2009 Elite Series - Diamond Drive Lake Dardanelle - Russelville, AR, Mar 26 - 29, 2009

Matt Herren and Billy Mccaghren proved their mettle

Matt Herren and Billy Mccaghren proved their mettle in the 2008 Bassmaster Open trails, with Herren taking the points race in the Southern trail and Mccaghren finishing as one of the top Central semi-pros.

Each took advantage of their successes, stepping up to the Bassmaster Elite Series to be counted among the Top 100 anglers in the world.

Herren said the transition has been fairly seamless.

"The only thing that's been different is the 2 1/2-day format in the practice period versus four (days), and just learning how to structure my time better," he said.

Mccaghren said he has had to work a bit harder to adjust.

"It's a big step up, one that I might not have been ready for," he admitted. "I've gone from fishing weekends and those three Opens last year to fishing with these guys."

The competition level is extremely high, with pros reacting instinctively instead of taking time to consciously figure out what the fish are doing.

"These guys fish every day," Mccaghren said. "The adjustments they can make on the water are so fast."

Herren said that is one challenge that has to be mastered because of the short practices.

"You have to learn to do a little more map study, to be a little more thorough, be a little more focused on where you need to be when you get there because you don't have a day to blow," he explained. "You need to be really dialed in on what you're going to do because with 2 1/2 days (of practice) you don't have a lot of time."

Of course, each also has had to come to terms with competing against Elite Series anglers who are legends of the sport.

Herren said his time on the Southern Open trail and other circuits has helped in that regard.

"A lot of these guys have been crossing back and forth on some other stuff, so I've been fishing against them," he said.

Mccaghren said he only had one moment where he was awestruck.

"The biggest thing was at the first meeting, being in the meeting with all those guys I've been watching all my life," he said.

The key to overcoming any nervousness is focusing on their jobs.

"Once I put the boat in the water, I'm fishing against the fish and try to block the rest of it out," Mccaghren said.

Herren and Mccaghren were off to a good start yesterday as the Diamond Drive on Lake Dardanelle kicked off, with Herren putting the fourth-heaviest bag of the day on the scales and Mccaghren moving into Day 2 in 10th place.