A couple first-timers gave us their thoughts on the eve of their first Bassmaster Classic.
Just competing in this tournament is the lifelong dream of many anglers, let alone a milestone event like this year's 50th, held at the famous Lake Guntersville and Birmingham, Alabama, birthplace of the B.A.S.S organization.
This year is special for everyone fishing in the tournament, but we got to talk with two competitors who will be taking part in the big one for the first time.
Everyone competing wants to perform well, but these two anglers have no experience on this big of a stage. Winning the Classic not only cements an angler's name in the history books, it could also alter the course of their lives permanently.
What's it like to face that kind of pressure on the eve of the biggest tournament of your life? We talked with two Bassmaster Classic first-timers to find out.
Cody Huff is in his last semester of college, but he's taken a break from studying at Bethel University to join the other 52 competitors in the Bassmaster Classic.
He qualified as the winner of the Bassmaster Carhartt College Series, and spoke with us the day before launching into the biggest fishing tournament of his life.
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Blessed to come out on top today in the final round of the bracket. I am overwhelmed by all the love and support from all of my friends and family! This week has been a dream and it really hasn’t even sank in yet. I just want to thank Bassmaster for giving me this opportunity and putting on such a life changing event. God is good!
With of course a lot on his mind internally, externally he seemed pretty calm.
The 22-year-old qualified through the College Series, and said he was super excited to be participating.
"My weight guess for the week was 68 pounds. These guys are too good, somebody's gonna catch them," he said. "I think somebody will have a big day, 27 or 28 pounds, and then just try to survive the next few days."
He acknowledged the significance of the 50th Classic, but was beginning to feel the weight of what he'd accomplished as a qualifier.
"It's special, it really is," he said. "It's something we've dreamed about our whole lives. Once you're actually here, you don't realize how awesome it really is until things like today, you know, I got to hang out with the guys I've looked up to since I was a little kid. And now I get to hang out with them and talk to them like old friends. That's pretty special."
Of course, he had a realistic perspective. "In the end, it's Guntersville man, somebody's gonna whack 'em," Huff said.
Let's hope so.
You could tell he was a genuine fisherman, and he seemed honored to get to connect with sponsors that have given him the ability to do the things he does.
"I run a Nitro Z20, a 215 Mercury on the back, a 4-stroke. I mean this thing flies. It's one of the fastest boats I've ever owned, as well as an awesome ride. Honestly, I get to work with some of the best sponsors in the business," he commented. "Bass Pro Shops make all my rods and reels. Man, the Johnny Morris Series stuff is as good as gets. I get to work with Rapala, who makes some of the best hard baits around. I've got DT-6s tied on for days over there!"
He said he truly was living the dream making this Classic, and "that's a pretty special deal, you know. I'm just like everybody else watching, so I think that's pretty cool."
By no means a true rookie, David Mullins has been at the pro angling thing for six years, and the 2020 Bassmaster Classic will be his 60th tournament. But it's the first time he's participating in the big one, and isn't letting it slip by.
From near Mt. Carmel, Tennessee, the laidback structure fishing expert has fished Guntersville three times. This will be the first time he's fished it in a Classic, and though he doesn't know it intimately, he's hoping the lake will cooperate with his style, strengths, and next three days worth of casts.
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12.5lb has me in 19th. Need a couple good bites tomorrow. . . . #stjohnsriver #phoenixboats #costadelmarsunglasses #nicholslures #sunline #doomsdaytackleco #scottsborotackleswimbaits #tackledirect #garminfishhunt #froggtoggs #battlebornbatteries #bassmafia #boatlogix #seewhatsoutthere
Mullins said it's all a matter of finding, and getting, that precious consistent bite each of the three days.
"I think if you get a bite, it's going to be a decent fish," he said. "The problem is there's just not a lot of bites out there. I'm sure somebody's gonna find a wad of them somewhere. But I think just being consistent, because the weather's not stable right now, so just being consistent through the three days is going to be big."
He admitted that things have changed significantly since he last fished Lake Guntersville, and that's part of what being a professional angler is: adjusting to the shifts in vegetation, conditions, and pressure.
"Everything's changed since '15 when I was here last," he said, "There's a lot more eel grass and a lot less hydrilla and milfoil."
He took it all in stride, and knew he needed to make the most of his opportunity.
"I'm blessed to have qualified, I'm blessed to be here, and it's just a special event being the anniversary. I'm just happy to be here," he said.
What gear was he looking most forward to using in the tournament? Mullins said it was the insulated bibs he had ready to go.
"It's gonna be about 30 degrees when we blast off, so that's what I'm looking most forward to using tomorrow," he said.
When it comes down to it, dealing with the conditions might just be the biggest part of this year's Classic.
We'll be interested to see if these two anglers, fishing the Bassmaster Classic for the first time, can crack into the leaderboard, or even stand a chance to win. If they do, it'll be a heck of a story when it's all said and done.