Bassmaster Opens and the use of a top-of-the-line pickup truck and bass boat for a year. This year, he’s footed his own bill, along with help from sponsors like Rapala, Terminator and VMC. Terminator and VMC are Rapala Respected Brands.
Rapala Field Promotions Director Dan Quinn recruited Huff to Rapala’s Pro Staff after meeting him in 2019. “Cody truly is a perfect fit for the Rapala team. Aside from his insane ability to catch fish and win tournaments, Cody is wise well beyond his years. He is a stand-up guy, humble, hard working and just an awesome person to be around. I can’t wait to continue watching Cody make his mark on the bass fishing world!”
The Central Division field that Huff bested comprised 258 competitors, including numerous current and former Elite Series pros who fished all three tournaments, including Jacob Powroznik (third), Bradley Hallman (ninth), Casey Scanlon (10th), Brock Mosely (12th), Brandon Lester (13th), David Williams (17th), Carl Jocumsen, Jesse Wiggins, Harvey Horne, Justin Atkins, Patrick Walters, Billy McCaghren Jr., David Kilgore, Tom Redington, Tyler Rivet and Charlie Hartley.
Jigging rap helps Huff to best finish in AOY season
Rapala Jigging Rap was instrumental in helping Huff earn his highest finish in the Central Opens this season, fifth place on Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake. To catch three five-fish limits of bass that weighed a combined 28 pounds, 15 ounces, he dropped a Jigging Rap to bass suspending in deep water, Huff revealed to Bassmaster.com photographer Dalton Tumblin. Additionally, he hooked and hauled in some of the fish he weighed with VMC Hybrid Swimbait Jig, paired with a boot-tail swimbait.
With his Smith Lake top-five finish with a Jigging Rap, Huff added to his reputation as an expert with the bait. In November 2020, he won an FLW Toyota Series tournament on Table Rock by dropping a chrome-blue No. 9 Jigging Rap to bass he could see on his electronics.
“The whole key is spotting the deep schools of shad on your sonar screen with bass feeding on them,” Huff explained in a January 2020 Bassmaster.com column about cold-water bass tactics. “I usually look for this kind of mid-winter action in the biggest creeks on the reservoir.”
Long predominant as ice-fishing lures, Jigging Raps were proven equally productive as open-water baits in the last few years after several Rapala pros won or placed high with them in tournaments. After that, a once-secret tactic went public. In the winter of 2020, Huff said Jigging Raps were “just beginning to grow in popularity further south during the heart of winter.” They’re effective in water temps as cold as the mid-40s, he said.
“A Jigging Rap is great for getting in the face of bass that are chewing on really deep schools of bait in, say, 40 to 90 feet of water,” Huff explained. “Jigging Raps are small, finesse-looking lures, but pretty heavy at 5/8 and 7/8 ounces. So they fall vertically below the boat really fast.”
After Huff won the November 2020 Toyota Series tournament with a Jigging Rap, FLW.com reported that “once he’d drop on a group of bass, he says it didn’t take long for them to eat if they were going to. A hop or two at most was all it took to trigger them, and oftentimes they’d pounce on it as soon as it got to them.”
Featuring a balanced, weighted minnow profile, Jigging Raps swim in tantalizing circles on the fall. With single reversed hooks on the nose and posterior, and a center treble hook hung from a belly eyelet, they don’t allow for missed bites. Regardless of how a fish attacks, it’s running smack dab into a hook. Huff fishes Jigging Raps deep on 12-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon line.
Huff caught additional Smith Lake bass on a 1/2-oz. VMC Hybrid Swimbait Jig dressed with a 2.8-inch soft-plastic swimbait.
The jig’s hook features a wider gap to maximize hook sets and a hybrid bend for extra strength. Its jig’s wide-diameter spring keeper securely locks soft plastics in place.
Hybrid Swimbait Jigs are 1X strong and made from Hi-Carbon Steel with forged shanks. The jig-head features a 60-degree-angle line-tie and 3D holographic eyes. The jig is not painted.
Terminator Pro Series Jig helps Huff place eighth on Grand Lake, win Central Opens AOY trophy
When Huff arrived at Grand Lake for the season’s final Central Opens tournament, he was ranked sixth in the division’s AOY race and needed to finish third or better in the final standings to earn an Elite Series berth. To do so, he estimated he’d need to finish in the top 10 on Grand – no easy feat when the field comprises 199 competitors, including numerous current and former Elite Series pros and dozens of the hottest regional and local sticks.
“Going into Grand, I knew I had a chance, but I knew some things would have to go right for me to be able to make it,” Huff said. “I knew I was going to have to catch ‘em good. I figured I needed a top-10 to make it.”
Fortunately for him, Huff mused, anglers ahead of him in the Central’s AOY standings “slowed up just a little bit and I was able to get that Top 10 and gain a few points on them.”
Huff placed 8th on Grand, having sacked three five-bass limits weighing a combined 38 pounds even. Among his key baits was a ½-oz. Terminator Pro Series Jig in the Green Pumpkin Orange color pattern. He dressed it with a green-pumpkin soft-plastic creature-bait trailer.
“Everything I weighed came from a boat dock,” Huff told Bassmaster.com. “… This lake seems to really get good when the big gizzard shad start cruising the bank.”
Childhood dream comes true with Elite Series qualification
Huff, 24, has dreamed since childhood of becoming a professional bass angler. “Ever since I was a little kid, I was the first one up on Sunday morning to watch Bassmaster on TV before we went to church,” Huff told Bassmaster scribe Steve Wright.
Huff’s dad and grandfathers took him fishing on Table Rock and Bull Shoals and his dad competed in weeknight and weekend tournaments, Bassmaster writer Mark Hicks reported. “At around age 6, Huff began teaming up with his dad for these derbies as soon as he could cast a spinning outfit by himself,” Hicks wrote.
In high school in Ava, Missouri, Huff played football, baseball and basketball. Despite the school not having a bass-fishing team at the time, Hicks reported, Huff convinced his athletic director to let him fish Missouri’s 2013 state high school championship on Table Rock. After he won the tournament, his school founded its first-ever bass-fishing team.