If you attended any Bassmaster Elite Series tournament or Bassmaster Classic from 2008 through 2017, you may have bumped into Oklahoma’s Matt Pangrac. He was at every one of those events, covering the tournaments for Bass Zone and other media outlets.
This year Pangrac added the 2021 Bassmaster Opens to his schedule — not as a media person, but as a competitor. With two Open tournaments remaining, he sits in eighth place in the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year overall standings. While he could possibly leapfrog into the top three by the end of the season and qualify for the Elite Series, it’s a long shot.
“I would need help from the anglers ahead of me to qualify for the Elites,” Pangrac said. “The Opens are an incredible learning ground, but they are incredibly difficult. I’m soaking it all in.
"If I don’t make it this year, I’ll try again next year.”
While growing up in Illinois, Pangrac got hooked on fishing via the Bassmaster Casting Kids program. At age 12 he entered the contest for the first time, which was held at a fishing expo in Decatur, Ill. He did well and finished third in the state.
Encouraged by his accomplishment, Pangrac was determined to do even better the following year. He diligently practiced flipping, pitching and casting for an hour a day. When his next opportunity to compete in Casting Kids finally rolled around, he won the national title.
The championship event was held during the 1998 Bassmaster Classic at High Rock Lake, which was won by Denny Brauer. Hank Parker was on hand to award Pangrac a $5,000 check from B.A.S.S. for becoming the Casting Kids champion.
The Assumption Bass Club in Assumption, Ill., took a liking to the young champion and invited him to become a member. Pangrac welcomed the opportunity and gained a solid bass fishing foundation by competing in the club as a co-angler until he was 18. Then it was off to the University of Oklahoma where he would earn a communications degree.
During his second year in college, Pangrac befriended Chip Porche who started a bass fishing club at the university. They became friends and fishing partners. In 2008 they finished third at the Bassmaster College Championship on the Arkansas River.
Mark Jeffreys from the Bass Zone in Norman, Okla., contacted the University of Oklahoma’s fishing club when Pangrac was a junior. Jeffreys wanted to know if anyone in the club was interested in doing an internship with him. Pangrac couldn’t resist. He interned with Jeffreys for two years, went to work for him straight out of college and is still working with him 17 years later.
“I can’t overstate what a positive influence Mark Jeffreys has been on my life,” Pangrac said.
During Open tournaments, Pangrac rents a house with Andrew Upshaw and Bradley Hallman. They are fishing all nine Open events in 2021. Pangrac and Hallman enjoy cooking after coming off the water and claim it is a stress reliever. Pangrac brings a Treager grill to every tournament, while Hallman brings a smoker.
“Cooking allows me to decompress and clear my head,” Pangrac said. “I’ve learned a lot from those guys, especially how to stay focused without losing your mind.”
Pangrac’s title sponsor is bestontour.net, which is a weekly pro fishing newsletter. His other sponsors include JDMurys.com (cooking spices), Bass Talk Live with Mark Jeffreys, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Tank, Sunline, Spro, Gamakatsu, Denali Rods, Big Bite Baits and Pro Guide Batteries.