Hello everybody, and welcome to Dig IN Fishing Fridays.
I’m excited today. Today we have Derek Hudnall here.
Derek is a Bass Masters league lead angler from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Derek is 38 years old, and was born and raised in Baton Rouge. His wife Anya, daughter Payton, who’s three, and Braxton who’s 15.
He actually grew up in a fishing family, and he’s been fishing competitively in Louisiana since he was 16 years old. His first Bass Master Open was in 2016 and that’s when Derek started fishing full time. He has fished all the divisions of the Bass Master Open’s every year to increase his versatility, and his chances to qualify for the Bass Master Elite Series. He finished third overall in 2018, which qualified him for the 2019 Elite Series, and the 2019 Bass Master Classic. Welcome Derek.
Glad to be here.
So, Derek what are you up to today?
Man, I just got off the road. I left Baton Rouge, Louisiana about 5:00 A.M. Central time this morning and then I just arrived in Anderson, South Carolina at Lake Hartwell, which is our next Elite Series event in April, so I’m here to look around to… To look around this place just before our cut off, to get familiar with it before we start practice here in April. And also I’ll be heading from here to Knoxville, to start practice for the Bass Master Classic.
Gotcha. So, you started fishing at the age of 16 full time, but can you kind of talk to us about, how did you actually get started fishing?
Well, I grew up in a fishing family as you introduced. My dad was very famous in Louisiana, he was one of the most successful tournament anglers in Louisiana. And so I kind of grew up underneath that. So, I was in a boat, from the time I was able to walk. I started fishing, of course, in tournaments with my dad when I was young, and then at that age 16 I… That’s normally the age limit you can start fishing as an amateur, as a co angler in some FLWBFL’s and stuff like that, and it just kind of blossomed from there. So, I was kind of destined to have a rod and reel in my hand at some point in my adult life, one way or another. But, man, I just took it and ran with it, but I was fortunate enough to be raised in a house where it was a part of the everyday life. It was part of our soul, it was part of our dinner and breakfast and lunch every day, and so I was fortunate enough to do that, and I was fortunate enough to have a really good teacher as well.
Well, it sounds to me like you started fishing competitively. One, it’s in your genes. Two, it’s in your family, but are you competitive in any other sports other than fishing?
You know, not… You know, not as of right now, but of course I did the baseball and football thing, and my 15 year old son Braxton is really big into baseball. So, I… The competitive mind set is definitely in the genes, and hey why not fish competitively? And get paid to do it.
Yeah, man. So, let’s talk about your competitive fishing. What’s the biggest problem you have found in competing at the level that you’re at?
You know, I guess the biggest… I wouldn’t even call it a problem, but, you know, as with most competitive people in general, it’s dealing with you can’t win them all. It has… You just can’t win them all, and I’m very hard on myself, just like any competitive person, and it’s just the fact that you can’t win them all. Because typically we aren’t happy unless we win, just like anything else. But I guess if you found the biggest problem, I guess overall, would be the tribal. With the Bass Master Elite Series, it’s… We don’t get many days off, we don’t get very long periods of time at home. Being away from my biggest support staff and my family is tough, but they do get to tribal, they came to the first Elite Series Tournament in Palatka, Florida. Of course, they’ll be there in Groves and Knoxville, Tennessee. I think my families booked half of downtown Knoxville for that thing. But that’s probably the toughest part, is being away from the family.
Right. And not only the fishing in the tournaments and the practice, but do you have a lot of sponsor commitments?
I do, I do. And actually, man, I’ve gained a pretty good social media following. I do a series of Facebook lives called Build Your Brand. Where I help up and coming and young anglers build the business side of their brand. And the reason I said that is because, my number one rule is to never call them sponsors, is to call them partners. And so, yes, I have a very, very good partnership team with a lot of commitments there. I have to work shows, and I have to do interviews, and so yes. And actually a couple of my biggest partners are one, is I’m so fortunate to be able to represent my state, in the state of Louisiana. If you go there, if anybody sees me on social media, or down the road, or at a tournament, you’ll see Louisiana Feeds Your Soul all over my boat and truck.
