Pro Staff Spotlight: Matt Ball
Matt Ball grew up fishing in West Virginia with his father and now continues to pass on that love of fishing with his children. Matt has been kayak fishing for years, but put his name on the map when he was crowned the first-ever Kayak Bass Fishing National Champion in 2016! Since then, Matt has continued fishing tournaments all over the US and showing everyone that he was not a one-hit-wonder! Take a look at some of Matt's favorite techniques, his goals for the 2020 season, and how having the title of first-ever KBF National Champion has made him feel ever since.
1) What is your favorite fishery, and why?
This is a hard one. I have so many amazing places that I have traveled over the past 4-5 years that are very special to me. Kentucky Lake will always have a special place in my heart as that is where I won the National Championship in 2016. But, if I had to name just one place that I get excited about fishing every season, it would have to be Lake Erie. There is nothing like solving the puzzle of that massive body of water and being rewarded with football-sized Smallmouth. Using my Lowrance to find the smallest details or variances in the lake and finding fish is so rewarding.
2) When it comes to weather, do you prefer warmer days or cooler days, and why?
I don't really concern myself with what type of weather I will be fishing. To be a successful angler, you need to fish all kinds of weather patterns. For me, this is what makes fishing so enjoyable. I love the challenge of trying to figure out what the fish are doing on any given day. It is rare to fish a tournament and have the weather for pre-fishing line up perfectly with the weather on tournament day. I like to spend as much time as I can on the water in all conditions, so I have some knowledge of what to expect on any given day. Now, if we are talking seasons, that is a different story. Most people love the spring-time spawning. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it just as much as the next guy; but if I had to choose a season that was my favorite, it would have to be Fall. Finding schools of fish feeding up for the winter can be some of the most action-packed days you will ever have on the water.
3) What is your all-time favorite setup (rod, reel, line, bait)?
I am a finesse fisherman at heart. If I could only have one set up on the water, it would be spinning gear. My setup would be a 13 Fishing Prototype X spinning reel in the 2.0 size on a 7'1" 13 Fishing Muse rod in Medium-Heavy action. I can use that rod to catch fish any time of the year. I like to use 20lb Power Pro braid with a 6 to 8-foot leader of Seaguar InvizX. If I am fishing Lake Erie in crystal clear water, I will use 6 or 8-pound fluoro. If I am fishing Lake Guntersville in the grass, I will go straight braid. I keep a variety of leader material on hand at all times and will switch up the line diameter depending on the watercolor and cover.
The reason I like the Medium-Heavy action is because of the versatility of the rod. I can throw a drop shot on Lake Erie or turn around and use that same rod with heavier line and fish a drop shot in the grass and have enough backbone to rip it through the grass and bring a fish out of the cover. It is just a great all-around rod for the do-everything setup.
4) Are you more of a river angler or a lake angler?
I grew up fishing rivers, and I would say that is where I am the strongest. If I am just going out fishing for fun close to home, though, I will choose a river over a lake every single time.
5) What does preparing for a tournament look like for you? From scouting locations to watch the weather to the baits you're choosing, etc...let us know!
Tournament prep for me starts months in advance. If I am fishing new water, my initial time is spent gathering all the information I can possibly find about that area. I pour over Google Earth, Navionics, YouTube, magazine articles, and just about anything else I can get my hands on. The next step is finding any access points onto the water. Anywhere that I can find to launch my kayak, which gives me the closest access to the area of the lake that I am planning on fishing, is what I am looking for. Finding that 'off the map access point that' is hard to get to can mean the difference between having an area to fish that is not crowded and fishing with 15 other anglers in the same area.
Once I get to a lake for a tournament, I try to get to as many locations as I can while pre-fishing to try and figure out a pattern and locate the best fish possible. I like to have three good locations to call upon for tournament day that has a little something different about them. This gives me options in case I run into weather changes, pattern changes, or just show up to an over-crowded area. The night before a tournament, I like to have everything laid out and ready to go for the morning. I have re-tied all my rods, checked all my gear, organized my boat, and have anything I need to take with me laid out and ready to roll for the morning. I do not like getting up in the mornings, so I don't want to have to do anything other than get to the ramp, get my boat on the water and be ready for the first cast. I use any free time that morning to get my head straight and take the time to pray for the event and all the anglers on the water.
Check out this video from Matt Ball giving an in-depth look of how he preps for a tourney:
6) Even though it may depend on the time of year and what the water looks like, do you have a favorite color to throw no matter what?
