Day on the Lake: Matt Robertson

With his signature Kentucky drawl, long blonde hair jutting from his weather-beaten cap, sleeveless T-shirt and B.A.S.S. shield tattooed on his left arm, there’s no confusing Matt Robertson with any other Elite Series pro. “I’m 100% hardcore redneck and proud of it,” he says. To wit, this is a guy who didn’t hesitate to scrawl the registration numbers on the side of his boat with a fat, black Sharpie because “they were out of them stick-on boat numbers at Walmart.” Like the weekend warriors who compose much of his fan base, Robertson feels bass fishing has gotten “way too sophisticated and expensive” and sees his calling as being “the only pro angler that the hardworking, blue-collar (or, like him, no-collar) guy or gal who lives and breathes bass fishing can actually identify with.” His good-humored Facebook page (Matt Robertson ON’EM) provides colorful glimpses into his world of trailer parks, high-mileage/not-so-late-model tow vehicles and late-night fast-food dinners at remote tournament sites. Trust me, this dude is the real deal! If you’re hankerin’ for some no-nonsense advice on how to catch bass from your home lake during midsummer, you’ll want to check out what follows!
6:35 a.m. We arrive at Lake T’s boat ramp. It’s 62 degrees, clear with a light north wind and a projected high of 82 degrees. Robertson pulls several Shakespeare Ugly Stik rods from his boat’s storage locker. “Ugly Stiks are awesome rods for the money; you could buy six or seven of them for what some companies charge for a single rod! You don’t have to overspend to get good bass gear. A couple of my graphs are ‘Gen 1’ models recycled from previous boats I’ve had, and they still work fine.”
6:50 a.m. We launch the Triton. Robertson checks the water: It’s 82 degrees and fairly clear. What’s his first plan of attack? “I’ll probably start off with topwater up shallow, then I’ll idle around and look for some offshore structure with isolated cover on it. I’m betting most of my fish will be offshore today.”
7:05 a.m. Robertson idles around Lake T’s lower end, checking his electronics for likely looking offshore bass haunts. “I’m seeing a lot of fish suspended, but they aren’t very big. Could be crappie or white bass.”
7:07 a.m. Robertson pulls up to an offshore rockpile and makes his first casts of the day with a bone Berkley Drift Walker topwater stickbait.
7:10 a.m. Robertson switches to a 10-inch blue fleck Berkley Power Worm, Texas-rigged with a 3/16-ounce sinker. “I really like a light sinker in summer; you want the worm to flutter down s-lo-w.”
7:12 a.m. Robertson bags his first keeper largemouth of the day, 1 pound, off the rockpile on the worm. “This little guy was hugging bottom 9 feet deep. He ain’t much, but he’s a start!”
7:16 a.m. Robertson cranks the Merc and resumes idling while graphing.
7:23 a.m. Robertson stops at a shallow point leading into a tributary arm, where he tries a 3/8-ounce green pumpkin Outkast Tackle swim jig with a matching Berkley Chigger Craw trailer.
7:25 a.m. He rounds the point and casts the swim jig to shallow shoreline grass in the creek arm. A bass grabs the jig but shakes free.
7:31 a.m. Robertson switches to the topwater stickbait while pressing deeper into the tributary. His targets include a concrete seawall, docks and scattered emergent grass.
7:33 a.m. Robertson pitches the worm under a boathouse.
7:35 a.m. Robertson bags keeper No. 2, 1 pound, 1 ounce, from shoreline grass on the swim jig. “I wish that grass was in about 6 inches deeper water. It’s pretty darn shallow up there.”
7:52 a.m. Robertson has vacated the creek and moved uplake. He idles off a main-lake point, locates a submerged roadbed and probes it with a Kentucky blue Berkley Dredger 17.5 crankbait. “There’s some bait suspended around this old roadbed. Should be some bass here.”
8 a.m. Robertson slow rolls a white 1-ounce Accent double-willow spinnerbait around a nearby point. “A heavy spinnerbait is money for suspended fish!”
8:08 a.m. Robertson moves to a shoreline pocket and casts the worm to a big laydown. “Right now I’m checking both shoreline cover and offshore stuff.”
8:13 a.m. Robertson moves to a clay secondary point and tries the Dredger and worm.
8:21 a.m. He moves into a shallow pocket and flips the worm around scattered laydowns.
8:26 a.m. Robertson hops to another shallow pocket and tries the swim jig.
