2018 Champions Tour Angler of the Year breaks it down
Matt Peters was a man on a mission last season. The Champions Tour veteran posted one great event after another on his way to claiming the AOY crown. Now gearing up for season number three on tour, Peter knows he’s a marked man and the competition is getting tougher each event. We had a chance to interview the defending Angler of the Year and talk a little about life and a lot about bass fishing.
Q: First things first let’s talk turkey hunting, since you were just out in the woods this past week. How did it go?
Peters: It really wasn’t good, we had a lot of gobblers around us but they were coming down and heading off towards the neighbors when they left the roost. We heard them gobbling every morning, but they would go quiet once they hit the ground. It’s hard to stay hunkered down when they stop responding and it’s 8 a.m. and your stomach starts growling so I’d say we really only gave it a C for effort at best. I had my son at 12 and his friend and so we didn’t run and gun we just stayed in the tent and when they aren’t gobbling it’s hard to stay hunkered down when you really just want to go in for breakfast. I did get my wife Jen out one morning and we experienced the same thing they were just really henned up and you know the timing of spring turkey hunting is so hard. But it’s hard to beat sitting in the woods drinking coffee listening to gobblers.
Q: So next question, what went right for you last season that led to ultimately winning the AOY and have such a successful year?
Peters: A lot of it is just the decisions you make on the water and of course you need a few things to go your way. Some would call it luck others would call it just having that past experience and it doesn’t hurt that I started competitive bass fishing at 14 and I’m almost 40. There’s other seasoned veteran out there, but last year when decisions had to be made on the water I just happened to make the right ones. For example on Minnetonka, I was struggling in the second period a little bit and couldn’t catch flipping fish so before I left the area I had a gut hunch to go check one more little area. When I pulled up on that little patch of deep coontail it was loaded, I could throw in there and catch as many as I wanted. So I went from tenth or eleventh all the way up to third, it can happen so quick so I think it’s just past experience allowing me to make decisions and then gain confidence. Everyone talks about confidence in bass fishing and for me I started the year with a top five at Sturgeon Bay, then had a third place finish at Mille Lacs, then another top five at Mille Lacs and I started to realize the timing of these events really just lined up well with my strengths. When we got to July and the Champions Tour Open event I won on Mille Lacs I relied on past experience to have the patience to be calm and wait til the afternoon to run water I knew would have fish after only catching two in the morning.
Q: I know this was already covered by another article we did, but how was the trip to Florida with Scott?
Peters: Yeah we went to Scott’s place and had the time of our lives that trip was exceptional and Scott puts that award up its really neat. I’ve fished a lot of bass tournaments and that award is just so unique. I told Scott afterwards this is the coolest trip ever getting to go to Florida and fish like that and bring Jen was just awesome and Scott is such a great host.
Q: Let’s talk a little about the format of Champions Tour and how do you like fishing this style of tournament? How does it compare to a more traditional style tournament?
Peters: I really like the format, obviously having success last year I think it’s great for the conservation side and although a lot of guys refer to oh you can just fish for all the little ones and that’s not true I tell guys all the time you can fish for big ones if you’re that good at catching big ones just show up and catch enough big ones to win. The scale doesn’t discriminate against your fish. It sets up really well for me because I just like to catch fish period. I think that Scott and the Champions Tour have a format that will be successful for a very long time and I say to those guys that question it come attend an event or get in on one because until you’ve fished in that format you can’t really speak on it. It also really plays head games with guys and you can’t spin out even if you’re 30 pounds behind. I think fishing the inaugural year of the tour really helped me get to where I was last year because I was able to learn that first year never to let yourself spin out and you’re always in it so fish your strengths and you’ll be fine.
Q: So looking at 2019, what changes are you going to make coming into this year and how do you prepare yourself?
Peters: Well I think we’ve got a great schedule mixing up some places where we’ve already been in Le Homme Dieu and Pokegama and we know how those are going to go since we’ve had events there before those will be really good. The other two events being Leech and Vermilion, I think that Vermilion is going to be a slugfest. That lake is just so loaded with tons of fish. Leech is the one with the most mystery out of them all, as big as Leech is, the Largemouth only really live in a handful of areas so that could get interesting with 40-50 boats it could get crowded in a hurry. Leech should definitely be the most challenging of the four. So as I prepare I hope that with my 20+ years of experience fishing some of those bodies of water that I have a little bit of an upper hand. What really throws us a curveball is how these lakes will be cut and what we are allowed to fish. You have to prepare with a game plan of having water on the whole lake and not let the way things get cut spin you out.
Q: For someone like you who loves smallmouth and brown bass fishing all of these lakes have populations of Smallmouth how do you see them coming into play?
Peters: Given the timing of Le Homme Dieu in mid-June I think it’s possible that there could still be some fish up shallow or maybe even late spawn fish depending on how spring goes so there probably could be some play on brown fish there. But from my experience last year there’s just so many largemouth in there that are willing to bite that even though the quality of those smallmouth are better it’s hard to commit a whole lot of time to them. Leech is a wild card and there’s a few guys getting really good at finding and catching those smallies out there. That’s the one place that you just never know because the largemouth population isn’t huge out there either so that’s the one place you shouldn’t overlook it.
Q: Last question if you have any final thoughts, and just what is it going to take to defend that title this year and bring it home again?
Peters: It takes a lot of time, energy, and determination I’ll tell you that everybody is there to take your lunch money and they are all really good at it. They all have the same goal, they are competitive and want to win. From top to bottom this field is stacked and it’s not going to be easy I know that going in. This is not something you can take for granted and day and day out you have to go out there and put in your time at each fishery. I absolutely think going into it that I can win it again and I think everyone has to have that attitude. If you come in thinking you’re just donating your entry fee or you’re going to get beat it becomes an expensive hobby. I’m going in with the mindset that I can win them all and I want to go back to Florida really bad but there’s a lot of guys with that same thought right now. I think I have a few things that I know from two years of tour experience I think will give me an upper hand. I just have to be prepared to adapt and change and all I can control is where I’m going and what I’m doing so I control my own destiny. But I know the rumor is there’s an X on my back and everyone is gunning for me but it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited for it.
Catch Matt on the Champions Tour this season as he looks to become the first ever repeat AOY champion. He has the right mindset, plenty of confidence, and is ready for anything and in the sport of bass fishing that can take you a long way.