BAY CITY, Mich. – Despite inclement weather and a stacked field on Championship Sunday, Favorite Fishing pro Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 11 ounces to earn his first Bass Pro Tour win and the top award of $100,000 at Bass Pro Tour Minn Kota Stage Seven at Saginaw Bay Presented by Suzuki. Becker’s two-day total of 10 bass weighing 40-9 earned him the win by a whopping 5-pound, 1-ounce margin over the winningest angler of all time, Bass Pro Shops pro Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who was competing in his last Bass Pro Tour event before retirement, and finished in second with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 35-8.
Coming into the final event of the season at Saginaw Bay, Becker, Jacob Wheeler and Ott DeFoe were separated by only three points in the Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) race, and while all three pros were still in contention late into the final day, it was Becker who moved up from fourth place to clinch the AOY title and take home an additional $100,000.
“I’ve always wanted to win an Angler of the Year trophy, so that was my ultimate goal coming into this event,” said an emotional Becker. “I’m just a poor kid from Pittsburgh, but this was my dream, and I just can’t believe we did it. Anything is possible through Christ, I’ll tell you guys that. If I can do it, anybody can.”
“This whole day has been such a blur, it’s just unbelievable,” Becker said. “We went out this morning with a slim chance at winning AOY, but that’s what has been on my mind all week. I hadn’t really even thought about winning the tournament, I was just super focused on winning AOY. To me, that is the pinnacle of the season. The best, over seven tournaments, all across the country.
“About half-way through the second period, I realized we could win this tournament and AOY, and I still can’t believe it actually happened,” Becker said. “I expanded to a different area yesterday during the Knockout Round where I’d only had one bite during practice. I went out there at the end of the first period yesterday and started getting a couple bites and caught a decent bag that put me in fifth place and advanced me to the Championship Round.”
Becker spent most of Championship Sunday in the mid-section of Saginaw Bay, around Charity Island.
“This morning I started out a little close to the ramp, but about halfway through the first period I moved out to Charity Island,” Becker said. “I’d found a stretch out there during the Knockout Round, and it didn’t take long for me to find this magic sweet spot. It wasn’t very big, but it had one little school of only about 10 to 15 smallmouth– but they were all 4 to 5 pounds.
“I still don’t know why they were there or what they were doing, but I just happened to stumble onto them and ended up catching 22 pounds pretty quick,” Becker said. “It was just incredible.”
Becker was using a 7-foot, 2-inch medium-heavy Favorite Fishing Hex Rod, throwing a drop-shot rig with a Yamamoto Shad Shake worm with 15-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid and a 10-pound Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon leader.
“I typically throw the natural shad color, but with the water being a little bit dirty and especially with it being so cloudy and dark today, I went with Becker’s Magic Juice,” Becker said. “That’s a color I designed specifically for tournaments like this, so to win the tournament and AOY on the bait that I designed is just incredible.
“This is the best field of professional anglers in the game, no doubt,” Becker said. “This field is stacked and that’s exactly why I wanted to be on the Bass Pro Tour – I wanted to fish against the best anglers in the world and see if I could prove myself and compete with them.
“Showing up to the first event this year, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d never really fished much against Wheeler or VanDam or any of the greats in the sport, so I was kind of curious how I would be able to compete against this field.
“I had an average finish at the first event in Florida, but it’s really just been uphill ever since,” Becker said. “I’ve finished with four Top 10s in the last six tournaments, so that’s been a really good way to end the season.”
The Top 10 pros from the Minn Kota Stage Seven at Saginaw Bay Presented by Suzuki finished:
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 124 scorable bass weighing 301 pounds, 14 ounces caught by the 10 pros Sunday, which included 20 3-pounders, seven 4-pounders and one 5-pounder.
Becker also won Championship Sunday’s Berkley Big Bass Award, with a smallmouth totaling 5 pounds, 5 ounces, in the third period. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament. Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Arkansas, earned the $3,000 Berkley Big Bass award for the overall largest bass of the event with his 5-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that was weighed on Day 3 of competition.
Minn Kota Stage Seven at Saginaw Bay Presented by Suzuki featured anglers competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five heaviest bass per day tallied as their day’s weight. Anglers worked to catch their heaviest five fish each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the live scoring SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.
The six-day bass-fishing event showcased 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.
Television coverage of Minn Kota Stage Seven at Saginaw Bay Presented by Suzuki will air with a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Nov. 11, on Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.
The 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour featured a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, fishing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship, held March 13-17, 2024, on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Alabama.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, Ark Fishing, ATG by Wrangler, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, Daiwa, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Ferguson, Fox Rent A Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Power-Pole, Rapala, Star tron, T-H Marine, TORO, Toyota, U.S. Air Force, Yellowstone Bourbon, Yo-Zuri and Zoom Baits.
For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagramand YouTube.