Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No. 1 Finleyville Fisherman Matt Becker Lands His First?win in a Key National Tournament

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No. 1 Finleyville Fisherman Matt Becker Lands His First?win in a Key National Tournament

Article excerpt

One rod. One lure. One sinker.

An underdog angler virtually unknown among FLW tournament elites surprised them all July 29. Finleyville fisherman Matt Becker took the top spot in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division tournament held at 1000 Islands on Lake Ontario, New York, with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 66 pounds 4 ounces. The first-place paycheck was $44,200.

Becker is an unconventional bass pro. His first win in national competition was accomplished using one spinning rod and a single lure - a 3-inch soft-plastic watermelon-white laminate Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm on a drop-shot rig.

"I was in sixth place going into the final day," said Becker, a member of Fort Pitt Bass Anglers and Pennsylvania Bass Nation. "At least eight of the other 10 guys [leading the 174-boat tournament] live around the lake and have a lot of experience there. Those guys are the best fishermen on the lake -they know every spot. That gave me an advantage."

Becker, who grew up fishing in the Pittsburgh area, said he owes his success to his father.

"He got me into fishing at an extremely young age," he said. "We fished all around the rivers, the small lakes -Crooked Creek Lake, Virgin Run Lake, Lake Wilhelm, Pymatuning Reservoir. It was always about the bass."

The Beckers were members of the family-oriented Western Pennsylvania Bass Association and participated in local tournaments.

"That's what really got my roots settled in tournament fishing. That's what grew my love for this sport and the competitive side of it," Becker said. "My dad was [often] winning in the adult league and I was always winning in the junior league. By the time I was 13 or 14 they took me out of the junior league and put me in the adult league because they said they wanted other kids to win sometimes."

At 16 Becker was winning in adult league tournaments. He joined FLW affiliate Pennsylvania Bass Nation and bought his first bass boat when he graduated from high school.

"Especially when I was young, I fished as a co-angler in the back of the boat and got exposed to other fishermen besides my dad," he said. "That's how you learn."

In 2011 Becker won the Pennsylvania Bass Nation Angler of the Year award. Now 25, he has finished in the top 10 twice in 11 national events including 1000 Islands.

In fishing circuits where top tournaments are often won by the middle-age stars of the competitive fishing world, Becker's youth is as novel as his tactics.

At a recent tournament in upstate New York, Becker fished against some of the best anglers in northern United States.

"I had never done that before. Nobody knew who I was. I placed 31st out of 196. That was a confidence builder for me," he said. "I remember driving home from Lake Champlain thinking, 'These guys aren't any better than you. You can compete. You can win one of these someday.' I never imagined it would be the next tournament. …

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