Huff heats up, claims Day 2 lead in Bassmaster Elite Series event at Smith Lake

The heat was on, literally and figuratively, on Day 2 of the TNT Fireworks Bassmaster Elite at Smith Lake.

And at the halfway point of this Elite Series derby, Cody Huff is the one holding fellow Elite feet to the fire.

Huff, a 27-year-old pro from Ava, Mo., leads the tournament with a two-day total of 10 bass for 29 pounds, 1 ounce. And while that might not be the eye-popping weight the sport’s best sticks regularly post, it’s certainly an impressive total given the slack bite on Day 1 followed by blistering temperatures that pushed the heat index into triple digits Friday.

The heat was extreme enough that Huff came to the scales more than an hour early on Friday, weighing in at approximately 1 p.m.

“I had a fish die on me, and I didn’t want to take the chance of losing any more,” Huff said.

His 15-4 total Friday was the heaviest of the day, even with the expired fish factored into his total. He bagged 13-13 on Thursday.

Huff may have the tournament lead, but the secret to his success remains a mystery, much like Smith Lake has been for all competitors this week.

“You never know what kind of fish you’re on here, really, because the fish are moving a lot,” he said. “I ran through some areas in practice that I thought might have fish, and I’ve just been circulating back through them and catching what I can.”

Huff said he’s sharing some spots with competitors, but for the most part has focused on secondary spots, trying to get away from boat traffic. The forecasted warm weekend should bring out a bevy of recreational boaters, too, so Huff said catching an early limit will remain important.

“I know it’s gonna be bumpy out there with some wake, but it might play to my favor, being out of the way of most traffic,” Huff said.

The goal, he added, is to remain consistent.

“I’m catching fish,” he said. “I caught 103 (on Day 1), but you obviously have to weed through a lot of them to get the bigger fish. I didn’t catch nearly as many today, but I had an early limit. Today, I had a 3-5, but I didn’t have a 3-pounder at all on Day 1.”

And yet, he’s still in the lead.

“That doesn’t happen very often, having only one 3-pounder and the lead,” he said, chuckling.

Jay Przekurat, a 25-year-old pro from Stevens Point, Wis., is in second place on Smith with a two-day total of 28-3. He said all his keeper fish have been spotted bass, and that mornings have been the only time he’s hooked up.

“My bite just stops at about 11 o’clock,” he said. “But all that could change. The fish are moody here right now. I haven’t fished much new water, but these fish are educated.”

Przekurat caught a 4-pounder on Friday – pretty much the gold standard anglers are gunning for on Smith this week.

“That 4 is a rare fish right now,” he said. “It’s like catching a 7 or 8 on Toledo Bend. You get one, it’s a game-changer. It was for me. Without the 4-pounder, I’m at 13 pounds today rather than the 14-8 I caught.”

Przekurat said he’s fishing for spotted bass on timber in about 40 feet of water. His best bites have come on a Strike King Z-Too jerkbait in either Gray Glimmer or Smokey Shad colors.

“You have to roam around to find them,” he said, “and I’ve been keying on certain sections of the lake with better timber and more bait. You can LiveScope in some areas and not see a thing. But the spots like to hide in that deep timber. And there’s a lot of bait down there for them – threadfin shad, herring. There’s a meal down there.”

Longtime Elite angler Steve Kennedy, who hails from Auburn, Ala., is third at the tournament’s halfway point, with a 27-10 total. Kennedy moved up from fifth place courtesy of a 3-10 spot he hooked just before 11 a.m.

“There were seven or eight of them that showed up, a real wolfpack,” Kennedy said. “I could’ve had a bigger bag today, but when I swung back around on that group, I got three bites on a Glide but didn’t catch one of them. I took out a Senko and hooked a 3-pound largemouth, but he broke off, then I took out an Original Glide and just missed on another 2-pound largemouth.”

Robert Gee, a 25-year-old pro from Knoxville, is in fourth place with 27-7. Canada’s Cory Johnston is in fifth place with 27-6.

Mukwonago, Wis., pro Caleb Kuphall won $1,000 for the 4-7 he caught Friday, the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day. That ties him with Day 1 leader Hunter Shryock for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament and the $2,000 prize that goes with it. Shryock’s 15-15 total on Day 1 still leads for the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag prize of $2,000.

A total of 90 of the 98 Elite anglers competing in the TNT Fireworks Bassmaster Elite at Smith Lake caught limits on Friday. The Top 50 anglers advanced to fish on Day 3 of the tournament, which will begin with a 6 a.m. CT take-off from Smith Lake Park. Weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

The Top 10 anglers after Saturday’s weigh-in will advance to fish on Championship Sunday with the winner taking home a top prize of $100,000. Everyone in the cut also will earn additional points in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

Carbondale, Ill., rookie Trey McKinney self-reported after weigh-in that he received a phone call from a family member asking his whereabouts during competition and was alerted that he was late to check in for weigh-in, which violated rule C3 xiv of the Practice and Competition of the Official Rules of Competition. As a result, McKinney’s weight was disqualified for the day.

“Unfortunately, we made a mistake today that will cost us greatly in the long run,” McKinney said. “We don’t know why the Lord lets some things happen, but He has a plan, and the positivity is we get to fish to win for the rest of the year. Sometimes we don’t always know God’s plan for the future.”

As a result of the disqualification, McKinney slipped out of the lead for the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

Alabama’s Justin Hamner, winner of the 2024 Classic, leads the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 597 points. Missouri’s Cody Huff is second with 577 points, followed by McKinney in third with 571, Tennessee’s Jacob Foutz in fourth with 551 and Przekurat in fifth with 550.

McKinney leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings with 571 points, followed by Tennessee’s John Garrett in second with 548 points and South Carolina’s J.T. Thompkins in third with 544.

Saturday’s tournament coverage begins at 8 a.m. on FS1 and runs through 11 a.m. Saturday’s LIVE coverage will continue on at 11 a.m. Sunday’s coverage begins at 8 a.m. on FS1 and runs through 1 p.m. Sunday’s LIVE coverage will continue on at 1 p.m. All coverage times are ET.

The tournament is being hosted by Visit Cullman.