HERREN BACKED IT UP IN 2012
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac
Trussville, AL - This past April, The BASS ZONE ran a feature story on Matt Herren’s quest to qualify for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic and return to his old form after missing the 2012 Classic with a 66th place finish in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings on the 2011 Elite Series.
It was only the second time his professional career dating back to 2003 that Herren had failed to fish in either the Forrest Wood Cup or Bassmaster Classic, and he was vocal about the fact that he didn’t want to be sitting on the sidelines again anytime in the near future when the championship rolled around. To read the initial story, CLICK HERE.
“Sometimes you can know too much and look past the obvious stuff instead of fishing the ‘here and now.’ Between trying to push the envelope and win an event last year, I overlooked the obvious and missed the simple fact that you’ve got to catch fish every day,” said Herren back in April.
“I’m going to go back to being the old me. If I win, I win. If I don’t, I don’t,” continued Herren in the article. “I’m just going to go back to my philosophy of catching fish every day and just seeing what happens. That ‘swinging for the fences’ phrase isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.”
As the 2012 Elite Series season progressed, it became apparent that Herren had undoubtedly put a disappointing 2011 season behind him and was on a mission to not only regain his Classic qualifying form but also turn in one of the best seasons of his career.
With the exception of a 64th place finish on Lake Okeechobee in the second tournament of the season, the Trussville, Alabama pro made the cut in seven out of the eight regular season tournaments and recorded six top 30 finishes that included a season high 3rd place finish on Bull Shoals Lake.
He notched a 14th place finish on Oneida Lake to close out the 2012 season in 6th place in the final TTAOY standings and earn an automatic invitation to Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in Illinois this past September.
“After last year, I sat down and told myself ‘This can’t happen anymore,’” explained Herren. “To be honest, I was pretty irritated. I’ve always been the kind of guy who shows up and ‘wings it’ when I get to the event. After last year, it became painfully obvious that there were a lot of guys who were really preparing and putting in a lot of homework.
“When I evaluated my 2011 season, I really felt like I got outworked. I was showing up and doing my job, but I wasn’t putting in the extra effort. It finally caught up with me,” he admitted. “I made the decision that I wasn’t going to get outworked. I might get outfished, but I wasn’t going to get outworked anymore. I worked hard all year long and fought, kicked and scratched.”
The newfound work ethic paid dividends at Toledo Bend, where Herren finished in 8th place. Nearing the end of the two-and-a-half official practice days before the tournament started, Herren hadn’t found anything and was struggling.
“I stayed out on the lake until 3:00 on Wednesday (the final practice day) and was almost late to the pre-tournament meeting. I was mad at the world because I couldn’t find a quality school of fish. I literally had to get off the water, and I found the school that I’d been looking for with about 15 minutes left in the day,” he explained.
“I went over a little three-foot break and just started seeing arches on my graph. As I idled over the area, I saw a couple five pounders come up behind the boat and just clobber shad on the surface. I never made a cast and just made the decision to start the tournament right there. I turned the worst practice that I had all year into a top 10 finish.”
It wasn’t until the conclusion of the Toledo Bend tournament, the fifth event of the year, that Herren realized he was back on track and in the midst of a special season. “I was so focused on each tournament this year that I didn’t realize what was happening,” he explained.
Heading into the final two tournaments of the season, Herren was in the hunt for the TTAOY title. Looking back, he said that there was one day that ultimately dashed his AOY hopes. “The first day at Okeechobee cost me a real legitimate shot at the Angler Of the Year title,” he explained.
Herren finished the first day in 97th place with a limit weighing 6-1, while Ish Monroe took the lead with a monstrous 34-5 limit. “I was fishing probably about 300 yards away from Ish and didn’t know it,” he admitted. “I thought that I was sitting on the mother lode, but the fish had moved inside the grass where Ish was fishing.”
After rededicating himself to pretournament preparation and putting in the work this past season, Herren couldn’t be happier with the end results. “I’ve had a whale of a year. I’m going to Grand Lake for the Classic, and I’m already getting ready for next year. When you’re a competitor and you go through adversity, it will make you better,” he concluded.