I’m not even gonna sugarcoat it.
The first time I saw Matthew Robertson, I was not impressed.
This long-haired kid, who had qualified for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic through the Bassmaster Team Championship, strutted to the Classic stage in Knoxville wearing some sort of leopard-print, faux-fur coat. When he reached the microphone, he splashed himself with a bottle of water, let out a Ric Flair-style “WOOOOO” and then weighed in two bass for 3 pounds, 5 ounces.
My first thought was, “Who is this freaking guy?”
My second thought was, “I wonder if we’ll ever hear from him again?”
Since then, the carefree dude wearing the popular but surprisingly understated “On ’Em” hat has answered both of those questions pretty emphatically.
Who is Matthew Robertson?
He’s a free-spirited angler who brings life to every crowd he’s in — and a guy who seems to be as competitive on the water as he is nonchalant off it.
Would he ever be heard from again after his 47th-place finish in that 2019 Knoxville Classic?
Well, consider this:
Robertson won the 2019 Kentucky B.A.S.S. Nation State Championship on the incredibly tough Ohio River with a two-day total of just 7 pounds. Then, this year, he won the B.A.S.S. Nation Southeast Regional on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.
It was already getting harder to ignore the young man from Central City, Ky., when he finished second at the Bassmaster Central Open on Neely Henry Lake in Alabama. Then he won the Bassmaster Eastern Open on Cherokee Lake to qualify for his second Classic.
So much for first impressions, huh?
And while we’re at it, so much for old-school thinking when it comes to professional bass fishing.
Change is good — and that’s a lesson I’ve been trying hard to learn for almost 30 years.
I actually covered tournaments back in the days when everyone looked the same, every boat was nearly identical and the most prominent noise you heard at weigh-ins was the booming, jovial voice of B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott.
I remember sitting beside my old-school mentors — who were fabulous outdoors writers, by the way — and hearing them gripe incessantly when B.A.S.S. first started playing walk-up music for anglers at the weigh-ins. I remember them turning up their noses to the antics of a brilliant entertainer like Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer in favor of monotone emcees who simply introduced the anglers and spouted the weights of the fish over and over again.
Those days are gone — and you know what? Good riddance.
We don’t need tournaments with guys who all look and sound like they were cut from the same factory mold.
We need Seth Feider with his long hair, mustache and his “If you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question” attitude. We need Gerald Swindle with jokes that are funny when he’s had a good day and downright sidesplitting when he’s had a bad one.
We need guys like Robertson, who seems to scream, “Just because you’re having fun doesn’t mean you’re not trying to beat your competitors into submission.”
As I write this column, Robertson is not only qualified for the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk scheduled for March 19-21 on Lake Ray Roberts in Fort Worth, Texas, he’s in good position to qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series.
I guess the only bad part of all that is he’ll no longer be lighting up the stage at B.A.S.S. Nation events. But hey, the Nation has been hogging this mega-personality for long enough.
It’s time for fans at the top level of bass fishing to get to know this crazy guy.
If you haven’t paid much attention to him, remind yourself to stop and tune in every time he comes to the stage this year. If you’re a budding old-timer like me, I can predict what your thoughts will be.
Like me, your first thought will probably be, “Who is this freaking guy?”
Then you’ll realize the answer is, “He’s just the breath of fresh air bass fishing needs.”