Entering the final stop of the 2018 FLW Tour season on Lake St. Clair, Matt Becker sat 73 points behind Sheldon Collings of Grove, Okla., in the Rookie of the Year Race. Collings seemed to be nearly a lock for the title, considering the lake is on fire and kicking out the best weights of the year. While both pros got off to great starts, Becker’s smallmouth savvy would lead him to the come-from-behind ROY victory on day two, when he backed up 20 pounds, 8 ounces with 19-11. Collings weighed 15-9 on day one and 3-7 on day two.
“This year has been a roller coaster,” says Becker. “I had a couple of bombs, especially at Cumberland [156th], and figured I blew my chance at winning Rookie of the Year.
“I knew at the beginning of the season that if I could be in striking distance of the title coming into St. Clair I’d have a shot. I figured that I could figure out something decent and it would give me a decent finish, but I didn’t think I could win.”
Things started off strong for the 26-year-old pro in 2018 with a 22nd-place finish at Lake Okeechobee, where he claimed the first check of his professional career. From there, the rollercoaster ride began. He took 90th at the Harris Chain and rebounded with another $10,000 check on Lanier, finishing 31st. Cumberland would be the low point of the season at 156th. He followed up with an eighth-place spot at Smith Lake and 102nd on Kentucky Lake.
“I set realistic goals for myself this season,” the Finleyville, Pa., pro adds. “I wanted to cash three checks because if I could do that it would cover my expenses and help me be able to fish again next year. The second was to make the Cup. I knew if I could cash three checks and survive the rest I could do that. The third was Rookie of the Year because you can only win that once, and I really wanted to have that on my resume.
“I mean, look at the past winners. They have gone on to pretty good careers in fishing. So, hopefully this will help me with sponsors and allow me to make a career out of fishing.”
Not only has Becker met all of his goals this season, but he’s got a chance at banking more money this week. He currently sits in 24th on St. Clair and will fish on Saturday against the rest of the top 30 with a chance to make the top-10 cut.
“If I wasn’t in contention to make the Cup or win ROY, I would have spent all three practice days on Lake Erie, because that’s where I like to fish and have history,” says Becker. “But I game planned a little more this week and found some groups of fish on St. Clair, and it’s working out pretty good.”
While FLW will officially crown Becker with his title at Saturday’s weigh-in, he couldn’t be more thankful to have the race over with so he can focus on just going fishing on day three.
“I can’t say enough about my sponsors and the help they’ve given me,” Becker adds. “And I really need to thank Grae Buck, who I travel with on Tour. Grae is an awesome guy, we have a lot of fun and it’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off at tournaments.
“I had a blast this week, and I can’t wait to go out again tomorrow.”