By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
After concluding his initial season on the MLF Bass Pro Tour in movie-script fashion at Saginaw Bay early this month, Matt Becker got a bit of a reality check the following week when he finished 81st in a Toyota Series event at the St. Lawrence River.
"I realized that I can't just launch the boat with hardly any practice and expect to win," said Becker, who won the tournament and the BPT Angler of the Year (AOY) title at Saginaw, vanquishing some of the sport's most heralded competitors in the process. "I'd gotten sick in between those tournaments – some kind of cold or something, and I only got 4 hours of practice at the St. Lawrence."
Oh well, nobody wins them all, and his heroics the previous week were more than enough to assuage the bomb in the lower-level event.
"I still haven't fully processed it, but it's sinking in a little more each day," he said. "To win the tournament and the Angler of the Year on the same day in my first season was truly incredible.
"It's going to be hard to beat this year and it'll take some serious motivation. I'll have to set some new goals and go out and try to repeat (the points title)."
If you go back to the final two MLF Pro Circuit events of 2022, Becker has notched six Top-10 finishes in nine outings. Triple-A events have been his bugaboo – in addition to the lackluster showing at the St. Lawrence, he also posted a 175th in a Toyota derby at Lake Chickamauga in April.
He's about had enough of those for this year.
"I was scheduled to fish at the Potomac, but after this I don't think I can make the championship, so I'm going to back out," he said.
Becker, a Pennsylvania native who now resides in Tennessee, will compete in the WON Bass U.S. Open for the first time at Lake Mohave on the Nevada-Arizona border in mid-October. He and his family will take their time getting there – and also getting back home.
"We're going to make it a vacation," he said. "We'll take about 10 days driving out there and just enjoy the trip, and then do the same thing going back."
They'll attend a hot-air balloon festival in New Mexico and visit several sponsors along the route (Eagle Claw in Denver, Favorite Fishing in Missouri and Epic Baits in Oklahoma). Other planned activities include hiking and whitewater rafting.
"That's always been a bucket-list tournament for me – I've always thought it was a really cool event," he said. "Living in Tennessee, I'm a little bit closer now, although still not real close. This seems like a good time to take a trip out west and fish.
"My goal for the tournament will be to cash a check to help pay for our vacation."
He's looking forward to seeing next year's BPT schedule, which should be released soon. This year's slate certainly suited him well, as did the format that culminates in a two-day cumulative weight to determine the winner.
"I learned a lot about not burning all my best fish early and always looking for more fish. With the off days and everything, but the time you get to the Knockout and Championship rounds it's been almost a week since your last practice day, so you're always searching for new fish."
His perfomance on the final day at Saginaw Bay prevented Kevin VanDam, the best there's ever been, from winning his final regular-season event as a touring pro and denied Jacob Wheeler, the current kingpin of the sport, a third consecutive points title. Did he feel a tinge of guilt about that?
"Maybe like the smallest amount possible," he said. "At the end of the day, it's competition. (VanDam) cetainly wouldn't lay up if the situation were reversed."