I noticed California angler Matt Luna through his unique YouTube channel. Matt is using his channel to take all of us along on his quest and journey to become a professional fisherman. Matt is not afraid to show all of it with us, the highs and lows. In this interview with Matt, we discuss that journey, and he shares his thoughts and perspectives on competitive fishing.
I love what you are doing by chronicling your tournament fishing journey. What was the first tournament you ever fished?
The first tournament I ever fished was a night tournament with my dad at Lake Jennings about 7 to 8 years ago. Lake Jennings is a small lake in San Diego county and you can’t even put your boat on plane. There are some giant bass in there, but the bite can be tough.
I think we weighed in one fish and probably still finished in about 5th place. I think we went two Friday’s in a row to practice because the lake wasn’t open every night to fish. It was awesome getting to fish against other people, and test my skills.
Before this tournament, what waters did you grow up bass fishing? And what did you learn about fishing from these bodies of water that set you up to be a tournament angler?
Growing up my dad and I fished a lot of different local lakes in the San Diego area. We fished Lake Jennings, Santee Lakes, El Capitan, San Vicente, Lake Sutherland, Lake Morena, Barret Lake, and other local ponds.
San Diego has a handful of small lakes within the county. We fished deep in some of the lakes, and shallow in others. For as small as our lakes are, we have a variety of techniques we get to fish. We can fish big swimbaits and flip heavy braid, or we can fish deep offshore structure with finesse techniques. I think the variety of fishing techniques we fish in San Diego has set me up to be a tournament fisherman.
So when was that decision moment for you that you decided you want to pursue tournament fishing?
Growing up my first love was baseball. I played from the time I was 8 until I was 22. I played baseball through college. It was really after college when I wanted to start fishing more. The draw to tournament fishing came from missing the competition I knew from playing baseball.
I started fishing a lot more and bought my first boat. It was a 16′ Nitro with a 60 horse motor. I thought it was awesome, and it was a game changer for me. My learning curve accelerated and this is the point where I knew I wanted to fish tournaments.
I started fishing team tournaments after meeting a now good friend after selling a fishing rod to him through a San Diego fishing forum. We didn’t fish tournaments right away together. It was a few years later when he was looking for another team tournament partner. I was nervous in the beginning and I still get nervous now, but I think that’s all part of the fun.
Looking back on it, were there other things you should have done to prepare?
Looking back, I think I would have tried to fish more pro/am events as a co angler. I’ve only fished one event as a co angler. I think being able to travel and see a lot of different lakes and grow the pool of people you know from outside where you live, will help you once you’re trying to learn unfamiliar lakes. I don’t think this is something you have to do, but I think it can be helpful.
For example, Shasta Lake is a lake that is consistently on the tournament schedule for different series in the West. I could have fished FLW events as a co angler, and had a chance to learn from experts at the lake, rather than going at it blind like I did recently.
Tournament fishing is tough, very expensive and lots of ups and downs. Do you ever have doubts about what you are doing?
Tournament fishing is very tough and very expensive. I think it’s normal to have ups and downs, and occasionally doubt yourself. I think the main thing is to keep your goals in perspective. I don’t go in expecting to win, although I fish and prepare to win. My goals for this season are to begin to build a foundation and knowledge base that I can build upon for seasons to come.
I don’t expect this to be a quick journey. My expectation is to be doing this for a long time. Fishing takes patience and consistency. I hope to fish professionally at some point. I don’t know when that is, but I know it won’t happen over night.
What made you decide to open up your tournament fishing journey with the world through YouTube?
My decision to open up my journey to the world through YouTube was a selfish one initially. I looked at YouTube as a way of hopefully generating income from my fishing. If I was going to fish anyway, why not put it on the internet and hope to make money from it?
YouTube recently changed its policies and making money from YouTube got much more difficult. I have not made any money from YouTube as of now.
YouTube is now part of the personal brand that I’m trying to build. I think putting out videos showing my journey is something that people want to see. I think there are a lot of people who are in my position wanting to make it in a tough sport. I think people can relate to where I’m at, and see the reality of fishing isn’t all that we see on T.V.
Anglers like Hunter Shryock and Brandon Palaniuk have opened the door to fishing, but those guys are still at a level that many people like myself aspire to be at. I’m hoping I can be the guy that people will be able to follow from the bottom to the top!
What has been your best tournament of your career?
