"Are you freakin' serious?” was Matt Clouse’s response when he was informed that his photo had been selected to grace the cover of this issue of Bassmaster Magazine. “Man, I’m in shock. I almost didn’t go fishing the day that photo was taken!”
The cover contest was concocted to celebrate bass-fishing fans who came out in droves to support the Bassmaster Elite Series, as well as the record-breaking attendance of the Bassmaster Classic held last year in Knoxville, Tenn. B.A.S.S. dubbed 2019 the “Year Of The Fan,” and the organization and Elite Series pros have tried to thank this rabid group as often as possible. We want anglers who consume our content and attend our events to know that they are not only appreciated, but embody the fiber that creates the B.A.S.S. shield. Each fan is a thread in that patch, and without them all it would unravel. So, the greatest honor we could bestow on a fan is to feature one on the most prominent bass-fishing publication in the world, and that’s what we did.
More than 1,300 images were sent to the magazine editors for consideration. The vast majority of them were fantastic. Flip to page 8 to see the finalists. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the final decision on which photo won the contest, because they were all exceptional. A blue-ribbon panel of voters (the entire B.A.S.S. staff in Birmingham, Ala.), was tasked with the responsibility of choosing the winner.
“I don’t know if it was the beard, the two awesome fish or the composition of the picture, but congratulations,” I told Clouse when informing him of the decision.
“This is so crazy,” he responded. “I had just bought a boat and didn’t have any electronics on it at all. But, I had seen the call for entries on Bassmaster.com and a couple of my buddies wanted to have a little derby, so I decided to go.”
The derby the trio held was on a small lake near Edmond, Okla., where the 37-year-old gas-and-oil worker lives. He was very familiar with the lake, so the lack of electronics on his new ride didn’t hamper his enthusiasm.
“I had a couple places that I figured I could catch some fish, so I tied on a jig and just kind of soaked the areas. When I got that first bite and it ended up being a 7-pounder, I started feeling really good. Then I eventually landed another one that was almost 8 pounds and I felt even better!”
Clouse started fishing at a very young age. His father, George Clouse, worked at a power plant and would let young Matt spend entire work days walking the banks of the adjacent cooling lake until it was time to go home.
“I lived to fish when I was a kid. I’d watch The Bassmasters on TNN and wanted to be Bill Dance,” he remembers.
As Clouse got older, his passion swerved to hunting until a friend asked him to fish a Skeeter event in 2013 at Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula. “Man, after that tournament, I was totally hooked again. I fished more of those events and even won big fish in a couple of them. My hunting passion spilled over into my fishing, and now all I want to do when I’m on the water is hunt big fish.”
When off the water, Clouse says he can’t get enough of Bassmaster LIVE coverage. “To say I spend a lot of time watching the Elite Series tournaments is an understatement, and my wife might say that that statement is an understatement!”
But admittedly, catching fish is not Clouse’s favorite part of our sport. “To me, the best part of fishing is the storytelling and the trash-talking with friends. The camaraderie between anglers is awesome and the relationships created around the water are lifelong.”
Clouse did end up winning the little derby against his friends with the two giants on the cover that anchored his catch. Once his buddies find out that his efforts also put him on the cover of this magazine, the trash talking should be epic.