HERREN RETURNING TO HIS OLD FORM
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush
Trussville, AL - On the first morning of competition at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on Louisiana’s Red River, Matt Herren found himself in an unfamiliar position. For only the second time in his nine year professional career, the Alabama pro was on the sidelines, greeting fans and shaking hands in the expo center while his fellow competitors duked it out in the biggest tournament of the season.
Prior to the 2011 Elite Series season, where he recorded a 66th Place finish in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings and missed qualifying for the Classic by 320 points, Herren had qualified for the previous three Classics and had fished in five consecutive FLW Forrest Wood Cups from 2003 through 2007.
“It was great to meet the fans and work for my sponsors,” said Herren about the three days he spent back in February milling about the Shreveport Convention Center. While there’s no doubt that he understood the value in representing the companies that believe and support in him, Herren was having trouble with the fact that his feet were on concrete instead of on the deck of a bass boat.
“Well, to be honest, it was three days of pure torture knowing that Chris Lane and those guys were out there fishing in the Classic on a river. I love fishing rivers, so it was like sticking a knife in my heart. It was bad,” he said with a dry chuckle.
Pushing for a W
Herren said that his mentality heading into the 2011 season was a direct result of his uncharacteristically sub-par year. Like any competitor trying to reach the next level, Herren desperately wanted to notch a tour level victory, and while his approach to the previous eight seasons resulted in solid finishes, it hadn’t garnered many wins.
“I’ve been out here a while, and I only have one upper level win,” said Herren, referring to his 2007 FLW Series Eastern Division victory on Lake Dardanelle. “I’ve had a string of 2nd Place finishes, and I kind of reached a point in my career where I really want to win. I’ve always wanted to win, but I tried to change my approach last year. Instead of keying on the ‘sure deal’ and finishing in the Top 10, I started gambling a little.
“I started trying to go for bigger fish in areas that I thought were getting less pressure,” he continued. “I knew that if it worked out, I’d have a chance to win. Sometimes that strategy is great and sometimes it’s not. Last year, it wasn’t.”
Kicking off the first two Elite Series tournaments in 2011 in Florida with finishes of 80th and 43rd, Herren quickly dug a hole that he struggled to emerge from for the remainder of the year. He bounced back with Top 40 finishes in each of the following two tournaments, and then came West Point Lake.
“That’s the one that really got me,” he admitted. “I’d fished a lot of tournaments on West Point, and I had quite a bit of history there. I was positive that it was going to be won in offshore brush piles.” Herren was wrong, as Steve Kennedy fished shallow stretches of bank on his way to a convincing victory. “It totally fooled me,” he admitted. “I just totally missed the boat on that one.”
Herren’s 86th Place finish at West Point was the first of a streak of three consecutive below 80th Place finishes in Elite Series competition that he wasn’t able to snap until a 16th Place finish in the season finale on Wheeler Lake.
“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.”
Back to the Basics
“I’m going to try and find a happy medium this year,” said Herren, who currently sits in 30th Place in the TTAOY standings after started the 2012 Elite Series season with a 13th Place finish on the St. Johns River and a 64th Place finish on Lake Okeechobee.
“I’m happy with where I’m at right now because Florida has never been kind to me. Every pro out here has a lake that they struggle on, and Okeechobee is my nightmare lake. It’s not that I don’t find fish; my problem is that I find a lot of fish and then end up running around.”
Herren very nearly had another nightmare on Okeechobee, as he finished the first day of competition in 97th Place with a limit weighing just over 6-pounds. “Greg Hackney and I found a wad of fish on Tuesday of practice, and we both caught 10-pounders in the area,” he explained. “I thought I was going to have another good tournament. On the first day, those fish were totally gone, and Ish Monroe was about 200 yards further back in the vegetation just absolutely wailing on them.”
Making several key adjustments, Herren was able to climb 33 places in the standings on Friday with a 15-12 limit to salvage the tournament and earn valuable points. “After being in 97th and moving up to 64th in one day, I felt like I’d robbed a bank. I went into that second day knowing that I had to catch them.”
Running the River
Herren is particularly looking forward to the Elite Series inaugural stop on the Mississippi River in Wisconsin this upcoming June. “Anything on the schedule that ends with the word ‘River,’ you can look at my history and pretty much bet that I’ll be right in the middle of things,” he explained.
The one noticeable exception to that was the seventh stop of the 2011 season on the Arkansas River in Little Rock, where Herren finished in 92nd Place. “A lot of people don’t know that I fished that tournament with a totally blown out and dislocated left thumb and ended up in the hospital two days after that event with dehydration,” Herren explained.
Heading to the FLW Tour Open on the Potomac River the week prior to the Arkansas River tournament, Herren hit a deer on the highway somewhere in Virginia. “While I was trying to get my truck patched together, I slipped and fell and ripped up my hand. I tried fishing the Arkansas River tournament with one hand and it just didn’t work out. I’d say that I’m back to about 85%, but after this season, I’m going to have to get it looked at again.”
In the meantime, Herren said that he has every intention of turning in solid performances for the remainder of the season, regardless of whether or not that includes an elusive victory. “I’m going to go back to being the old me. If I win, I win. If I don’t, I don’t. I’m just going to go back to my philosophy of catching fish every day and just seeing what happens. That ‘swinging for the fence’ phrase isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. My strategy has always been to take what the lake is giving me, and that’s the strategy that I’m going to run with.”