And I get the privilege of going out and representing the great state that I live in and it’s more than… I had to call them commitments, because it’s more of just the part of who I am and I part of who I do. Or a part of who I am and a part of what I do. And it’s just a part of trying to be the best ambassador for the brand that I can be.
Nice, fantastic. So, you’ve been doing this a long time. What have you learned that’s helped you succeed at such a high level?
Well, it’s kind of unlike baseball and I’m very involved with a lot of the youth fishing organizations and I tell them the same thing. This is a sport where… Let’s just take baseball for instance. You can’t teach somebody to hit a 95 mile an hour fast ball. That’s just not something that can be taught, necessarily. It’s something that you have to have. It’s something… Hand, eye coordination, it’s just something that kind of has to be in your DNA. Where fishing doesn’t necessarily work that way.
Fishing is more of… And I say this a lot, is… The guys… Your top level pro tour guys, the Elite Series, FLW, even MLF now, a lot of what makes these guys so good. is their ability to fish instinctively. And I what I mean by fish instinctively, is the ability to go on nothing and find and catch fish and compete to win. Because a lot of what you see that goes on, especially in Elite Series of event that’s four… It could be four days long, those guys don’t know what they’re doing from day to day. We only get two and half days worth of practice and I can promise you, that’s not enough time to say, hey, four days are coming up, I’m going to do this day one, this day two, this day three, and this day four. You’re lucky if you get that for one maybe two days, but after that you’re fishing new water.
And a lot of these guys have the ability to trust their instincts, trust their gut and go with what they… Go with what they think is going to work, and it works for them more times than not. So, the biggest thing would be fishing instinctively and trusting your gut. And that can be also one of the hardest things to do, as a professional angler, to get to this level. Because we just don’t have a whole lot of time to figure it out.
Do you find your one of those instinctive fisherman, or do you actually put together a plan for a specific body of water?
Well, you know, instinctively yes. I found that especially in the last couple of years of my career getting here, I found that in tournaments I had to fish more instinctively. Because that’s… As professional fisherman or as anybody out there listening at fishing tournaments, and you spend two, three or four days scouting a body of water, and you find… Okay, I can do well, by doing this, but half the day goes by and what you’re doing isn’t working. That’s one of the hardest things to do as a tournament fisherman, is to stop and do something different. I got to go find something else. I’ve got to run new water. I’ve got to…
You know a lot of people, hey, I’ve been catching them on a worm in fifteen foot of water on these points, and three or four hours go by, and they still haven’t got a bite, but they don’t change. They keep doing it, and they keep doing it, and they keep doing it. So, when I say fishing instinctively, it means when something’s not working, you got to be able to leave what you’re doing to go find something else. To do something different. So, yeah, I do consider myself an instinctive fisherman, but I think you really have to be, to get to this level. And even through… I had a good year last year in the Opens, and fishing third in points. Out of the four events in the Centrals, I can tell you three of them, I had to fish instinctively. I had to run new waters during the events, because something didn’t go right, or something didn’t go as I planned in order to find new fish and still compete.
You know, and fishing instinctively like that, when you’re going along and you kind of got a… You’re working your plan you got in the morning, how long will you sit? Do you actually watch the clock and then you get to half hour, hour, hour and a half, and nothing’s happened. And you’re like, okay it’s time to make a change. Or are you more of a kind of just a feel kind of thing?
It is. It is absolutely a feel kind of thing, it’s… At some point, when your gut starts telling you, I need to move. I need to move, I need to go, I need to try something different. I need to go somewhere else, that’s when you need to make that move. There’s no doubt. Unless, of course, you’re fishing a shad spawn or something like that, that’s just the first hour of daylight. Or spotted bass in the summer time, where really that first 30 minutes is so key, before you abandon something. Man, it is all about feeling, that’s kind of my point of fishing instinctively, is you have to trust your own instincts. And when your gut is telling you, this is not working, you’ve got to move. You’ve got to change and trust it.
