It stands to reason that a person who enjoys fishing and duck hunting understands the balance in nature and cares to protect it. Matt Phillips is a B.A.S.S. Nation member with such a viewpoint.
Last year, Matt took the top job of preserving and protecting the aquatic plants and controlling the invasive species in Florida. He was promoted to the Subsection Administrator of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, Invasive Plant Management section (IPMS). This is the branch that oversees aquatic plant management throughout Florida.
Matt started out fishing tournaments with Florida B.A.S.S. Nation's Lakeland Bassmasters, the largest grass-roots club with Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.). Matt also duck hunted Florida's vast number of lakes and marshes.
Matt grew up fishing and hunting Florida. His ability to balance aquatic plant management with the needs of the ecosystem has gained him respect among recreational anglers, duck hunters and lake homeowners.
This is a fairy-tail career. Many anglers would love the opportunity to study aquatic plants and be able to make a difference in keeping bass fishing great in Florida. In fact, Florida-strain largemouth bass stocks are largely responsible for most state and international catch records.
Matt's new role within the FWC is not without controversy. However, his experience on both sides of the issue, as an outdoor enthusiast and as a division resource manager, have allowed him to bring stakeholders and user groups together.
Matt's division is tasked with oversight on aquatic plant control in public waters of Florida. Activities are routinely coordinated with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Another large job is to organize aquatic plant control applicators on private waters as well. For the commission, FWC uses licensed applicators to perform daily activities under highly regulated work and safety plans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the pesticide they use, and posted labels ensure proper application.
Matt began as a youthful angler in the Lakeland Bassmasters club in 1994. While he was honing his competitive skills in the club, his natural talent for leadership was quickly recognized, and he was voted into his first regulatory duty as club tournament director.
It was in his role as tournament director that he first set the club rules on how to handle the fish resources, how to interpret State laws and how to keep sportsmanship at the forefront of competition.
During his Lakeland B.A.S.S. Nation club days, Matt succeeded as a competitor and qualified three times for the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation State Team.
In conjunction with his bass fishing, Matt's career as a biologist with #myFWC continued to grow. Eventually, the career required him to relocate to fill a biologist position in the panhandle of Florida in 2005.
Once in the panhandle, Matt promptly joined the local club, Big Bend Bassmaster. Work demands reduced his bass club fishing to only a few years, but his smile when discussing club activities says it all. His love for fishing and working with anglers continued to grow.
During his entire profession, surprisingly Matt was able to balance his family, career and role as a Florida B.A.S.S. Nation State Conservation Director in the late 90s. His multiple years of conservation service provided a strong voice for B.A.S.S. members in Florida. Matt also helped coordinate the efforts of the state and national level Bassmaster conservation directors.
Matt's passion for fishing allowed him to experience all public lakes from south Florida's Lake Okeechobee, to the northern Florida waters of Lake Seminole. His biggest bass from Florida was a 12 pound, 4 ounce slaunch giant. Ask him about the story, and he will surely show you a big grin and picture on his phone.
As an outdoor enthusiast, Matt has spent countless hours introducing his son to the sport of duck hunting on many public waterways. This additional understanding of a duck hunter's perspective on aquatic weed control has helped him gain insight and a balance in resource management.
When you speak with Matt, you will quickly get a sense of his passion and understanding about the environment. He holds a strong position on sharing education and science.
After a long and successful 23-year career with the FWC, Matt reached yet another pinnacle when he achieved his current position in managing Florida's water and wildlife resources. His easygoing nature will surely help him bring together any opposing factions.
I must disclose that I have a positive bias towards Matt's success. I am also a former B.A.S.S. Nation State Conservation Director. Balancing family, career and resource management in Florida was often a thankless job. I am truly impressed with his level of success!
Throughout his career Matt has shown the unusual ability to handle it all. Maybe it's his contagious laughter, or his friendly smile, or maybe his competitive nature to outfish or outhunt his friends.
Matt Phillips is Florida's gentle giant, a outdoorsman who looks to do an excellent job of balancing habitat needs with exotic species control. He is positioned to tackle the new challenges of our state's water resources.
I look forward to watching all our B.A.S.S. Nation anglers support Matt in his role. Please reach out to Matt by email or the new "Ask FWC" webpage. No question is too trivial when it comes to aquatic plant management in Florida.