By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Matt Herren concluded the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series season on a nice roll, with 8th- and 4th-place finishes in the final two events to end up 19th in the final Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year (AOY) standings. That run of success gave him a one-track mind for 2011: Win a tournament.
That kind of thinking didn't play out too well. Not only did he fail to win, he also turned in big-time bombs in four of the eight events (80th place or lower) and he ended up 66th in the points. He failed to qualify for his circuit's championship derby for just the second time in a 10-year pro career.
"I was so focused on winning that I forgot the simple fact that you've got to go out and catch fish," the affable Alabamian said. "I had good practices – some of the best of my career – and I was really looking forward to the events. Then you don't get the bites you thought you were going to get, you lose a fish and some stuff happens that's beyond your control.
"When you get so frustrated, sometimes you can try to force the issue and push too hard. I was really just pushing and trying to make something happen instead of going out on the water and taking whatever the day gave me. The best way to explain it is if I had two possibilities going into a tournament as far as how to catch fish, I'd take the longshot that I thought gave me the better opportunity to win instead of the surer thing that probably would've gotten me a Top 20 and gotten me into the Classic."
A Conservative Shift
The 49-year-old Herren ditched his win-or-nothing mentality this year, and it paid off handsomely as he had his best Elite season to date. He finished 6th in the points, which will not only garner him his fourth Bassmaster Classic appearance for next year's edition at Oklahoma's Grand Lake, but also qualified him for this month's Toyota Tundra All-Star Week and Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
He had a miserable time at this year's Classic at Louisiana's Red Rever as he was forced to work the outdoor expo at the Shreveport Convention Center for 3 excruciatingly long days.
"That was the first Classic that I ever had to just stand there on the carpet, and I did not like that at all," he said. "Right there I decided that going into every year, my driving focus was going to be not wanting to stand on that carpet again.
"(Skeeter Boats VP and GM Jeff) Stone suggested that I cut out a piece of that carpet I was standing on and put it in a plastic bag and stick it somewhere in my boat. Then, when things weren't going good, I could pull it out and look at it (for inspiration)."
Herren's 6th-place finish in the points was a 60-slot improvement over 2011.
None of that, however, means that he's totally cast aside his desire to win an event. To date, his most significant victory was at a 2007 Eastern FLW Series tournament at Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas, and he still badly wants to trump that with a tour-level triumph.
"I've done everything else but win. When you look at my stats, my performance has been consistently solid. I've fished 32 regular-season Elite events and I've got eight Top-12 finishes, and as far as percentage goes, there aren't many better than that except for Kevin VanDam. Basically, 25 percent of the time I'm there on Sunday, and that's not bad.
"But in this business, and this world, everything's always about winning, and I'm no different than a lot of other guys – I want to hold a trophy. When I (turned pro), I'd won so many local events that my garage looked like a trophy museum. I'm ready to taste it again."
Herren might have more chances to notch that elusive tour-level victory in 2013. With non-overlapping schedules, he's one of many Elite pros contemplating fishing both that circuit and the FLW Tour. The first 7 seasons of his pro career were spent with FLW and he finished 11th or better in the points four times, including a runner-up showing in 2006.
"I'm trying to put it together logistically," he said. "It's probably going to involve plane tickets and spare boats and getting somebody to help me. My deal is I need more than eight events to make a living, and the (Bassmaster) Opens and EverStarts aren't an option – those are great for guys getting started and for qualifying for things, but for a tour-level guy, their payback doesn't go deep enough into the field.
"I've got some concerns (about a two-tour schedule) because there'd be a couple of runs of 3 weeks in a row, but to make a living, I need to be in a boat. As much as I like to be at home, if I'm at home, I'm not making any money for my family, and right now I don't have enough money-making opportunities.
"There's no such thing as a perfect world and I enjoy both circuits," he continued. "There are things about the Elite Series that I like, which is why I'm here, but FLW offers guys a chance to make some damn good money fishing."