SEAN OSTRUSZKA • TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT
Matt Becker wasn’t planning on taking a risk this week on Lake Murray. Fate had other plans.
One of the most consistent anglers on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, Becker started Day 1 of the event with a conservative plan of sight-fishing and fishing docks. But, before doing that, he slotted in a little time to try a risky timing/herring-spawn pattern. He never looked back in route to his first win, as he brought in 17 pounds, 11 ounces today to hold off local favorite Anthony Gagliardi with 76-5 total.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life,” says Becker after the victory. “I had started to think it was never going to happen.”
“I don’t catch big fish, and you need to catch big fish to win. But that’s fishing risky, which is basically what I did this week.”
The 2018 Rookie of the Year admits what he did went against his nature and made it one of the most stressful fishing weeks of his life. It’s understandable considering just how risky his pattern was. He truly had no idea where, when or if he’d get a bite. If his timing was off all day, he’d zero.
What he did know was that there were schools of big bass hanging off the edges of the points, as he’d either see them schooling on the surface at times or on his electronics. Unfortunately, unless they moved up shallow to feed on blueback herring spawning there, he wasn’t able to catch them. And adding extra difficulty, when he pulled up on a point, he had no idea if the fish had moved up, as the fish were often not schooling visibly on the surface but just “schooling” and feeding up shallow.
So, he simply had to keep hitting and re-hitting as many points as possible hoping one of those times he’d show up at just the right time that the school had moved shallow to feed. A prime example came on Day 2.
“The spot I caught them on (the second day) I had fished three times before I caught them,” says Becker. “I knew the fish were there, but I rotated through multiple times and never had a bite. Then I came back and they were there and they were eating. I went from zero to 14 pounds in minutes.”
When they were eating, Becker rotated through a number of different soft plastics, with a Googan Baits Dart (green gizzard) as a key player rigged on a TroKar TK 180 hook with a TroKar TK 300 treble hook as a stinger. He threw that on a 7-foot, 5-inch medium-heavy Favorite Fishing Hex rod, Favorite Fishing Soleus XCS reel and 15-pound-test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon.
Those key eating flurries were huge the first two days, but as the tournament went on, they became fewer and fewer. Today, he says he never really had a flurry. In fact, he didn’t have much to be confident in, at all, to start.
While Gagliardi was putting on a show right off the bat in an effort to nearly pull off another big win on his home lake, Becker only could manage single fish, and not many. He only had four fish in his livewell at 10:30 a.m. But once again, fate seemed to intervene.
“All week, little things just always lined up,” says Becker. “Today, I pulled into a cove and I got this overwhelming feeling I was going to go to the first point and catch a 3 ½-pounder, and then I’d go to the second point and catch another 3 ½-pounder. And that’s exactly what happened. That pretty much got me the win. That and Anthony losing that last fish.”
Yes, as if that wasn’t enough, he got one last gift late in the day, as Gagliardi had worked his way up to the biggest bag of the tournament. He just had one 3-9 bass he wanted to cull out, and he actually hooked a 5-pounder that would’ve made weigh-in razor close. Unfortunately for him, he accidently left his Power Poles down, the fish wrapped around one and it broke off.
The end result was a tear-jerking moment as Becker finally got to realize a childhood dream come true.
“I’ve been watching every tournament on TV my whole life dreaming it would be me on that stage winning,” says Becker. “I had truly started to doubt if it’d ever happen because I’d always just fished for checks. Well, this is a really big and nice check.”
Top 10 Pros
1. Matt Becker – 76 – 05 (20) – $137,500 (includes $35,000 Phoenix Bonus)
2. Anthony Gagliardi – 73 – 13 (20) – $30,000
3. Michael Neal – 71 – 08 (20) – $25,000
4. Adrian Avena – 68 – 02 (20) – $20,000
5. David G Williams – 64 – 13 (20) – $19,000
6. Tai Au – 64 – 09 (20) – $18,500
7. Evan Barnes – 63 – 10 (20) – $17,000
8. Cody Huff – 63 – 00 (20) – $16,000
9. Derrick Snavely – 60 – 02 (18) – $15,000
10. Skeet Reese – 57 – 09 (17) – $14,000
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