A rising star to watch



Cody Huff took the top spot in the Bassmaster Central Opens Angler of the Year standings for 2021.

A few years back, my son River and I went fishing at Bull Shoals. I launched the boat and had him hold onto it while I parked the trailer.

Well, he was just a little guy, and the boat drifted off the shore and pulled him into the lake.

Another angler happened to be there and rescued River and helped me get the boat back.

Not long thereafter, I was talking to one of my boys’ Little League coaches, and he kept talking about a great young angler I needed to meet. That angler played high school basketball, so I went to one of his games and introduced myself afterwards.

The young angler’s name is Cody Huff, the same one who rescued River that day, and who will be competing on the Bassmaster Elite circuit in 2022.

Like me, he played basketball and was the quarterback for our local high school team, but our connection ran deeper than that. We became friends and occasional fishing partners.

I don’t say this about many anglers, but this young man is a natural. He won the Bassmaster Carhartt College Series Championship and followed it up to become the Central Division champion in the brutally tough Bassmaster Opens.

The learning curve in the Elites will pose new challenges, but he will handle them for a number of reasons — none the least of which is he has a great family support system akin to what Kevin VanDam enjoyed when he was working his way up the ladder.

As a high school football and basketball player, he was outwardly calm and never let a mistake get to him and always focused on the here and now. But he also learned from those mistakes to make him better the next time. Those characteristics will allow him to handle the pressures of fishing the Elites.

Honestly, his calmness reminds me of Larry Nixon, the only competitor I ever feared. Larry was never going to beat himself.

Cody has that same calmness quality.

He also has such great natural outdoor instincts since has fished and hunted his entire life. He lives in the country, and because he’s in the woods or on the water all the time, he understands nature’s natural rhythms at a level most people never connect with.

I have tried to help him with the mental and business side of pro fishing and how to develop relationships with companies at an early age.

But he has taught me a lot as well. He has embraced today’s technology and transformed it to success faster than anyone I know.

Cody has all the attributes to become one of the top young stars in our sport. I will enjoy watching his development as a fellow competitor in next season’s Elites.