MATT LEE: Mercury pro’s blunt assessment of his 2023 Bass Pro Tour season - Major League Fishing
MATT LEE: Mercury pro’s blunt assessment of his 2023 Bass Pro Tour season
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MATT LEE: Mercury pro’s blunt assessment of his 2023 Bass Pro Tour season

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Matt Lee is carrying the hard lessons learned in 2023 and applying them to the upcoming season. Photo by Tyler Brinks. Angler: Matt Lee.
August 16, 2023 • Matt Lee • Angler Columns

I’m going to start this blog off with a little blunt honesty: The 2023 season was brutal and easily my worst year on the Bass Pro Tour. I can’t say it any more plainly than that. 

I don’t know if I’ve ever fished this poorly for this long. Over my career, I’ve been a middle-of-the-pack guy – a little better or a little worse some years – but that wasn’t true this year. I finished near the bottom of the standings. What makes it frustrating is that it’s hard to put a finger on just one reason why.

Sure, I lost some fish, but everyone else does over the course of a tournament or season. I also fished around some of the leaders at some events and watched them catch their fish. It was just frustrating overall, to say the least. 

I requalified for the Bass Pro Tour next year based on my average AOY finish – but just by the skin of my teeth. It’s a real wake-up call for me because this is my career, and the only thing that I know to do is fish my way out of it.

Matt Lee attributes his rough season to a combination of bad luck and poor decision-making. Photo by Garrick Dixon

The snowball effect

They say momentum is a real thing in fishing. Unfortunately, it goes both directions: You can build the wrong kind of momentum with poor finishes. Other than REDCREST (where I finished fifth), this season was pretty terrible. It seemed like everything turned into a snowball that gathered momentum as it rolled down the hill. I was behind the eight ball all year with poor decision-making and some bad luck.

Some guys make it look so easy out there. They catch ‘em every day, and unless you fish against these guys every event, it’s hard to truly understand just how good they are. It’s not obvious from watching the live coverage, but there are some guys who never miss. This game is all about making quick decisions. You can’t have any missed opportunities, or these guys will roll right over you.

Fishing is also a solo sport. My wife Abby helps me a lot on the road, but once lines are in, it’s all about you, your equipment and the fish. When stuff goes right on the water, only you know how much time and effort you put in to make that to happen. It’s the same when you suck – it’s all because of something you did or didn’t do.

The other thing is nobody cares about your fishing as much as you do. It’s hard to think of a sport where you lose as much as you do in bass fishing, and the only guys satisfied with their event are the angler who won and the last guy to make the Knockout Round cut. Everyone else will be upset about their tournament, which is part of what makes our sport so unique.

Thankfully, I survived this year, and I’ll be back out there next year. I already want to put this one behind me and start fishing again. Guys talk about fishing your way out of a slump, and that’s my plan. I’ll fish as much as I can around home and try to get into some tournaments. We also have the Team Series this fall. All I can do is learn from every event and move on to the next one.

Bass fishing is a brutal, humbling sport. People might ask, “Why do you do it?” Maybe it’s ego, or maybe we’re all psychotic, but it just gets in you. Even after a bad day of fishing or the worst season of my career, I can’t wait for the next day of fishing.