Throughout most of his professional angling career, Matt Herren has been the epitome of competitive consistency. In his seven seasons on the FLW Tour, Herren earned paychecks in 73% of his entries and qualified for six trips to the FLW Cup.
His Bassmaster Elite Series record has been equally as consistent. In 131 entries, he has cashed paychecks in close to 70% of the events he has entered. With 11 Elite Series seasons, he will be in the field for his eighth Bassmaster Classic.
The Ashville, Ala., pro has claimed one major title, 2016 Toyota Texas Bass Classic champion, and he is ready to add another one – the biggest one available – to that. The 50th anniversary Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk on his “home stage" at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) presents as good an opportunity as any.
Herren said that the site is the best Bassmaster Classic venue he’s been to.
“The BJCC has always been amazing for the Bassmaster Classic,” said Herren. “With the Classic Expo and the weigh-in in the same complex, it is easy for the fans, and it makes for a really electric environment.”
He also said that the competition waters will make for a bunch of interesting stories throughout the week.
“Guntersville has the potential to add to the tale of this Classic in several ways,” he said. “Obviously, it is Lake Guntersville, and there is always a chance that we could see Classic records fall, but there are the possibilities for things to happen that we may not find as enjoyable.”
The first topic Herren is concerned about is environmental. The State of Alabama has received a tremendous amount of rain over the past two weeks. Many of the areas around Lake Guntersville have been experiencing high waters, inundated launch facilities and heavy flows. The TVA has been working to control water levels.
A look at the long-range forecasts include more periods of rain. While they are forecasted as light rains, it may take a while for the system to recover.
“There is a chance we could still see high water, with heavy current and a lot of debris at Guntersville,” said Herren. “If the water is still dirty, and the temperatures don’t warm up very much, the weights could be average. But that’s one possibility.”
What concerns Herren more is the possibility of heavy fishing pressure affecting the lake; more specifically affecting the leaders from day-to-day.
“The Tennessee River is one of the most popular fishing destinations as a whole, and Lake Guntersville draws them in like no other,” said Herren. “There is always a possibility that fans could fish a spot after the leaders leave, or stumble onto it after competition hours; I’d hate to see that happen.”
In order to combat all of the conditions, Herren said that anglers will likely have to be prepared to utilize several patterns and remain flexible.
“We’ll have to likely have multiple patterns and several areas in the event,” he said. “I think ultimately that the winner will have enough water to make everything work; he’ll have to adapt to conditions and pressure.”
As for the patterns that will be popular, Herren said there will be many variables, but he also said he has a plan for those things he will have at the ready. Among those are squarebill crankbaits like his Herren 2.0 from PH Custom Lures, lipless crankbaits, vibrating jigs and his signature Matt Herren Flippin Jig from Dirty Jigs paired with a Reaction Innovations threaded on for a trailer. All of those will work for stained water, but he also said a swimbait may come into play as well if the water begins to clear.
He said it would not surprise him to see 75 pounds claim the top spot, but also said that 60 to 65 pounds is a possibility.
“If we do see a record weight, it will take someone to have a 32-pound day like Paul Mueller did in 2014, and following it up with a pair of 22-pound days,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see consistent bags of 25 pounds a day – it’s going to come down to a guy having a giant day and a couple of good days.”
Though he has fished it a lot, he doesn’t consider Lake Guntersville a “home lake.” Nevertheless, Herren is looking forward to the event.
“I grew up fishing Neely Henry and the Coosa River, but I fished quite a few tournaments at Guntersville with my dad over the years,” he said. “I’m looking forward to fishing this one in front of him, and my family and friends."
“I just hope that I’m in the position to be standing there on the final day with a chance to win this event; that would be amazing.”