8:38 a.m. Robertson has run to the extreme upper end of Lake T, where he casts the worm to a 9-foot ditch.
8:44 a.m. Robertson tries the Dredger around the ditch but hauls water. “This is more of an early spring spot, but I figured I’d check it out since I was up here.”
8:50 a.m. There’s a massive pad field near the ditch. Robertson flips the worm to the edges of the cover. “You couldn‘t fish this many pads in a week, let alone a day, so you need to target just the irregular stuff: places where the pads thin out, isolated clumps, holes in the cover.”
8:55 a.m. Robertson tries the swim jig around the pads.
9:08 a.m. Robertson crawls a white Spro frog across the pads. A bass strikes the faux croaker three times without hooking up. “Little sucker’s smaller than my first two keepers!”
9:11 a.m. Robertson runs back downlake to drag the 10-inch worm across a submerged hump.
9:14 a.m. Robertson replaces the 10-inch Power Worm with an 8-inch green pumpkin Berkley Kingtail Worm and casts it to the hump.
9:19 a.m. Robertson swims the big spinnerbait across the hump. No takers.
9:25 a.m. Robertson ties on a 1/2-ounce Outkast Tackle Chicken Jig, a leadhead bait with an outrageously puffy synthetic skirt. “I’ve caught some whales on this jig in summer back home on Kentucky Lake.” He casts the feathery lure, allows it to sink partway through the water column, lowers his rod level with the surface, reels quickly, then stops reeling so the bait sinks slowly. “The skirt compresses once it gets wet and looks just like a big gizzard shad.”
9:29 a.m. Robertson cranks the Dredger around the hump. “I’m seeing a couple fish on my electronics, but they ain’t exactly stacked up on this hump.”
9:33 a.m. Robertson pulls out a spinning rod and assembles a Neko rig consisting of a 4 1/2-inch plum Berkley MaxScent Hit Worm with a nail weight inserted in its head. It’s rigged wacky-style on a drop-shot hook. He casts the finesse offering to the hump and shakes it once it hits bottom. Immediately, a bass taps the worm but drops it.
9:44 a.m. Robertson moves uplake to a long, stump-studded point and tries the Kingtail Worm and Dredger.
9:46 a.m. Robertson casts the 1-ounce spinnerbait to a school of bass surfacing off the point.
9:48 a.m. He dog-walks the stickbait around the schoolies and catches a 10-inch bass. “Are there any big fish in this lake?”
9:51 a.m. Robertson switches topwaters to a black Berkley Cane Walker. “This bait has a cigar-shaped body and a popper head. You can cast it a country mile, which is cool when they’re schooling a good ways from your boat. Black is an underrated surface lure color; it’s easy for bass to home in on it.”
9:54 a.m. Robertson catches his third keeper,
1 pound, 6 ounces, off the point on the Neko-rigged worm.
9:59 a.m. Another bass grabs the Neko rig near the point. Robertson swings aboard his fourth keeper, 1 pound, 4 ounces.
10:02 a.m. Robertson is targeting open water near the point. What’s his take on the day so far? “Like I figured, the most fish I’ve found so far have been offshore. Right now I’m on a big school out here in open water off the end of that point; they were busting shad on top, but I pulled them closer to the boat with that big spinnerbait. I can limit out here in no time, but trouble is, they’re all cookie-cutter keepers, so I’ll probably need to either change locations or switch to bigger baits to put some weight in the boat.”
10:05 a.m. Robertson bags his fifth keeper, 1 pound, 3 ounces, near the point on the Neko rig.
10:09 a.m. He retrieves the black surface plug across the end of the point.
10:16 a.m. Robertson has moved farther off the point. He casts the Dredger to a wad of suspended bass and catches keeper No. 6, 1 pound, 2 ounces.
10:19 a.m. He catches a short fish on the crankbait. “I’m seeing about a hundred fish on my Garmin LiveScope [forward-shooting sonar].”
10:28 a.m. Robertson rigs up a 6-inch Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly swimbait in the HD sexy shad color on a 1/2-ounce Outkast Tackle jighead. “This is a deadly swimbait. Those big eyes really pop in clear water.” He fancasts the minnow mimic around the schooling fish; small bass peck at it during the retrieve. “There should be a lunker lurking out there somewhere! Sometimes big fish will sit under those small schoolies and munch the injured shad that drift to the bottom.”
10:32 a.m. Robertson slams back his rod, and the swimbait flies past his head. “Dang schoolies are just bumping it! The bait’s bigger than they are!”
