UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Erie

Becker’s on Base

Becker’s on Base
Matt Becker

(Editors' note: Matt Becker finished 22nd and received a $10,000 check.)

Pennsylvania’s Matt Becker wasn’t a popular pick last week's in FLW Fantasy Fishing. The FLW Tour rookie has little experience outside of the Great Lakes and Northeast, and logic suggested that Becker was sure to get a whipping at stop No. 1 on Florida’s massive Lake Okeechobee. After all, the Big O’s maze of grass flats is certainly outside Becker’s deep-and-clear comfort zone.

Yet Becker proved his versatility when he posted an opening-round limit weighing 16 1/2 pounds, good enough for 21st place. But how did he do it? His secret lies in not overcomplicating things.

Before divulging the details, it’s important to learn more about the 25-year-old angler. Becker started fishing at an early age, and quickly aspired to become a touring pro. Finances were always the greatest hurdle in making the jump, but, when Becker won the 2017 Costa FLW Series event at 1000 Islands, he earned enough cash to enter the pro ranks.

Becker’s home waters include the Three Rivers system near Pittsburgh and Lake Erie; hardly training grounds for Big O largemouth fishing. In fact, prior to December, Becker had never made a cast in the state of Florida. But, in order to get a jump on things, he made the long drive to Okeechobee prior to the off-limits period and quickly got to work.

Arriving during a warming trend, Becker experienced the good fishing Okeechobee is noted for, and was able to employ his favorite fishing techniques with positive results, which provided Becker with the confidence to know that Florida fishing wasn’t going to stump him, as it often does other competitors.

Throughout his pre-practice period, Becker did extensive internet research on prevailing fishing patterns and locations on Lake Okeechobee, but was careful not to gather information from other anglers. In addition, Becker chose not to fish during harsh cold front conditions, and instead used that time to better learn to navigate the lake and explore new areas. The strategy allowed him, possibly unknowingly, to maintain his confident feel of the lake.

Following the off-limits period, Becker arrived back at Okeechobee for official practice and was greeted with tough conditions.

“It was pretty rough, honestly,” he says of his attempt to find productive areas for the tournament.

The pre-tournament meeting found Becker a bit star-struck at the notion that he’d be competing against guys he’d only seen on TV. But if he had any fears, they dissolved when tournament morning dawned.

“Once I got out fishing, it was just a normal day of fun,” he says. “I always try to have that mindset. If I get too worked up, I make poor decisions.”

Funny how a 25-year-old kid, with no experience at fishing for six-figure paychecks, seems so grounded.

Becker’s strong start was anchored by two big fish caught near the end of the day after figuring out an intricate detail to his fishing method. Understandably, he didn’t divulge many details, but he says the late-day find has given him even more confidence heading in to day two.

In the long run, it may be the almighty dollar that’s to blame if he can’t capitalize on his good start. As a self-financed competitor with little sponsor income, Becker will need to cash a few checks early on this season to stay on Tour. Luckily, he’s off to a solid start in the opener.

“It would really be nice to cash a check here and be able to take a deep breath,” he adds.

Despite competing in his first-ever pro event, Becker has got the mindset of a veteran. Now, can his fishing match his wit?

Tags: joe-balog  article  2018-01-25-lake-okeechobee 

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