I find myself throwing green pumpkin the most in my plastics, white on most all of my chatterbaits and spinnerbaits, and either a crawfish color or shad color in any crankbaits I throw.
7) What is one suggestion you have for anyone that is looking just to start getting into kayak fishing?
Test out as many kayaks as you can before buying one. Everyone is different, and no kayak is perfect for everything. Find one that you are comfortable in for long periods, and that you can handle easily. Make sure to get a good, comfortable PFD and a good, lightweight paddle.
8) Besides the obvious (paddle, PFD, rods & reels, baits), what is one thing that you always have on your kayak with you?
My cell phone. It is one of the most critical items for the tournament angler. Without it, you are done. I use it for Navionics, TourneyX, weather, safety, and taking good pictures.
9) Do you have a favorite accessory, and is there any particular reason that is your favorite?
I have to say my Torqeedo Ultralight 403 is my favorite accessory. This motor has changed the way I fish more than anything else, and I can cover so much more water and save myself so much time. It allows me to fish rivers solo by going upstream for long distances and floating back to my truck without a shuttle. On a lake like Erie, I can cover so much more water while running my sidescan and locating the right depth that the fish are relating to. For tournaments, I can use it to eliminate a lot of water during pre-fishing and find fish in a shorter amount of time.
10) If you are struggling on tournament day, what is something that you do to try and change that?
When this happens, and it happens a lot, I like to pull over to the side of the lake and reorganize my kayak. Often when you are struggling, you have quite the mess in the boat. I like to clean things up, regroup, and take time to think about all that I have learned up to this point. I also like to take time to pray and just ask for peace, calmness, and acceptance for whatever the outcome of the event. Taking time to pray and regroup can do wonders for me, and I do it all the time.
11) What made you want to get into kayak fishing in the first place?
I started kayak fishing to fish the rivers and small streams more effectively. It then didn't take me long to realize the benefits of using the same kayak on the bigger lakes around my hometown. It just grew from there!
12) What is one of your goals for the 2020 season?
Have Fun! Seriously, if I am not enjoying what I am doing, I need to stop. I can set all the goals in the world, but if I am not enjoying myself, then what is the point.
13) Where is your dream fishing spot?
Anywhere that there is big smallmouth bass.
14) If you could spend a day fishing with anyone, who would it be? (this can be someone you know, a professional angler, anyone!)
My Dad. He got me into this sport at a young age, and I learn new things from him every time we fish together. The other would be my wife and kids. I love to see them out in the kayaks enjoying the sport that I love.
15) Do you have a favorite technique to use, or are you comfortable with many different ones and switch it up depending on the day/location?
I am comfortable with most techniques. By fishing tournaments all across the country, I have had to learn how to adapt. That being said, my confidence baits are the shaky head and the drop shot. If I am struggling and not finding success, I generally slow down and use one of those two techniques and usually find success. Both of these techniques will catch fish everywhere. I can drag a drop shot around on Lake Erie in 30 ft of water or drag it through the grass on Lake Guntersville and catch quality fish. If I'm honest, the shaky head has probably put more fish in my boat than any other technique. For this, my go-to is a Z-man soft plastic in either a Big TRD or a Hula Stick on an Owner Ultra-Finesse head.
16) As for being the first-ever KBF National Champion, do you feel an added layer of pressure to perform well at any given tournament?
Yes, it certainly has added pressure. The first year after winning that event, I knew that all eyes were going to be on me. I felt as if I needed to prove that I was not just a one-hit-wonder. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well in any event that I entered. I have been very blessed with consistency since that big win. The pressure is not only on how you fish after a big win like that but with that win came a lot of incredible sponsorship opportunities. For me, this was something that I didn't take lightly. I felt that if a company wanted to support me, I needed to give them a return on their investment. This takes time and effort to build that relationship with sponsors. Just having a logo to put on my kayak or jersey wasn't something that I was looking for. I wanted to be a part of those companies that I used and believed in.
All that being said, the most significant pressure that came with this win was one that I put on myself. I saw the opportunity with the national platform that the Lord blessed me with to use it for his glory. I knew that this opportunity came from him, and I wanted to glorify him through this. That is something that I, to this day, still feel the need to improve and build. I want people to know that He is who defines me, not what kayak I fish from, or what companies I represent.
We hope you enjoyed reading our blog! Have a great day and Fish On!
- FishOn ProStaff