10:41 a.m. Robertson patiently slow rolls the swimbait around the point. Bass are surfacing on top again, sending tiny shad shooting into the air like welding sparks.
10:45 a.m. Robertson catches back-to-back nonkeepers on the crankbait.
10:50 a.m. Robertson switches to the Chicken Jig and catches his seventh keeper, 1 pound,
12 ounces.
10:58 a.m. Robertson has moved 50 yards off the point and is still graphing bass, most of which are suspended. He catches keeper No. 8, 1-3, on the Dredger. “This school covers about 2 acres! You could bring a kid out here and he’d have the time of his life catching 1- to 2-pounders.”
11:04 a.m. Robertson ties on a massive Deps Slide Swimmer glide bait and slings it to the schooling fish. “Most pros throw these big Japanese glide baits in spring when they’re up shallow, but I’ve had big offshore fish swim up and grab them in midsummer.”
11:17 a.m. Back to the Berkley swimbait off the point.
11:26 a.m. Robertson moves to a clay secondary point and cranks the Dredger.
11:38 a.m. Robertson zips a half-mile uplake and flips the Kingtail Worm to some pads.
11:50 a.m. Robertson moves another 100 yards uplake and flips a series of laydowns with the Kingtail Worm.
12:11 p.m. Robertson makes a blistering run downlake to a steep channel bank, where he probes a series of docks with the Neko rig and a brown 3/8-ounce Outkast Tackle spider jig with a matching Berkley Chigger Craw trailer.
12:14 p.m. Robertson skips the spider jig under a dock, detects a tap, slams back his rod … and his line breaks! “Crap, I saw that fish; it was a 4-pounder!” He re-rigs with an identical jig.
12:16 p.m. Robertson fishes a seawall with the Neko rig and spider jig.
12:22 p.m. Robertson runs back uplake to crank a 12-foot creek channel with scattered stumps.
12:28 p.m. He catches his ninth keeper, 1 pound, 6 ounces, on the Neko rig.
12:35 p.m. Robertson slow rolls the spinnerbait across the creek channel.
12:39 p.m. A short fish hits the Dredger on the creek channel.
12:45 p.m. Robertson catches keeper No. 10,
1 pound, 10 ounces, on the Dredger.
12:50 p.m. Robertson runs back to the offshore hump he fished earlier and cranks it with the Dredger.
12:59 p.m. Robertson races to Lake T’s dam and cranks riprap. Here he bags his 11th keeper, 1 pound.
1:07 p.m. Robertson moves into a nearby cove and tries the spider jig and Neko rig around several docks. Nothing here.
1:16 p.m. Robertson races back to the uplake point where he located the massive school of fish earlier. He catches his 12th keeper, 1-5, on the Dredger.
1:31 p.m. Robertson retrieves the Berkley swimbait through the school.
1:36 p.m. A 1-6 largemouth, Robertson’s 13th keeper, eats the swimbait at boatside.
1:42 p.m. With minutes remaining, Robertson cranks up a shorty on the Dredger. “I’d love to be that guy who catches an 8-pounder on his last cast!” What actually happens is he catches a 1-4 (keeper number 14).
1:50 p.m. Time’s up! Robertson ends his day on Lake T with 14 keepers; the five biggest weigh
7 pounds, 8 ounces.
“I caught a lot of fish today but was unable to tap into any big ones,” Robertson told Bassmaster. “The grass, pads and laydowns that I fished were probably too shallow to hold quality fish this time of year. I found plenty of small keepers wadded up offshore but no kicker bass. If I were to fish here tomorrow, I’d spend more time looking for shoreline cover, especially pads, in a little deeper water, and hope that I’d eventually tap into some bigger fish.”
1) 1 pound, 6 ounces; Neko-rigged plum 4 1/2-inch Berkley MaxScent Hit Worm; main-lake point; 9:54 a.m.
2) 1 pound, 12 ounces; 1/2-ounce white Outkast Tackle Chicken Jig; same place as #1; 10:50 a.m.
3) 1 pound, 6 ounces; same lure as #1; creek channel with stumps; 12:28 p.m.
4) 1 pound, 10 ounces; Kentucky blue Berkley Dredger 17.5 crankbait; same place as #3; 12:45 p.m.
5) 1 pound, 6 ounces; HD sexy shad Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly swimbait on 1/2-ounce Outkast Tackle jighead; same place as #1; 1:36 p.m.