If you had Matt Becker on your bingo card to beat the mighty KVD for the tourney win and beat the amazing Jacob Wheeler for the AOY win, bettin’ you’re either related to Matt or know the man better than the rest of us. Whoa. Wow. Here’s how he got his first tour-level win against the best in the biz:
Going in and practice
> “My full focus was on AOY…really since the Cayuga tournament when I moved up to 3rd and realized I had a legit shot at it. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. I really came here with that mindset.
> “I spent 95% of my practice looking for smallmouth. I went looking for largemouth for 2 hours, which ended up being really crucial in terms of how it played out.
> “I think I caught 5 smallmouth over the 2 days of practice. It was really tough. I covered a lot of water – didn’t find any groups of fish like I was looking for. I only found one area where I felt like there was a decent population of fish. Turns out a lot of the other guys found that area as well.
> “After practice, I was group B so I had the day off and got to look at the ScoreTracker weights…big bags caught. I figured they were fishing for smallmouths because I saw Wheeler and Dakota in practice in the area I knew the smallmouth were….
> “Going into my first day, I planned on fishing for smallmouth the entire tournament.”
> “I went to that Oak Point region of the lake and planned on staying in that section all day. It’s a pretty big area and it was the only group of smallmouth I found in practice. I was going to stay within a 3-mile square around that area and just hunker down and fish all day.
> “We didn’t have the best conditions…pretty strong wind and hard to fish.
> “I bounced around 4-5 little spots out there. I had a really tough day. They weren’t biting very good, and the ones I did catch were small. I think only caught 6-7 smallmouth and only had 12 lbs something.
> “Basically [that area] was just a big long extended point that came off the bank…little rockpiles and stuff scattered around it…glacier rock, slate rock, boulders – it had all the perfect ingredients for smallmouth…a couple little shoals….
> “…10-15′ range and the deeper shoals where I caught a couple fish were 20-25′. But the majority of ’em were in 10-15′.
> “The 2nd day I totally switched things up and went fishing for largemouths. I’d had a bad day, was frustrated with the smallmouth and we didn’t have the best weather conditions again.
> “I went 30 miles across the bay to a totally different area, and fished pencil reeds with some vegetation mixed in. I threw a swim-jig and flipped Yamamoto Flappin Hog.
> “When I went and practiced for those 2 hours [for largemouths] I found a little area where I got a few bites and saw a couple 3-lb class largemouth. I figured if I could catch 14-15 lbs I’d have a shot at jumping up the leaderboard, and I figured my best shot at that was to catch those largemouth.
> “I salvaged the day…played the conditions [and the] format of the tournament. I caught enough largemouth to move on.
> “In the Knockout Round I went back to the same area I fished the 1st day and gave it 1 hour in the morning. I confirmed what I kinda already knew – Wheeler and Dakota and 3-4 other guys were fishing in that area, and we all started pretty close to teach other. So in the back of my mind the pressure was getting to those fish – they had been fished for 4 days now.
> “…gave it a short leash…1 fish hooked and I lost it. I left there at 9:00 with zero fish and basically started practicing. I bounced my way around, checked a few of those deeper shoals…made my way out to what ended up being the winning spot, Charity Islands. I had 1 bite there in practice the 1st day, [a] 4-lber. I went there to keep practicing and re-check that.
> “I pulled in there and caught couple fish pretty quick…by the end of the 2nd period I was catching fish steadily…caught some quality fish and numbers of 2-3 lbers. That’s when it started to hit me – I realized a lot more fish were there than I previously thought.
> “I put the pedal down and tried to catch every fish I could. I kinda kept expanding…long extended point off one of the islands…15-20′ range with a little bit of rock mixed in here and there. A lot of it was just sand…no grass, very minimal structure. It was not something you would typically look for or fish in the Great Lakes…not juicy by any means.
> “…the fish were not on much at all. They were just kinda roaming around.”
> Championship Round (day 4) – “Same gameplan…Oak Point for an hour or so, then I made my way out [to the better area]. I had 2 fish by end of the 1st period and was in last place. At the start of the 2nd period, I got out there and started really dialing it in. Within the first half hour or hour of the 2nd period is when I actually found the winning school.
> “It was like a magic 100′ square. A group of fish were in this little square for some reason. I’d catch a couple, then they would bust up, then 25-30 minutes later they’d be grouped up again and I’d catch a couple more. They’d bust up again and I’d do the same thing over and over.
> “I don’t think I went through that exact area in the Knockout Round. I was very close to it, but I don’t think I went through that zone.
> “The key was it was a fresh group of fish. They were fresh, dumb – the way smallmouths are supposed to act. In the other area [Oak Point] they were highly pressured. They would follow your bait, look at it, and swim away and not bite it.”
> Dropshot – 4″ Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm (Becker’s magic juice, only available here right now), #4 Trokar Drop Shot Hook, 1/2-oz Epic Tungsten Teardrop Drop Shot Weight, 15-lb Seaguar Smackdown Braid to 10-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro, 7′ 2″ MH Favorite Hex Spin Rod.
> Why MH – “Favorite’s actions run a little lighter than other brands so it’s more like a M.”
> Why such a small hook – “Their sizes run a little big relative to other brands…#2 Gamakatsu Split Shot Drop Shot Hook is the same size. Either way it’s a pretty small hook. I like a small hook for smallmouth and for the Shad Shape Worm…better action and allows it to fall nose first. It swims a little bit…adds a lot of action. And I really like that small hook for hooking them and keeping them pegged.
> “I pitched it right to ’em. With the wind and waves [day 4] it was hard to get the perfect cast so it would take a me a little bit to get it right to them. I would keep throwing to them til I got it to where a fish was…keep throwing til I’d see him react to it.”
> “I really like the TactX Braid – it’s a little bit rougher than the Smackdown so it cuts through the vegetation really well. It really excels for winding baits.”
> Flipping – 4.5″ Yamamoto Flappin Hog (b/b, side arms pulled off), 4/0 Trokar TK 130 Flippin Hook, 3/4-oz Epic Tungsten Flipping Weight, 50-lb Seaguar Smackdown Stealth Gray Braid, 7′ 8″ H Favorite Hex MDJ signature Rod.
> “I was flipping into the little cracks in the reeds [and] some trash mats of tore-up grass blowing in against the reeds.
> “…depression in the area…a lot of the water to get to the reeds was 1-1.5′ deep, and when you got to the reeds it was a little bit deeper, 2.5-3′.”
> “I was throwing [the dropshot to smallmouth] whenever I saw them on Garmin LiveScope.
> “I feel like I have the best electronics setup. BassFishin Electronics is one of my sponsors. I use a little bit of everything…whatever each brand excels at. The spot I ended up winning the tournament showed up on [Humminbird] LakeMaster mapping way better than [Garmin] Navionics. That definitely brought me to that area, and I was using the Garmin LiveScope to catch them and Lowrance for waypoint management. The whole system works together.”
> How long has he used all 3 brands – “I think I’ve done it for 3 seasons now, maybe 4. I’m a younger guy, I understand electronics – I’ve always enjoyed that side of it. If something new comes out…I’ll spend the necessary time to use it and excel with it.”
> “…having the right boat for the Great Lakes and big waves is really important, and that’s why I choose to run a [Phoenix] 21 PHX. I do it because we always have big-water tournaments every year, and having that big boat you have an advantage in those tournaments, kind of like Keith Poche has an advantage in the skinny-water tournaments.”