It’s hard to pick just one event. There are a handful of tournaments I have great memories of. I think the best tournament of my career to this point would have to be my 38th place finish at the 2017 WON Bass US Open at Lake Mead this past October. There were over 200 boats in the event. The US Open is a 3 day event at Lake Mead. Lake Mead is a massive fishery and limits are not easy to achieve. The tournament was the 3rd pro/am of my career. It was the first pro/am event where I finished well enough to get a check.
The major highlight was on the second day of the event, when my co-angler and I brought in over 11 pounds with only 4 fish. An 11 pound bag is a big bag at Lake Mead even with 5 fish. I had a fish that was just under 4 pounds and my co-angler had a fish just over 4 pounds. Those are giants for Lake Mead.
Another awesome event was winning a team tournament with my dad where we had a 6 pound kicker I caught on a jig first thing in the morning. I have had other tournaments where we brought in well over 20 pounds, but still finished in 2nd or third.
Other events, like my recent tough tournament at Shasta is memorable in its own way. Sometimes the tough tournaments are where I learn the most, and at this point in time I want to learn almost as much as I want to succeed.
I have been trying to binge watch your 2017 season. How was your 2017 season overall?
2017 was the first year I started fishing pro/am events. I didn’t fish any local team tournaments, and I don’t have any plans to fish any this year. It is possible that I might enter one at some point, but my priority is the Wild West Bass Trail right now.
I only fished three pro/am events in the 2017 season. I fished an event at Lake Mohave, Lake Havasu, and one at Lake Mead. The event at Lake Mead was by far the best finish, and the highlight of the year.
I’m planning to fish between 5 and 6 pro/am events this year. Five of the events would be through the Wild West Bass Trail and the 6th event would be the WON Bass US Open at Lake Mead.
The US Open is up in the air right now, only because of the financial commitment it takes to fish that event. They all are expensive, but the US Open is much more expensive.
Tell us about your first tournament of 2018, Shasta Lake.
My first event at Shasta Lake was a tough tournament. I finished 117th. I recently put up a video on YouTube from the first day of the event and the second day will be up in a week or so.
Going into the event, I had never even seen the lake, let alone fished there. I fished a ton of water in practice, but could not seem to find the bigger bites. Catching fish on Shasta is not the difficult part, and I wish I would have understood that a little more before hand. If I did, I would have practiced much different.
I caught probably between 20 to 40 fish per day, but they didn’t weigh enough! I needed to cover more water and find areas where the larger fish were grouped together. I learned that spotted bass tend to school up in similar size, so finding areas holding bigger fish would have been key to better success.
What are 5 pieces of advice that you have for anyone that is thinking about seriously entering the world of tournament fishing?
#1 – Go fishing! Time on the water helps no matter what. Putting time in on water that isn’t where a tournament will be keeps your skills polished, and can help you develop new techniques.
#2 – Find someone you can learn from. Finding someone that can teach you the ropes increases your learning curve a lot! Generally, they have a technique that they excel at and can pass along to you.
#3 – Join a club. Even though I have never been a part of a bass club, I suggest people who have not fished tournaments already, join a club. In a club you become exposed to competitive fishing at a much cheaper scale, and can learn from great fisherman.
#4 – Buy a boat. I know this one is easier said than done, but I can’t explain how much my fishing ability excelled once I got a boat. I’m not saying you need to buy a brand new top of the line bass boat for insane amounts of money. My first boat was $3500, and got me on the water as often as I could. Time on the water is huge!
#5 – Outline your goals. Decide what your goals are and what you are trying to achieve. Maybe you just want to fish club events and fish against your friends, or maybe you’re like me and want to eventually fish for a living. No matter what your intentions are, decide what you want to get out of tournament fishing. The time and financial commitment can be large, so you better know why you’re doing it.
Who are you sponsors?
I currently have seven sponsors: Skeeter Boats, Last Chance Performance Marine, X Zone Lures, The Rod Glove, Powell Rods, Nines Optics, and Rahfish. Skeeter Boats and Last Chance Performance Marine both helped me get into my Skeeter ZX200 that I run. Having a newer boat gives me the peace of mind that I’m not going to break down out on the water and if I do the warranty is there to offset the costs and keep me fishing.
X Zone Lures, The Rod Glove, Powell Rods, Nines Optics, and Rahfish are all companies that have supported me financially through free product or discounted product. I really try hard to represent my sponsors well, and am thankful they are there to support me. Tournament fishing is expensive and I need the support of my sponsors to be able to do what I do. My hope is that my sponsors are happy with my representation of their products.
Judging by this interview and your work on YouTube, you are doing a great job representing your sponsors and the sport of fishing. Thank you so much Matt. I look forward to watching your successful journey continue on your Matt Luna Fishing YouTube channel.