That instinct, you suppose that’s something that you’ve always had? Or have you learned that over the last 20 years?
You know, I have absolutely learned that. Man, not even that long ago. Really, my first 2016, 2017 I had good events, I had not so good events. And I knew then, that I had to start changing the way I fished. I had to start… You know, I have a tendency, as a lot of anglers do, you have a tendency to grind. You know, I found fish in this pocket, so they sit there and just fish it as slow as they can, as methodically as they can and try and eventually just feel like you’re chasing a ghost.
But a couple of years ago, I started telling myself I’ve got to start learning to fish more instinctively. I’ve got to start moving when I know something’s not working. I have to start listening to my gut. And so, really, the last couple of years I started making myself do that, and it’s just amazing how almost every event, when I’ve made myself try to run new stuff, if plan A doesn’t work, that I’ve been successful running just instinctively. Or what a lot of people like to call jump fishing. Just anything you can do to try and get a bite or to try to find a new pattern.
Because the last thing you want to be doing is trying to figure out a pattern that’s not there, on game day. So, sort of to answer your question, yes it’s something that I had to change myself as an angler. Especially in the last couple of years, because fishing the Bass Master Opens, you have 200 other professionals there, trying to qualify for the Bass Master Elite Series, which is the same thing that you’re doing. And you can’t have a bad event. In order to finish in the top five, at the end of the year, you absolutely cannot have a bad event. You have to have four solid very good events, to be there at the end. So, I would think it would be extremely difficult for somebody to not fish that way, and to make the Bass Master Elite Series, much less, survive doing it.
What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned, since you started competing at that level?
Exactly what I just said. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the number one thing that I’d changed and became better at as an angler, in the last couple of years, was the ability to fish instinctively. The ability to not have anxiety to stay say, “I got to leave what I found during practice, and I’ve got to go do something different.” And like I said before, that is extremely tough to do. Because in your mind, okay I was doing so well in practice, flipping a jig and lay downs, but that disappeared, and it’s really hard to get away from that. Okay, I got to get out here and start doing a jerk bait on box, I got to get out here deeper with a swim bait, or just something different. But that, without a doubt, is the number one thing that I would say was the most important change.
Gotcha. Well, lastly as we come to the end of our interview, I always ask these two questions. If you’re ready, what is your most successful fishing secret?
Most successful fishing secret? Fishing your strengths. And I know that may sound like a convoluted answer, but it’s really not. Because there are times where, if I can give you a quick example? Lake Veneer, where we just came from, the first two days of practice, I had three bites in two days total. And I was fishing out deep, clear water, but I’m a shallow water guy. I don’t mind… I can catch them out deep, but I’m a shallow water guy. That’s just… So, the last day of practice, I got out shallow where the fish were not supposed to be, and that’s where I found them. So, when I say your best… Your biggest… My biggest fishing secret is, if nothing else is working, fish your strengths.
Go back to what you know.
All right. All right so, question number two. What’s your most successful or your favorite lure, or bait?
That’s easy. Missile Bait D Bomb. That is something… That little Missile Bait D Bomb, has probably put more money in my pocket, then any other singular lure in my arsenal. I am a Missile Bait Pro SAS guy now, but before I got connected with John Cruz, him and I are good friends now, but there was a couple of years before we even got connected, that I was winning a lot of money on his bait, and he saw it and came after me. But that’s just one of those… That is a confidence thing for me, I know that if I swim that thing by one, he’s going to eat it. But that Missile Bait D Bomb is absolutely a fish catching machine.
That’s amazing. Well I’d like to thank you for being on our show, but before you go, this is professional fishing and we all got to pay some bills. So, do you have anything you want to promote? And if so, tell our listeners what it is, and how they can get it?
Well, hey man, there’s a whole host of things. Guys if you ever want a trip, take a trip to Louisiana, Toledo Bend, which of course is world famous. Make sure you check out Louisiana’s state parks. North Toledo Bend State Park, South Toledo Bend State Park, they’re fully equipped with cabins, everything you’ll ever need. But feel free to reach out, if I can help you guys in any way possible.