Imagine chasing an Angler of the Year title all season, and waiting until the final minutes of the last tournament of the season before realizing you not only won the last event, but also the coveted MLF Bass Pro Tour AOY title you’d been chasing all year. Quite an achievement amidst a rousing chase amongst the top anglers on tour.
Matt Becker’s recent 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour Angler of the Year title didn’t come without some added stress. It came down to the last minute of the last event before he felt that the AOY title was secured.
“It wasn’t until I could see on the score tracker as the time clock ran down that I had finally won,” said Becker. “I really wasn’t in control of the outcome because no matter how high I finished, if Jacob Wheeler finished fourth place or higher, he would win the AOY. I really couldn’t relax and let my guard down and it really didn’t even hit me that I’d actually won until we were driving back to the boat ramp.”
As if that weren’t stressful enough, legendary angler Kevin VanDam was finishing his pro career on a tear in that last event, racking up heavy bags of smallmouth bass to make a late surge for a storybook ending of winning his last event. As time expired on the tournament and the season, Becker not only held off VanDam to secure the win at the Minn Kota Stage Seven presented by Suzuki event on Saginaw Bay, but he had the coveted AOY title in his pocket as well.
Prior to the start of the season, Becker reviewed the schedule. He felt like many of the events fit his wheelhouse.
“I really liked the schedule right off the bat, especially the events that were up north, like St. Claire, Cayuga, and Saginaw Bay,” said Becker. “I had experience on most of the lakes, so I felt like it set up well for my style of fishing. The one event I was most concerned about was the Kissimmee Chain in Florida because Florida lakes are just so hit or miss. It was my worst event of the season, but still landed a 47th-place finish.”
If there was a key technique during his 2023 AOY run, it was the drop shot, as he fished it both shallow and deep throughout the year.
“The drop shot was the most impactful technique for me all season,” said Becker. “I put it into play in five of the seven events, and the Epic tungsten tear drop shot weight was what I used in all of them. I like the 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-ounce, depending upon the situation. I caught a lot of spawners on the drop shot but mostly fished it out on deep drop-offs and ledges. It’s such a versatile technique that you can use a drop shot all over the lake. I generally prefer to fish offshore, so that’s what I usually look for, but the drop shot played a factor from the bank to the middle of the lake for me in ’23.”
When fishing the drop shot for smallmouth, Becker prefers the Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm, relying on his own custom color when presenting to smallmouth, Becker’s Magic Juice.
“That color is available exclusively at FishUSA.com and I used it a lot at Saginaw Bay and Cayuga to catch smallmouths on beds. I really like the profile of the Shad Shape Worm for smallmouths. For largemouths, I’ll typically go with a longer profile like the Yamamoto Pro Senko.”
The other lure Becker relied upon during his AOY run was the Epic Compact Swim Jig.
“There were a few key fish at Saginaw Bay on the Epic Compact Swim Jig, but that jig also accounted for some good fish for me at Kissimmee,” said Becker.
The Epic Compact Swim Jig has a strong 3/0-4/0 Gamakatsu hook with a 30-degree angle, giving the jig a smaller, more weedless profile that comes through heavy cover well, be it wood or vegetation. Black Back Shad and Bone Crusher are the two colors Becker utilized for his swim jig catches in 2023.
The 2024 Bass Pro Tour dates have already been announced and you can bet Becker will have a drop shot and swim jig in hand for most every event on the schedule.