Matt Herren has seen every level of competitive bass fishing. He's a case study on what it means to work your way up to the big leagues. In 2011, he'll be fishing his third consecutive Bassmaster Classic and feels he's just getting his career ramped up. Here's how he answered our 20 Questions:
1. Where were you born and raised?
Birmingham, Ala. But I've been here in Trussville my whole life.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
You know, according to my mom and dad, since I was old enough to hold a cane pole I've been on the side of a creek bank or fishing somewhere.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Rick Clunn and Bill Dance. I like Clunn because of his tournament performance and Bill Dance because he had one of the most popular early fishing shows.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
You know, I think within the last couple of years. A lot of people may not remember when I fished the Invitationals in the mid '90s. I fished six or seven of them. But, like a lot of people, I had a wife and kids and had to prioritize. I had the dream and the desire, but I had to wait for my time, and, when it came, I went for it. I fished FLW for a bit, then transferred to B.A.S.S. Overall, I'd say I've made it within the last few years.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
10-14. I caught it at Sam Rayburn during practice for a Bassmaster Invitational.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
Locating fish. It's about the thrill of the hunt for me. I want to pattern them and find them during a competition. To a lot of guys, it's about fishing against the fishermen, but I like to fish against the fish.
7. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Lake Champlain. It's one of the few places in the world where you can go out and catch 20 pounds of smallmouth then turn around and catch 20 pounds of largemouth the next day.
8. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
I won an FLW Series tournament on Lake Dardanelle.
9. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
Oh gosh, I haven't won a Classic yet and I haven't won Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year either! In order of importance to me, it's the Classic then Angler of the Year.
10. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
My competitive nature. All competitors have goals that they strive for, and it's more or less the drive to compete that keeps us after it.
11. Where do you see the sport of bass fishing in five years?
I don't know! (laughs) Right now, the industry is in a state of change. There are a lot of people trying to figure out which direction to take the sport, and I think it'll be better. But, I'm not exactly sure what aspects will be better.
12. What are we doing right as a sport?
We're involving the youth. We're trying to contact younger anglers and bring them into the sport on a larger scale than there has ever been. That's what we're doing right.
13. What's the biggest challenge that you've faced in you career?
Basically, gathering the means to compete at the highest level. Getting the funding together is an uphill challenge as the economy has gotten tighter and tighter in the last few years. It's getting increasingly difficult for unknown faces to get into the sport.
14. What is your greatest strength as a professional angler?
My ability to locate and pattern fish.
15. What is your greatest weakness as a professional angler?
Stubbornness. Once I feel like I've located a pattern, it's hard for me to change. That's a fine line in fishing that all anglers fight. You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. I've stayed on fish to the bitter end and in the last hour caught 'em. On the flip of that, I've stayed on them until the last hour and had them not bite at all. It's a very fine line to have the confidence in what you're doing and also having the willingness to change if you have to.
16. What question do you get asked most by fans, and how do you answer it?
That's a tough one! The question I get asked by fans most often is "What is it like to be a professional fisherman and make a living as an angler?" My answer is that it's a lot of work. It's more involved than just fishing. When you get to be at this level, it's about promoting your sponsors, your trail, the sport, then it's also about performance on the water. It's a big picture that takes a lot of work.
17. What is the biggest mistake you see from casual or weekend anglers?
Typically, when a casual angler shows up at the water, he goes off and does the same thing he did last time he was out. They go to all the same places and don't think about it. They don't go through the processes of what season it is and what the bass might be doing then. This happens if a guy fishes the same water a lot.
18. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
Yeah, the number 13! It's kind of worn off over the years, but I had a stretch where I drew boat No. 13 a few times in a row and it was pretty bad. It didn't matter if it was 13, 113 or 213; it was all bad. I had major equipment failures mostly. Of course, it was all coincidental, but it's taken a while for me to get over that.
19. How big a part does luck play in tournament bass fishing?
Very little. Luck comes into play when you're looking for the bite to win versus coming in second. To win an event, or to do well on the water, you have to give yourself an opportunity to do well. You have to put yourself in that position, and, at the Elite level, the luck percentage is small. It's the difference in catching a 7-14 and losing an event and catching an 8-pounder and winning.
20. When it's all over, how do you want the bass fishing world to remember you?
I want to be remembered as a guy who came up from the bottom ranks and made it to the top. I fished the Federation Nation, Divisionals, and every other level of fishing. I've fished every championship except the Red Man All American. I want people to remember me as a guy who did right, worked hard and was competitive.