Californian Matty Wong may be the most diverse individual to ever compete as a Bassmaster Elite Series angler. He fished his first club event in 2018. Three years later he won the B.A.S.S. Nation National Championship. His winnings include berths to the 2022 Bassmaster Classic and Elite Series, $20,000 cash and the use of a fully rigged bass boat for the 2022 season.
Wong was born in Hawaii. His father attended college in California where he befriended Bob Grbac, who got him hooked on bass fishing. Grbac was always “Uncle Bob” to Wong.
After his father graduated, he settled back home in Hawaii and put a cane pole in Wong’s hands as soon as he was big enough to hold it. They often fished nearby Lake Wilson for tilapia, largemouth bass and peacock bass.
The family’s bass rig was a 14-foot aluminum Gamefisher sporting a 6 horsepower outboard. Wong’s father modified it by adding a carpeted front deck and a bow trolling motor.
At age 6 Wong proudly displayed the B.A.S.S. sticker on his little orange tacklebox. A few years later he practiced for hours in the front yard with a baitcasting outfit to learn how to cast without backlashing.
Wong’s life went into overdrive when he turned 16 and got his driver’s license. He regularly towed the Gamefisher on fishing trips to fresh and saltwater. The boat also served as his vessel for free diving and spear fishing in the ocean.
“At my pinnacle I was able to hunt 60 feet deep,” Wong said. “I would swim in and out of caves and spear a variety of tasty treats.”
His favorite tasty treat was the Kumu (white saddled goatfish). When he shot one he would take the fish and his grandmother Mary to a restaurant that would steam it for their dinner.
“Those are the fondest memories of my grandmother before she passed,” Wong said.
From age 15 through 20 Wong also surfed competitively. And he could wail on a saxophone.
After graduating from high school, Wong began playing sax professionally. His musicianship helped him earn an income for the next 15 years. He was a member of a Hawaiian band called the The DeadBeats.
“We played original music, a fusion of hip hop, jazz and funk.” Wong said.
After high school Wong earned an associates degree from Oahu’s Kapiolani Community College and went to film school at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. At age 25 he moved to Hollywood to find where his talents would take him. He aspired to be an actor.
He scraped by playing sax while auditioning for acting rolls. He was the voice for a number of television commercials for Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and other companies. He also got a bit part in the television show Hawaii Five-O.
“I played a delinquent stoner-surfer who got arrested,” Wong said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Stability came about in 2015 when he began working as a lighting director for still photography shoots. His clients include celebrities, the fashion world and the highest level of ad photography.
A steady job allowed enough time for Wong to get back into fishing. Prior to this, he had fished with Uncle Bob only a few times. Uncle Bob’s 1990 Ranger Comanche 364V was the first bass boat Wong had ever been in. In 2015 Uncle Bob was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“It was hard to see this super handsome guy age 30 years in a few months and pass away,” Wong said.
Wong dreamed of someday owning a bass boat. That became a reality when Uncle Bob’s wife offered to sell him the Ranger at a price he couldn’t resist. However, he didn’t own a tow vehicle.
His girlfriend’s father had a truck and told Wong he could use it whenever he wished. The caveat was that Wong had to take him fishing. Wong gladly accepted and fished the California Delta at every opportunity. This is where he first fished with a ChatterBait and learned how to fish a frog and punch matted grass.
He soon got the itch to compete with Uncle Bob’s boat. His first tournament was a Rat-L-Trap open on the Delta that attracted 80 boats. Although Wong’s trolling motor broke down at midday, he finished 14th, two places out of the money. This gave him confidence to pursue tournament fishing.
About that time Wong and his girlfriend split up. “That’s when I knew I had to buy a truck,” he said.
After purchasing a tow vehicle, Wong frequently launched Uncle Bob’s Ranger into Lake Castaic’s clear water. There he learned light line finesse fishing and how to tempt bass with swimbaits.
In October of 2018 he joined the Ventura County Bass Club because it was affiliated with B.A.S.S. Nation.
“The club’s members are great guys who love to share information and teach,” Wong said.
In 2020 Wong qualified for California’s B.A.S.S. Nation state team. He relied on a jerkbait and swimbaits to finish third at the regional on Arizona’s Lake Havasu. That earned a berth to the 2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River in Louisiana. He was tempted to upgrade his bass boat before that event, but decided to give Uncle Bob’s Ranger “one last hurrah.”
Wong targeted cypress trees and stumps with a squarebill, spinnerbait and a jig and sacked enough bass to become the B.A.S.S. Nation Champion.
“My goal for the Elites is to have fun, enjoy the adventure and learn from the pros,” Wong said. “I would love to be Rookie of the Year.”
Wong currently posts regular fishing videos on his YouTube channel called CaptureFish. He hopes to eventually host his own TV fishing show.
Megabass is Wong’s title sponsor. Other sponsors include Lateral Vision clothing, The Hookup Tackle, Simms and Olukai Shoes.