Favorite Fishing pro Matt Becker of Finleyville, Pennsylvania, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 17 pounds, 11 ounces, to hold off a massive charge from local favorite Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity and win the four-day MLF Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Bad Boy Mowers, Googan Baits Stop 3 Presented by Favorite Fishing – Lake Murray in Columbia, South Carolina. Becker's four-day total of 20 bass weighing 76-5 earned him the victory by a 2½-pound margin over Gagliardi and earned Becker the top prize of $137,500, including the lucrative $35,000 MLF Phoenix BIG5 Bonus.
"This has been years and years in the making," said an emotional Becker on stage after being crowned champion. "I was really beginning to think that I couldn't win. I've always been consistent, near the top of the standings. But I was really starting to doubt that I could win. Just to make a top 10 against this group of hammers is unbelievable. They always say when it's your time, it's your time. And man, did I live that this week."
The 2018 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Rookie of the Year started Day 1 of the event with a plan to target docks and sight-fish spawning bass. But, before doing that, Becker slotted in a little time to try a risky timing/herring-spawn pattern, and he ended up never changing. He kept hitting, and re-hitting, as many points as possible knowing that eventually the schools of bass would move shallow to feed.
"The spot I caught them Day 2, I had fished three times before I caught them," said Becker. "I knew the fish were there, but I rotated through multiple times and never had a bite. Then I came back and they were there and they were eating. I went from zero to 14 pounds in minutes."
Becker said his key baits throughout the week were a couple of different soft-plastic jerkbaits, with the Googan Baits Dart (Green Gizzard Shad) being his best option. He rigged the Dart on rigged on a TroKar TK 180 hook with a TroKar TK 300 treble hook as a stinger. He threw that on a 7-foot, 5-inch medium-heavy Favorite Fishing Hex rod, Favorite Fishing Soleus XCS reel and 15-pound-test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line.
"All week, the little things just always lined up," Becker said. "Today, I pulled into a cove and I got this overwhelming feeling I was going to go to the first point and catch a 3 ½-pounder, and then I'd go to the second point and catch another 3 ½-pounder. And that's exactly what happened. That pretty much got me the win."
The top 10 pros on Lake Murray finished are:
1st: Matt Becker of Finleyville, Pa., 20 bass, 76-5, $137,500
2nd: Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., 20 bass, 73-13, $30,000
3rd: Michael Neal of Dayton, Tenn., 20 bass, 71-8, $25,000
4th: Adrian Avena of Vineland, N.J., 20 bass, 68-2, $20,000
5th: David Williams of Maiden, N.C., 20 bass, 64-13, $19,000
6th: Tai Au of Glendale, Ariz., 20 bass, 64-9, $18,500
7th: Evan Barnes of Hot Springs, Ark., 20 bass, 63-10, $17,000
8th: Cody Huff of Ava, Mo., 20 bass, 63-0, $16,000
9th: Derrick Snavely of Piney Flats, Tenn., 18 bass, 60-2, $15,000
10th: Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., 17 bass, 57-9, $14,000
Full results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.