When you interview someone who has been tournament fishing since he was 13, you know you are talking to someone who knows a bit about fishing. What is super cool is the influence Connecticut angler Matt Miner’s father had on him and his love of fishing, especially tournament fishing. Enjoy this great read.
How long have you been fishing tournaments? And what got you started?
I started fishing tournaments with my dad when I was about 13. We started out in the NEBA trail because my dad’s old boss fished in that club. We then switched to CToutdoors for a couple of years and then I was old enough to join the club that my dad fished in.
Now I am the tournament director for the same club, Tobacco Valley Bass Anglers, and my dad is the president of the club. We also did USA Bassin, which then switched to NE Bassin.
My dad got me started fishing, just like his father before him, from the time I could hold a pole. Everytime my dad would take the boat out I would bug him for me to take him, I was hooked on fishing. When he had a tournament, I would wait for his phone call to tell me how the day was going so far for him. It was his idea to start the tournaments with me and the competitiveness sank in, but so did the relationship with my father.
Now that I’m older, 24, I moved from the co-angler to the angler side and enjoy competing against my dad and everyone else. Not to say that I can replace fishing with him because I love fishing with my dad. Fishing those tournaments with him made memories I won’t forget and hope to someday make memories like that with kids of my own. It’s funny how I can look at pictures of fish I’ve caught, but the pictures of fishing with my dad are my favorite ones.
What is your favorite water to tournament fish?
Congamond Lake because it has so much to offer with potentials of a big reward. You can fish pads, weeds, docks, rocks, humps, shallow, deep, however you want to fish. I prefer to fish shallow in general so I love to fish the pads with a topwater, or the edges with a senko and spinnerbait. The average size fish in that lake is higher than most lakes in the state. I enjoy fishing the way I like to fish and catching nice ones. Almost every time I go there it seems I get at least one that’s 4+ and a 10+ pound bag. You need 10+ pounds to have any shot at placing on Congamond.
What is your greatest strength as a tournament angler?
I would say my greatest strength as a tournament angler is that I’m willing to try new techniques and adapt to the changing conditions. If you were to open my rod locker and look at the baits I have rigged up, you won’t find similar setups. I have heavy line, light line, reaction baits, plastics, jigs, etc. There’s no bait I’m afraid to throw. This helps me in tournaments because there are days where the conditions change 5 times and you need to be willing to change with those conditions to put fish in the boat. I can think of many tournaments where I caught each fish in the box on a different bait. To be successful, you need to be versatile and willing to change.
What is your greatest weakness for tournament fishing?
I have 2 obvious weaknesses that I can think of immediately and I’m working on it. The first I would say is that I can get complacent. It’s a nice day, a nice lake and I’m hitting it off with my non boater, but we’re not catching fish or making moves. I get lost in the having fun aspect and next thing I know we’re 2 hours in and need to wake up to get fish in the boat. Generally, when I fish by myself I’m focused all day.
My other weakness is my offshore game. Like I said earlier, I’m a shallow water fisherman and that’s my favorite way to fish. There’s nothing I love better than running a spinnerbait around weeds or flipping docks with a jig. However, that’s not always what you need to do to catch fish in Connecticut. Sometimes you need to find those fish in 10, 15, 20 or even 30 feet of water, and I’m not strong in that category. I’ve been working hard this year to force myself into those deeper spots to piece together the puzzle. There’s a saying I’ve held onto from my years of baseball, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” I’ve been practicing, so now it’s time to perfect it.
I am going to run a new tournament format. Three tournaments…one tournament in the spring, one tournament in the summer and one tournament in the fall, all on Connecticut waters. But you can only use one lure for each tournament. What lure are you using for each tournament and why?
I would choose a 1/4oz Booyah jig with a Damiki air craw trailer. Personally, I like the smaller jigs and I think the Booyah jig pulls through cover nicely. The Damiki air craw keeps the jig small and very compact. However, when the jig is paused, the air in the craws make the claws rise like a defensive crawfish. This allows me to fish fast, but slow. Most fish will bite on the fall, but if they don’t, the craws entice the bite. Early in the spring is a good time to drag a jig. Pre-spawn you’re looking for those 45 degree banks to drag that jig or around rocky areas. Earlier this year I had a successful tournament in April by catching fish off big rocks that I could flip and off rocky points. Around the spawn a jig is a good way to fish a bed or drag it around spawning flats.
During the summer I like to flip holes in weeds and docks with a jig. Just this year we had a tournament on Bantam Lake in August and I did very well flipping docks and a very specific weed type. Other guys struggled to put fish in the boat, while I was catching them.
Moving into fall, I can keep flipping weeds and docks, but I can also swim the jig around structure.
What are three pieces of tackle or equipment that you hope to purchase this winter that will improve your tournament success next year?
I don’t have any plans at the moment to purchase new equipment or any tackle that I don’t already use. For the winter I’m planning on doing research for some new bodies of water to fish and watching Youtube videos/forums to improve my offshore game.
You can be a coangler with any one BASS or FLW professional angler. Who would that be?
John Cox because he’s a shallow water specialist. I would love to make a career out of fishing shallow water the way he does. The tournament I had on Bantam Lake this year I had to fish without a transducer on my trolling motor and it felt weird, but awesome at the same time. We get so used to looking at our screens that without it feels weird. At the same time it was awesome because I fished with my eyes more. I was more focused on what I was looking at and making the right casts than seeing what was going on on my screen. However, in Connecticut there are days where you just can’t fish shallow unless you want a goose egg. I’d like to absorb his knowledge of shallow water fishing and apply it with my own knowledge and skills. Not only do I want to learn what he knows, but he seems like a real standup guy that would be fun to fish with.
When fishing recreationally in Connecticut, what are your 3 favorite waters?
Congamond Lake because I love the lay of the lake and the way it fishes, but it also gave me my first tournament win so it will always hold a place for me.
Coventry Lake because I know it well since it is not far from my house. When I was younger my family used to rent a cottage on Coventry Lake for 2 weeks so every time I go there it reminds me of going on vacation with my family.
Bantam Lake is also a favorite of mine because it fits my style of fishing and has great fish, but also the memories from it. My dad decided to prefish a tournament at Bantam and he took my brother and I with him. We were driving along and I asked him to fish a spot and he played along and went to the spot. Sure enough, I caught a 3 pound largemouth on that spot and I was so thrilled. A 3 pounder for an 8 year old felt like a giant. He brought me along to fish the tournament as a guest in his club. Sure enough, we went back to that spot and sure enough, I caught another 3 pounder. I ended up catching a solid limit quickly and my dad had one fish. I looked at my dad and told him that I’d stop fishing so he could catch some fish. That was something that I don’t think either of us will ever forget.
Fantastic stuff with Matt on Connecticut fishing. Love how the interview started with his dad’s influence and ended with the same. Definitely worth noting for all of the Dad’s that read this blog.
So, thank you Matt for doing the interview. And thank you Matt’s father for raising this great young man and helping to instill the passion of fishing in him at such an early age.
Follow Matt on Instagram to learn about all of his tournament success.