GROVE, Okla. — Cody Huff has long dreamed of being a professional bass tournament angler at the highest level.
“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,” said Huff, who is now 24 years old.
Huff took a big step toward that goal on the first day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open at Grand Lake. He caught a five-bass limit weighing 16 pounds, 11 ounces, which had him in 5th place Thursday. He came into this event ranked 6th in the Central Open standings after the first two tournaments. Huff needs to finish third or better in the Central Open final standings to assure himself of an Elite Series invitation.
“That’s the end goal,” Huff said. “That’s the dream. We’re hoping for one or two more good days and go from there.”
For all practical purposes, Huff was in 4th place in the standings entering this event, as far as Elite Series qualifying is concerned. Jesse Wiggins was in 5th, but elected not to fish this tournament, and Brandon Lester was in 3rd place. Lester is already on the Elite Series, so he wouldn’t count when the three Elite Series bids are issued after this event. Based on the Day 1 standings, Huff vaulted into first place in Central Division points.
However, there are still lots of moving parts in the Central Open standings. Huff took care of the only thing he had control over Thursday. Interestingly, he did it on a lake where he’d never competed in a tournament before, even though Grand Lake is a relatively short drive from his hometown of Ava, Mo.
“It’s only about three hours from the house,” he said. “But we’ve got so many other great lakes around the house. When I’m home I don’t really feel like driving three hours to go fish. I just drive 30 minutes.”
Huff was referring to nearby Bull Shoals Lake and Table Rock Lake. Huff’s childhood dream of bass tournament fishing was undoubtedly influenced by his close proximity to those noted fisheries. The fact that B.A.S.S. legend Rick Clunn moved to Ava further fueled the dream. They’ve been good friends since Cody was in the 9th grade.
“He’s the best mentor a guy could ask for,” Huff said. “Any questions I’ve got, he’s got the answer to. He’s been very much so a blessing in my life. It would be really special to end up qualifying and fishing alongside of him next year on the Elite Series. That’s been a dream of mine since I was little. I always wanted to be just like him.”
The other key component – and it’s a big one – in Cody Huff’s readiness for the Bassmaster Elite Series was his college career at Bethel University.
“That was extremely crucial,” Huff said of his time at Bethel. “It gave me a lot of experience I would have never gotten. I got to see all those other lakes that I may never have been able to see if I hadn’t gone to college. If you don’t go to college, you go to work. It’s that simple. I could have never afforded to go to all those lakes if I hadn’t gone to college.”
As part of the stellar bass fishing team at Bethel, one of Huff’s regular traveling partners was KJ Queen, who earned his way onto the Elite Series through the Opens a year ago. Huff won the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series while at Bethel and qualified for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville, where he finished 24th.
“KJ and I are still good friends,” Huff said. “We lived together and traveled together in college. That would be pretty cool to see both of us out there on the Elite Series next year.”